There’s a fairly unanimous opinion that the Toy Story Trilogy, to put it simply, was a masterpiece. But what made it so? All the components clicked: Fantastic and distinguishable characters, stellar animation, an emotional storyline – the thing is, many animated movies, and most if not all Pixar movies have all of the above. Yet, Toy Story still, in most’s minds, stand above them – why?
Toy Story is universal in a way no other animated (or arguably ANY) film has ever been. UP, Inside Out, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo – they all tell stories dealing with loss and how we come to terms with it; Toy Story is a metaphor that unites them all in a common hood. As good as those films were, we don’t need monsters, inside feelings, fish or an old man to preach about life – we need a story that explains it all from birth, to loss. Toy Story, the ingenious metaphor of using toys as both symbols of loss of innocence and of parents losing their children to life covers every animated film’s message in a nutshell. This isn’t to say all the others are redundant, they’re not and are masterpieces in their own right, but this charm of Toy Story spells disaster for a fourth entrance into the series.
As the screen faded to black in Toy Story 3 our final sight is the first we had with the series; the blue sky of Andy’s room, now extended to outside world and the uncertain future. We grow up with Andy, Andy handed over the Toys in a montage that, though highlighting the futility of the Toys’ ultimate quest, passed them on into the next generation in a seemingly infinite chain – immense closure. So the announcement of a fourth immediately seems ludicrous. What seems even worse is that it’s separate from the trilogy and, as recently confirmed, a love story about finding Bo Peep for Woody.
Woody’s words about Bo in 3 were heartbreaking because they were so short, hitting home from the off the dire situation the toys were in. ‘We’ve lost friends along the way; Weezy and Etch and…’ says Woody, as Rex naively chirps, ‘Bo peep?’ Woody solemnly, and simply replies, ‘Even. Even Bo.’ To question what happened to Bo would not only miss the point but ruin a poignant message – to make an entire movie regarding it threatens to dislodge the entire theme of Toy Story 3.
The toys were always arguably a metaphor for parents losing their children; making a tale about Woody on an adventure to find Bo completely undermines this and calls into the question the entire theme of loss and growing up that made the trilogy so special in the first place. To reopen the closure even leads open disastrous loose ends – now we’re forced to ask ourselves ‘what happens when Bonnie grows up and Bo gets thrown away again? Wouldn’t that make the whole rescue mission pointless? So have the toys learned nothing about their situation?’
In short, a Toy Story 4, especially one that seeks to humanise the toys when it’s so important that they remain devoted to their owners and not technically each other, throws up in the air all of the beautiful, heartfelt and real meanings behind the trilogy. Where they land is yet to be seen and I do hope, for the sake of the entire tale and Pixar as a company, it’s not in the trash.