Your Toy Story 4 Reviews

I just got back from the premiere, and it’s that time again to share your thoughts. I’ll try to spoil tag appropriately.

My rating? Once again, it’s going to be five stars. Toy Story is sacred to Pixar, and once again they’ve done right by the series. Two times before, they’ve made sequels that attempt to add some sort of closure to the series. Each time after Toy Story 2, fans were rightfully wary of potentially undoing a perfect ending. Yet Toy Story 4 manages to leave us with the same feeling of contentment.

More so than Toy Story 3, this is perfectly watchable as a standalone film, however there’s a lot more impact when you factor in the first film. Toy Story 3 pretty much covered the nostalgia that come with kids that grew up with the original two movies, and Toy Story 4 rightfully respects the ending of Toy Story 3 and moves on. Also like the previous film, look out for plenty of musical cues from the first two movies. It’s a real treat, and something I found to be lacking with a lot of sequels.

In a huge turn for the series, I’d categorize this film as a love story instead of a buddy movie. One loose end from Toy Story 3 was the departure of the beloved character Bo Peep offscreen, which was seemingly inevitable due to everything else the film had to cover. Toy Story 4 did the impossible and brought her back (once again masterfully played by Annie Potts). She’s almost like a Sarah Connor character now, and similarly goes through her own drastic character transformation as her character is fleshed out. Her and Woody’s interactions feel natural, and they’re both equally compelling when there’s a disagreement.

To wrap up the review portion, this film is one of the most gorgeous in my eyes, right up there with the original Toy Story. What grabbed me was the textures and how everything was so tangible and real, in contrast to how things felt more cartoony and stylized with Toy Story 3. This is of course supported by some beautiful dramatic lighting. Shot composition was always jumping out at me as well, and the mind blowing lens effects made me shocked at how far computer animation has really come.

My only critiques come as a long-time fan of the series: this movie is really about Woody. Buzz Lightyear went from sharing the spotlight in the first two films to a more limited role in the third. It almost felt like he didn’t have much to do in this film sadly. But at the even shorter end of the stick, the rest of the original cast from Andy’s room have next to nothing to do. The supporting cast really shined in Toy Story 2 and 3, but they’re basically back to the their status of the original film as being away from the action for most of the film. I don’t can’t remember a notable moment for Bullseye or the Squeeze Toy Aliens. It’s very apparent that Don Rickles was not actively involved in the film, unfortunately. As far as cameos go [spoil]beloved legacy character RC Car makes a surprise appearance in opening flashback, even a short appearance by the Barrel of Monkeys to boot. Meanwhile Tinny from Tin Toy finally officially bridges the short that was effectively the prototype for Toy Story. And his very appearance offers some foreshadowing for Woody’s fate.[/spoil]

Not really relevant to the review, but a little bit of internal consistency to consider

Woody electing to leave Bonnie has huge implications for the character. It’s made manageable in the movie by the fact that Woody had already been tossed aside and potentially outgrown by Bonnie. First of all, this essentially parallels the first film where Woody briefly loses favor with Andy. But the point of that film was that Andy never truly stopped caring for Woody and that everything was alright all along. Secondly, what happened to Woody and Bonnie’s close relationship from Toy Story 3? She was the one so taken with him that she was distraught when Andy initially refused to hand him down. Not to ruin y’alls experience, but her promise to Andy to take care of Woody was essentially broken.

I posted most of this on another forum but I’m adding some spoilery details in my review.

I saw it a couple hours back and I enjoyed the film more than I really expected to. Earlier, I rewatched the first two films just as a refresher since I’ve already seen 3 enough times within recent memory and the evolution in how the toys and the environment around them is jarring. Seeing Pixar come so far in CGI animation is such an observable change. Everything from the detailing in Buzz’s peeling stickers to the rain sequences are the level of detail Pixar has kept their high reputation in displaying every feature film.

I had a stupid grin on my face the instant the Disney logo came on and the introduction scene definitely was a great context builder and recap of the events that led up to Toy Story 4. The transitions were smooth and the “You’ve got a friend in me” music never gets old to hear. Bo and Woody’s reunion after all their years apart was so adorable to watch.

