Pixar 43: ‘Toy Story 4’ (Spoilers)

Like many people I was a bit anxious when I heard the announcement of Toy Story 4. How could Pixar bring another entry into their treasured franchise after Toy Story 3 ended in such a satisfying way? It seemed like an impossible task but the Pixar folks have always said they only do sequels if they have a story, so I trusted them to get it right! Today I am happy to tell you my trust was not in vain. Toy Story 4 is another wonderful addition to our team of toys and a fitting conclusion to our best friend Woody’s story.

toy story 4-1

It’s impossible to talk about Toy Story 4 without discussing the trajectory of the previous 3 films. In Toy Story we have a confident Woody who learns to be a friend to the new and different Buzz. He begins the story as a good leader but as many leaders are, he’s also self-interested and prone to jealousy and deep insecurities. It is only through becoming friends with Buzz that Woody learns to let go of his pride and serve others.

Then we get to Toy Story 2 where Woody learns to think of Andy, and his commitment to letting Andy play with him as long as he wants. It’s his mission and calling and it is more important than being worshiped in a Tokyo museum. In Toy Story 3 the team has struggled and become a family and that deep and abiding bond gets them through the prison that is the daycare center.

So what about Toy Story 4? What is left to learn? Well, to answer that question we have to think about the nature of toys in this universe. As far as I can tell their sentience is eternal. They have no bodily fluids so arms can be removed, they can be reassembled into new toys without any reduction to their sentience. This leads us to the question of how can Pixar retire the toys if they can’t be killed?

toy story 4-4

We could leave Woody to be played with by Bonnie but doesn’t that lead to the same cycle over and over again? Is that a happy ending for our friends? There has to be a way for them to progress or what once gave them joy (playing with a child) will become miserable. I think the people at Pixar realized this and that Toy Story 3 could not be the actual ending for these characters because as happy as it was for Bonnie it wasn’t really a happy ending for Woody.

So, that’s where we get to Toy Story 4. As an old cowboy doll Woody is not a favorite toy of Bonnie. She is kind to her toys but prefers other toys like playing with Jessie. One day she goes to kindergarten and makes a toy out of trash she calls Forky. Creating her own toy seems to give her comfort during the scary time of a new school and she loves Forky dearly. Woody sees this and decides to watch over Forky and make sure it learns how to be a toy for Bonnie (a thing it rejects as it isn’t used to being sentient). Basically Woody becomes Forky’s father, and like a baby rejects things that are good for it, so does Forky.

forky

Woody decides that taking care of Forky is his new role in the bedroom. He even says at one point that ‘it’s all I have left’. He knows his playing days are minimal and this is the most important thing he can do to help Bonnie. He even jumps out of a moving car window in order to help save Forky. (This is quite different than his response in Toy Story. He would have been happy to see Buzz in the trash back then).

Eventually Forky and Woody end up in an antique store in a small town where to their surprise they run into an old friend Bo Peep. She had been given away by Molly (Andy’s sister) years before and to Woody’s surprise she has figured out a whole new way to live. She’s strong, confident and happy with an almost pirate-like existence. She still gets to be played with at the park but as she says ‘I am not lost’. Every day she determines her destiny and how she is going to contribute to the world.

toy story 4-5

At first Woody is shocked by this and has difficulty understanding her way of living. But as the mechanics of the plot go forward he starts to see how independent Bo is which is very attractive and eye-opening. Most of the shenanigans with Gabby Gabby and Duke Caboom are fun in their own right but more importantly they are opportunities for Woody’s room-based view of the world to expand.

That’s not to say these events aren’t amusing because they are absolutely hilarious. Duck and Bunny in particular create some of the funniest sequences in the history of the Toy Story franchise. There are also some decent scares from the ventriloquist dummies named Benson and a lot of beautifully animated action while saving Forky. I also appreciated that Gabbby Gabby wasn’t a surprise villain like we’ve gotten so often from Disney lately. Her story was more of a surprise hero, which was really sweet in the end.

toy story 4-6

But all that fun isn’t going to be enough if Woody is back in the closet at Bonnie’s rarely being played with. That’s no way to end our hero’s story! Just as the toys became a family in Toy Story 3, they, led by Buzz, understand that part of being a family is letting our loved ones follow their dreams. We send our children off to college or on a mission knowing our world’s are never going to be the same but we know it is what is best for them. We send them on their way with a hope and a prayer that they will be ok but we also let them know that everything at home will ‘be ok’. Such is the case with Woody and Buzz.

‘Bonnie will be ok’ Buzz tells Woody. In other words ‘go and have your adventure. Everything at home will be ok. We love you’. So off Woody goes and Buzz and friends stay behind to make sure they keep their promise to Woody. It’s no surprise the toys learn to listen to their inner voice throughout the story because goodbyes are hard (I just had one with my Grandma’s funeral this weekend) and it is only through a lot of practice do we have the spiritual strength to help our loved ones go down their path no matter how badly we will miss them.

A perfect ending to a story that started with our friend only thinking of himself. Well done Pixar. Well done.

A+

smile worthy

Advertisements

Big Disney News and Response at Cannes

Disney should be speaking in French from now on because they just had an amazing response at the Cannes Film Festival. For us Disney fangirls (and boys) we got a lot to be excited about!

This is going to be a very nerdy post with tons of little details that might not interest the average movie fan but for us Disney geeks you’ll love every last little crumb!

