Movie Review- Toy Story 4

I don’t think there is another movie franchise where we (society) have all grown up with. Hearing other people’s tales, they all have memories of how old they were and in which stage of life when they first watched Pixar’s original Toy Story. And how they felt when they sat through Toy Story 3, and just when we all thought Toy Story was a trilogy and the 3rd was the last and what a wonderful ending it was!…Pixar releases no. 4! Could they ruin the franchise for everyone!?

When the original Toy Story was released, I was only 12 years old in Year 7, and I still remember watching it at the cinemas with my sister. And wasn’t it ground breaking at the time! We can all recall the amazement we felt when we first caught sight of the scenes in Andy’s bedroom with the fake sky/cloud wallpaper! Before Toy Story, animation was what we used to call ‘cartoons’, but Toy Story had brought another dimension to animation, making things seem so life-like. *Eyes Boggle*. Toy Story 2…… for the life of me I can’t remember where or when I watched it? I probably saw it on pay-TV or something, long long after it was first released! As by this time in 1999 when it was released, I was 17 years old and I was too old and too cool for animations. Funny how at that time, we still didn’t know what Toy Story was going to become? A film which bridged generational gaps.

Now Toy Story 3 was an entirely different story (no, the animated story was still the same, but it was a different story for me!). TS3, this was the very first film I watched with my now wife, at that time in 2010 I had a huge crush on her, and my cousin even joined us for the film, acting as a chaperone for us. Haaha.  And that was 9 years ago, so much has changed in the intervening time.

So fast forward to today, I woke up with the idea to go watch it (although the last time I’d watched a film in cinema was at least 18 months ago). Watching a film at the big screens had become one of those things, victim to the progression of time, like the death of the CD player, our DVD player, and the purchase of physical books to read. But a podcast which I had listened to earlier in the week, they devoted an entire 90-minute episode going through the movie, and it sucked me right in!

So after church we rushed around completing all our Sunday arvo chores, and come 2:30pm we were sitting in the George Street Event cinemas (with many, many young kids and their folks) as the curtains widened and the movie begun.

One thing I noticed, was that Toy Story actually relies heavily on its musical score, the music set the mood for what the creators wanted you to feel each time as you watch the Toys come to life when their kid walked away.

I did notice that the sound actors who played the now iconic toy characters, all sounded a little older (but aren’t we all), but as always the visuals were paired perfectly with the emotions conveyed in the actor’s voices. I’ve heard that the voice actors actually record their lines first (some were recorded 5 years ago) and the animators then create the visuals to match-up with the voices. And it’s this level of detail which brings all the characters to life, and you can be forgiven when you forget that Woody and Buzz and all the gang, aren’t actually real!

The preface of the story is that Andy’s toys have now been handed down to Bonnie (as seen in the final moments of Toy Story 3). Where Toy Story 3 reflected the true passage of time in the real world e.g. Andy was a kid in TS2, and then a uni-aged teenager in TS3. However the gap of 9 years in between 3 and 4 was not reflected in TS4, as Bonnie at most was now 6 years old? When she was perhaps 3 years old in TS3?

So now Bonnie is starting Kindergarten, Woody and the gang are starting to be neglected again, as their kid starts to grow up. And at Bonnie’s first day at school (orientation), she makes herself a new toy companion out of a discarded plastic spork, with pipe-cleaner wire for his arms, and a snapped paddle pop stick as feet (with blue-tack/plasticine ankles). When Bonnie takes him home, Forky comes to life and the gang rally around him, teaching him what it means to be Bonnie’s favourite toy.

When Bonnie and her folks go on a road-trip (a final trip before she properly starts kindergarten), Forky makes a break for it and Woody, who had taken on himself  the responsibility to look out for the disposable utensil, goes after him and then the shenanigans begins in earnest!

Many actors have lent their voices to the characters of Toy Story over the years, the latest to join the fold are Keegan-Michael Key (Ducky), Jordan Peele (Bunny), Keanu Reeves (Duke Caboom), Christina Hendricks (Gabby Gabby), and Ally Maki (Giggle McDimples).

The best part of the film for me was……hearing my wife laugh and giggle throughout the film! ‘Heart’ you babe! And it was so interesting to hear so many kids in the cinema, but for the entirety of the film (the film must have been close to 2 hours in length) the kiddies were completely silent, sucked into the visuals and actions of the film! The kid right behind us, she was probably 4 years old? I wonder if she’ll remember her first Toy Story experience, in 10 years’ time when she is 14 years old in year 9. I wonder then, if she would be like us, able to recall the first time she watched the Toy Story franchise on the big screen?

Recently I’ve been pondering existential questions, like what are we all doing on earth? What are we doing with our time? Are our professions truly necessary? Is our toil actually meaningful? And on face value, an actor or animator being paid the big bucks to make movies? Seemed a bit trivial when compared to nurses and teachers who are paid so much less. But if films can help you mark the passage of time, and help you reminisce fondly on times past, then perhaps there is a vital part to play by actors and creators in this world? I hope for that little girl who was sitting behind us today, that when she watches Toy Story 5, Toy Story 6 etc., she’ll remember her first experience with Woody and the gang, and remember that Sunday arvo all those years ago with her dad, I hope she remembers how he cared for her – making sure she could see over the heads of us big people, sharing salty pop-corn with her, and pouring apple juice for her (whilst she pointed out that it was too much). Oh the cycle begins all over again for another generation!

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