Woody’s arc in this film is basically him experiencing empty-nest syndrome with his kid. I enjoyed hearing the old comic legends voicing Bonnie’s preschool toys and Old Timer from Toy Story of Terror reminiscing of their glory days of playtime. Seeing Woody sidelined again set in the reality that he is definitely not in Andy’s room anymore where he use to run things. It doesn’t get too overbearing to see Woody cling to a semblance of relevance in Bonnie’s life considering it feels natural after all we know about Woody and many characters call him out for it throughout the course of the film.

All of the new characters were a welcome addition to the Toy Story family and each really had their moments to shine. Duke Caboom was already my favorite going in and still my favorite coming out but I didn’t expect myself to like Gabby Gabby as much as I do now. Ducky and Bunny were nearly not as annoying as the early advertisement made them out to be so their quips didn’t detract from the overall plot.

I’m glad this film subverted the Disney trend of a twist villain. Gabby Gabby sets herself apart from the other Toy Story villains, Lotso and Prospector, because she gets her chance of redemption which is due to Woody understanding how lucky he is to experience the love of a kid. Lotso worked in 3 because he was basically the characterization of what Woody could have been had he been replaced by Andy when he was lost. His cold-hearted actions once he revealed his true side aligned with how much being replaced took a toll on his mental state. Having Gabby Gabby long for the need to experience the love of a child turned her into the psuedo-mafia boss around the antique store. Watching Woody donate his voice box just so she could get the chance to experience what it’s like to be there for a kid was so heartwarming. She’s among my favorite of the new characters next to Duke Caboom.

I felt some parts of the film could have been fleshed out more and despite preferring Woody over Buzz Lightyear as my favorite character, I feel Buzz doesn’t have that much of a role next to the other co-leads, Bo and Forky. He’s always been Woody’s Lancer and he should have been given some moments to shine as a leader once Woody went missing to find Forky. He’s proven that he’s capable in bringing the toys together and formulate plans in Woody’s absence so some parts of the film felt a bit of a detraction to his character.

To extend my point from the previous paragraph, it feels like the didn’t really have anything for the other toys back in the RV to do other than reunite with Woody and Buzz to ensure they return. For characters like Mr. Potato Head considering Don Rickles’ passing and Slinky who were both just memorable side characters, Jessie had an even smaller role in comparison to the other two films. While there probably was no easy way to balance the cast without the film being bogged down, some fans may be disappointed with this aspect.

Despite its flaws, it’s a solid entry in the franchise and I concur it’s great to view as a standalone film in comparison to Toy Story 3 which was more dependent on the nostalgia from its predecessors. It’s not my favorite Toy Story but it’s a solid 8.5 to 9/10 film for me among Pixar’s release of mediocre sequels following Toy Story 3.

I’ll probably have to revisit this film a few times before I can properly rank it among the other 3.

That reminds me that it did balance the new characters better than Toy Story 3. I remember how many characters were being introduced through Toy Story 3’s promotional campaign, and it was almost overwhelming. Toy Story 3 also had a LOT of ground to cover, so it’s understandable when many new character’s didn’t get as much coverage as we might’ve been lead to believe (mainly Lotso’s gang and Bonnie’s toys). Meanwhile all of the new cast had defining moments during the film.

In terms of Buzz being a leader, Toy Story 2 had some of his finest moments. Comparatively, he was pretty clueless throughout 4 doing things without thinking them through versus meticulously tracking down Woody in Toy Story 2.

The villain was especially well done

I remember people ruled out Lotso being the secret bad guy because it would be too similar to Prospector’s reveal in Toy Story 2. Turns out it was the same case, though the different motives helped set them apart. Gabby Gabby explores the same psychological effect as the Prospector living in isolation without a kid or purpose. The three toy villains all break new ground and add to the mythology of the series as a whole.

While I’m still curious about Woody’s future, I feel his arc is truly complete. They stripped him down to his most vulnerable and hopeless and forced him to face his ego and make his toughest decisions yet. I think there’s still plenty of potential for Bonnie’s toys and Buzz Lightyear moving forward. Calling it now, the nostalgic move way down the line will be reuniting Buzz and Woody.