The response from Cannes surprised me because it is known for its tough crowds.  This year two films, Michael Caine’s Youth and Matthew McConaughey’s Sea of Trees, were both booed by festival goers.  So for Disney to get such a strong response says a lot.

inside out

The good things started with the premiere of Pixar’s new film Inside Out.  It was greeted with a standing ovation and one critic said it was “probably double the loudest applause of any other film at the festival.  It went down like gangbusters”

Needless to say such sentiments have heightened my own excitement to the tilts!  I can’t wait!   Even hoity-toity NPR critic Kenneth Turan said:

“It’s very funny.  It’s very inventive.  And really moving, kind of in the way Up was”

Sold! I’m so jealous of everyone at Cannes who got to see it!

But the good news didn’t stop there…

Disney had a 25 minute showcase of their upcoming slate starting with more details about Thanksgiving release of Good Dinosaur. We have heard so little about this movie that I was so curious for these details.

Here is the new synopsis from Deadline article.
“The Good Dinosaur follows teenager Arlo, who is separated from his family when he falls into a raging river and is swept hundreds of miles away. He comes across Spot, a human cave-boy orphan with whom he forms a bond as he attempts to get home.

Lasseter said, “Our films ask ‘What if?’ questions. What if monsters really did live in your closet? What if a rat wanted to be the finest chef in the most beautiful city in the world? I think our next movie asks the biggest ‘What if?’ of all. What if the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs actually missed Earth?”

I think that sounds pretty amazing! People have been saying for a long time Pixar needs to get back to original storytelling and the way I see it is Pixar has two types of storytelling- the what if stories (Toy’s come to life, Monsters in the closet, rats cooking etc) and more traditional journey narratives (father finding his son, nostalgic cars teaching new lesson, bugs facing their captors, last robot finding love, a family of superheroes, a man and his flying house pays homage to his wife).

With Inside Out I feel they are giving us a What if story- what if inside our head there is an entire world going on.  And with Good Dinosaur there is a what if but it seems like it is mostly going to be a journey of Arlo and Spot.  It sounds a lot like Finding Nemo to me and that is great!!

Deadline says the Good Dinosaur footage “captivated international audience members…Two french women sitting near me alternately gasped and whispered “extraordinaire” and “incroyable” when amazingly lifelike closeups of CGI foiage were shown. The environment, Lasseter said, is a “living breathing character” in the film”.

Again that sounds very Finding Nemoish to me where the environment of the  ocean played such a role in the story (think the jellyfish sequence, the turtles in the EAC etc).  This sounds great!!

But the good news didn’t stop there…

finding dory2

Next they talked about Finding Dory the sequel to Finding Nemo.  I didn’t know if they needed a sequel but Andrew Stanton is directing which is awesome and the synopsis sounds neat:

“Dory’s memory of her childhood is triggered while she’s at school on the Coral Reef one day with Nemo. She makes her way to an institute that cares for undersea creatures and teams up there with Hank The Octopus who becomes her guide.

finding dorryDiane Keaton and Eugene Levy will play Dory’s parents and “folks were treated to some of their banter and there was also footage of a kelp forest on California’s northern coastline (“a new look for us” said Lasseter) and a glimpse of the Loons, to whom Lasseter referred as “the Seagulls of the new movie. They’re so startlingly dumb it’s hilarious.”

That sounds amazing!! I can’t wait!

But the good news didn’t stop there…

We got some new details on Toy Story 4.  Lasseter said “brand new chapter that’s very personal”.  Evidently it is going to be a love story and not be a continuation of the events of Toy Story 3 or involve human characters.  It is entirely within the toy world which sounds pretty great to me! Lasseter said “”We’re in the early stages of the film, but it’s shaping up nicely. It’s funny. The story is not as much a continuation of the past films, but a brand new chapter in the ‘Toy Story’ world.”

But the good news didn’t stop there…

Next they moved on to the Walt Disney Animated Studio WDAS which has marked 10 years since the Lasseter/Ed Catmull take over.  What a great 10 years it has been! (I know 2D fans might disagree but I’ve loved it).   Lasseter said

“Walt Disney Animation Studios is back.  Ed and I always believed what would heal this studio- because it was quite broken when we came in, the morale was really low- what would really heal it is if we can make a movie to be a really big hit.  These guys are on fire now”.

They certainly are!

zootopia2

Next up for WDAS is Zootopia which looks really cool.  Lasseter said it will be ‘classically Disney” and the images look very 2D although it is CG.  I wonder if it will have the feel of their Paperman short which blended 2D and CG techniques?

Either way it is an anthropomorphized fox in a ‘modern civilized world’ of animals. ”  Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin star as a kind of buddy cop duo. Again from Deadline article

” Eliciting huge laughs was a scene in which the unlikely partners are rushing to get a run on a license plate, only to find the DMV is fully staffed by sloths.”

That sounds really great!

But the good news doesn’t stop there (only 1 more)…

moana2We learned more about the new princess movie Moana.  Directed by Disney legends Ron Clements and John Musker it is a musical set in the South Pacific and was “inspired by the group’s own experience on a research trip to Oceana”

“The story follows a talented young navigator whose father forbids her to sail beyond their island reef. When she sets out anyway and ends up stranded on another island, she meets the fallen demi-god Maui and they set off on an adventure” .

Deadline says “a song montage was shown to Cannes attendees who showered it with applause” (what I would have given to be at that meeting!).

Anyone who knows me knows I love Hawaii, musicals and the ocean.  Moana seems like it was designed just for me so of course I am so excited!

—————————-

So I know that was a lot of info but each and every part makes me so giddy I just had to share it with all of you!

What excites you? Did any of this information and the Cannes response assuage any concerns or give you a new enthusiasm for the projects? Which of the upcoming films are you looking forward too most?  Or are you like me and excited for all of them!