Woody, Buzz, and the rest of gang have come a long way since they first made their way onto our screens – and into our hearts – in 1995’s Toy Story. From creepy next-door neighbours and greedy toy store owners to tearaway toddlers and evil teddy bears, they’ve seen it all.
Most of us thought we’d said goodbye to the franchise forever with 2010’s Toy Story 3, which saw Andy (John Morris) go off to college and the toys get a new loving home with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw). While it felt like a pretty satisfying ending, the creators at Pixar felt that Woody’s (Tom Hanks) narrative arc wasn’t quite yet complete.
Admittedly, they were right. Viewers who are skeptical that there is still a story left to tell with these characters should know better than to doubt a studio that rarely puts a foot wrong. Not only does Toy Story 4 feel fresh, with a well-crafted plot and cast of new characters, it also feels like a natural progression of the original characters’ journey, taking them in a direction that is unexpected and exciting, yet could just as easily be where they were headed all along.
As the toys adjust to life in Bonnie’s bedroom, Woody is struggling to figure out exactly what his role is in this new domain. He can’t help but reminisce about his “golden years” with Andy, back when he was still a favourite toy. Bonnie’s favourite toy, meanwhile, is an art-and-crafts project she made during her first day at kindergarten by sticking some googly eyes on a plastic fork. Forky (Tony Hale) – as Bonnie christens him – needs a lot of convincing that he is no longer trash, and the ever-dutiful Woody takes up the task of mentoring him.
It is while he is knee-deep in parenting duties that Woody is reunited with an old flame – Bo Peep (Annie Potts), whom we haven’t seen since Toy Story 2. Now we get to find out how Bo was separated from the rest of the group, and what she has been up to in the years since.
As it turns out, she’s been through quite the transformation. For one thing, her reappearance will make you realise just how far computer animation has come over the years. She is far more realistically rendered than she was in the first two films – but that’s not the only radical difference. 2019 Bo Peep is brimming with street smarts and charisma – porcelain she may be, but fragile she is most definitely not. She shows Woody that there is a big wide world beyond a child’s bedroom, and gradually, helps him find a new purpose in life.
The new characters in this film are also a great addition; aside from Forky, fairground toys Ducky and Bunny – voiced by comedy duo Jordan Peele and Keegan-Micheal Key – and 1970s Canadian stuntman figurine Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), serve up the biggest laughs of the movie.
Toy Story 4 is a celebration of 15 years of great animation and great storytelling. It is also the perfect ending to Woody’s journey; we saw Andy grow up in Toy Story 3, and now it feels like Woody has, too. If Toy Story 4 really is the end of the franchise – and Pixar seems to be implying it is – we can bid a fond farewell to these toys knowing they – and we – will be okay.