Just got back from seeing the movie. I don’t want to walk the fine line of deciding what is/isn’t a spoiler, so I’m just going to put everything in a spoiler section:

[spoiler]So, I would say the film was good overall, but it left me with some mixed feelings, primarily related to the story. Let’s get the positive out of the way first:


Visually, the movie looked stunning. Toy Story 3 already looked practically perfect, and I would have been content if they matched its quality of animation, but they managed to surpass it. There were some very nice looking lighting effects and improved textures. Close-ups of Woody’s face actually showed a subtle plastic texture; it was as though you were looking at live-action footage of a Toy Story Collection Woody, only he was moving. The lighting in the antique store was notably impressive, as was the flashback scene in the rain at the beginning of the film.

I enjoyed most of the new characters introduced, which was good given that they largely overshadowed the returning ones. Ducky and Bunny added a great new style of humor that has never really been in a Toy Story film before this one, and their involvement in the story was well-balanced. Duke Kaboom was also quite funny, and somewhat defied expectations; it seemed as though he was going to be a hotshot/inflated ego-type character, but beyond posing on his bike, he was quite humble and kind-hearted, if a little bit naïve. Giggle McDimples was a fun, if insignificant, companion to Bo Peep. Forky is conceptually a very fun character, and I think he was well-executed, but I wish that they had not shown so much of him in the trailers; his constant desire to be thrown in the trash was initially funny, but it never developed much past that, and by the time the “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” montage was over, it grew tiresome. Gabby Gabby is a unique case; she definitely earned sympathy both from Woody and from me as a viewer, and her character arc was both heartbreaking and heartwarming, but it’s difficult to overlook how objectively badly she treats Woody when she first realizes he has a voice box. Though the vintage male dolls (can’t remember their names) were primarily the characters who attempted to forcibly mutilate Woody, she certainly provoked the behavior and didn’t do anything to stop it. This made Woody’s forgiveness feel sudden and somewhat forced. I wish they had found another way to make Woody feel endangered in the antique shop without painting her in such a negative light, because ultimately she is meant to be likable.

So, the first ten or so minutes of the film were very strong to me. Perhaps nostalgia played a factor into this, but starting with a ‘9-years-ago’ flashback provided a really fun opportunity for us to see the gang in the setting of Andy’s room once again, only with a much different tone (again, the lighting + rain effects here were GORGEOUS and served the scene well). The cameo from RC was fun, but what really made this scene work was giving the audience the chance to see Woody say goodbye to Bo Peep. It reminded us of the special connection the two shared, explained Bo’s absence from Toy Story 3, and set up the theme of moving on/finding new purpose for the rest of the film, all without feeling forced. The brief “You Got a Friend In Me” montage beautifully recapped the toys’ transition from Andy to Bonnie, and even managed to tug on the heartstrings. My only caveat with this beginning sequence is how they characterized Bo Peep, but I’ll go into that more when I bring up returning characters.

Another highlight of this film was how chock-full of references it was to other Pixar/Toy Story films. It was full to the brim with easter eggs: the Battlesaurs lunchbox in the background of Bonnie’s kindergarten classroom, Tinnie showing up in the antique store, Bonnie’s family stopping at Poultry Palace on the road trip, Bo referring to Buzz as “my old moving buddy”, the grape soda pin from Up (I don’t remember where it was), and dozens upon dozens of references to Pixar shorts and films on books/VHS tapes/signs/etc. None of this really impacted the story, but it made watching it as a fan all the more entertaining, and I’m sure there are tons that I missed (Pizza Planet truck?) that I’ll catch on subsequent viewings. It helped the film feel like it was honoring the legacy of not only the Toy Story franchise, but Pixar as a whole; I had forgotten Pixar used to do this sort of thing and it was great to see it come back, without being shoved in your face.

Now, unfortunately, we get into some problems I had with the film.


