Is Toy Story 4 Necessary?

(originally posted November 14th)

(WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Toy Story 3)

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No. No, it really isn’t. Anyone who grew up with the original trilogy of Toy Story films (still the best film trilogy – suck it Lord of the Rings) most likely had the same reaction as I did when this was announced – a tilted head, a slightly agape expression, followed by a slowly drawn out and confused “Why?”

Now, some might say it’s hypocritical of someone to complain about a new sequel when they were demanding a Toy Story 3 for so many years (which I was). But the thing is there was a huge gap in between the second and third films; eleven years to be exact. The children who watched those first two were now adults by the time the third one came out, and had either gone through what Andy was going through or were in the process or about to do it themselves. It was the grand finale that we had been waiting years for. That’s the key word here: finale. End. It’s done. There is nothing else that can be done with these characters. At least, that’s what I think.

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There have been a few Toy Story short films over the last couple of years but I have no problem with those since, well, they’re short. They’re just cute little extras that you can enjoy. I thought it was a great way of continuing things for the new generation of kids that aren’t as familiar with the franchise without being viewed as ‘ruining’ it for the older fans, which leads into my problem with the fourth film.

As I’ve already said, there’s a new fanbase for the series now, so it’s only natural to want to continue it for those fans. Fair enough, but why would you create new films for this generation when they already exist? Those three films are virtually timeless; a six year old from 2014 will watch it and have the same feelings that a six year old from 1995 had. They don’t need to make anymore because the perfect films are still there to be enjoyed by the new generation. Yeah, I said it. Perfect.

Plus, where else can you go with a fourth film in terms of emotion? The big, underlying theme through all three films was the daunting realisation that one day Andy would grow up and stop playing with his toys. The toys were fearful of what would happen to them. Locked up in the attic forever? Thrown out in the rubbish and sent to the furnace, the toy equivalent of hell? It didn’t though. They were passed to a new child, to once again feel the joy of being played with by an imaginative, little girl. If you think about, it’s slightly metaphorical of the films themselves. The generation that grew up with these films, with these characters, is now showing them to the new generation, allowing them to experience it like how we did.

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So, where else can the franchise go? At some point, Bonnie will grow up too and the cycle repeats itself. We can’t have the toys going through the same emotions that they had in the last three films because it already happened, and that’s not what sequels should be for. They shouldn’t repeat the same development and plots so as not to ‘alienate’ viewers; they should continue, expand and change the universe and characters until there’s no more room for change, which is where Toy Story 3 ended. Everything was wrapped up nicely.

I’m going to be honest, here, but between this, the Cars franchise and the other sequels in the works, it seemed like to me that Pixar had succumbed to the desire to franchise everything to make money. And yes, Pixar are, at the end of the day, a company and need to make money, and a new Toy Story would be a guaranteed money maker, but surely, I thought, there had to be another way.

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However, I actually decided to, you know, do some actual research like a proper journalist and found a statement from director John Lasseter, an extremely talented man who has worked on a number of brilliant films (including the original three Toy Story films) who very much echoed the Pixar credo:

“We don’t want to do anything with them unless it lives up to or surpasses what’s gone before. ‘Toy Story 3’ ended Woody and Buzz’s story with Andy so perfectly that for a long time, we never even talked about doing another ‘Toy Story’ movie. But when Andrew [Stanton], Pete [Docter], Lee [Unkrich] and I came up with this new idea, I just could not stop thinking about it. It was so exciting to me, I knew we had to make this movie—and I wanted to direct it myself.”

This was almost relaxing to me. These people know exactly what they’re doing, and are probably aware of the reaction that us older fans had. They love the characters and world just as much as we do; hell, they created it. Any artist, writer, film maker etc. would know that feeling of attachment to your creation and wishing to do more with it.

I think my overall problem with this idea is how conflicted I sort of feel about it. The film will probably be good, maybe even brilliant. Could it top Toy Story 3? Well, it’s still early days, (the film’s slated for a 2017 release) but it’ll probably be of the usual Pixar quality. Not every film they’ve done has been brilliant (looking at you Cars) but they’ve been decent at least.

But this isn’t about whether the film will be good or not; it’s about whether it’s needed, and no matter how good the film may be I still don’t think it is necessary. Toy Story 4 could be flawless, the best film ever, Pixar’s highest grossing, but for me, Woody and Buzz’s adventures ended back in 2010 when they were left on Bonnie’s doorstep and waved Andy farewell. And I waved farewell back.

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