It was clear from the start when looking at trailers and marketing of Toy Story 4 that Bo Peep was posed as a strong, independent female protagonist. I think having a strong, independent female protagonist is great; Jessie and Barbie somewhat fit this bill in Toy Story 2/3, but it never hurts to push it further, given how mostly male-dominated the franchise had been. Bo’s character was more interesting in this film than it’s ever been before; prior to this she really only supported/flirted with Woody and served as a damsel-in-distress in Andy’s playtime scenarios. It was cool to now have a character who prides herself on being independent, free of desire to belong to a child and finding purpose in helping other toys around her. I don’t have any issue with this character concept, but it was so far beyond what we had previously seen from Bo’s calm demeanor that it didn’t feel like Bo Peep; she might as well have been a new character. Had they acknowledged that this was a departure from her characterization in Toy Story 1-2 and more thoroughly explored what experiences got her to this point, I wouldn’t have had a problem with this. But instead, they suggested that this was the character Bo has always been, as reflected in the flashback scene in the beginning of the film. When Woody climbs onto Molly’s desk to look out the window, she strikes an action pose with her cane and immediately springs into action for the rescue mission, something she simply would not have ever done in Toy Story 1-2. For a film so otherwise careful about honoring the legacy of its predecessors, this felt like a jarring retcon.

This is an issue that I’ve already seen others talk about online - the vast majority of the returning characters simply don’t have much to do in this film. Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer a focused plot with a few characters over an unfocused plot with many characters, but Toy Story 3 proved that Pixar is well capable of striking a good balance with its usage of the Toy Story cast, and this felt underwhelming by comparison. Save for a couple of characters with standout moments - Slinky, Trixie, Buttercup, and Mrs. Potato Head - I honestly could not tell you anything most of them contributed to the story. Jessie felt particularly underutilized - she did contribute to the arc of Woody feeling a lack of purpose, but this was when she was in toy mode, and so ultimately this was instigated by Bonnie. She also lacked any notable interactions with Buzz, a big disappointment given how much fun those previously proved to be. Mr. Potato Head’s involvement is excused due to the passing of Don Rickles, but the others really felt tossed aside. The aliens saved the lives of the entire main cast at the end of Toy Story 3. Did they even have a single line of dialogue here? And then there’s Buzz. Formerly the most important character in the series after Woody, he definitely was given a more minor role here. It seemed as though the writers had the story written out, realized Buzz was barely in it, and then worked to give him a small subplot of following his inner voice. While this kept him from feeling absent from the film, it ultimately seemed like one long-running gag that didn’t affect the outcome of anything, equivalent to Rex’s arc of defeating Zurg in Toy Story 2. This wouldn’t have been bad for a short or TV special, but in this context it felt like Buzz got demoted to a supporting character, while the supporting characters got demoted to little more than cameos. The controlling-the-RV scene was the most the secondary cast amounted to, and I only wish that there were more moments like it.

Okay, if somehow you’ve read this much without seeing the film, be warned that there are VERY BIG spoilers here. My biggest issue with the film is how it handled its conclusion of Woody leaving his gang to live owner-free with Bo Peep. Now, like with my gripe about Bo’s change of character, I don’t dislike this in concept. The character arc they set up for Woody is a strong one; he’s clearly dealing with lack of purpose and needs to let go of his past in order to find a new one. That’s a side of Woody we see as early as the first Toy Story, when Buzz becomes Andy’s new favorite toy. We see it come out again in Toy Story 2 and 3 in different contexts, and here it is explored more thoroughly than ever. Though Woody overcame his attachment to being Andy’s toy at the end of Toy Story 3, here he is forced to overcome his attachment to being anyone’s toy, as he realizes he will never truly have what he used to have with Andy. He acknowledges his insecurities when Bo questions why he’s so insistent on saving Forky, and leaving Bonnie behind to fulfill a greater purpose with Bo is the only real solution. This is a very real and adult theme, and it’s satisfying to see Woody further develop as a character even after all these years. However, while this greatly benefit’s Woody’s character, I cannot help but feel it detracts from the overarching story of the films as a series. In Toy Story 3, Andy never intends to give Woody away to Bonnie, and only does so when he sees that she is visibly attached to him. He’s reluctant, but ultimately decides that Bonnie is the right kid for Woody, and asks her to take extra special care of him. That entire interaction was so delicately crafted to make us feel comfortable with the toys moving on to a new owner. But in the small amount of time implied to have happened in between Toy Story 3 and 4, Bonnie becomes so disinterested in Woody that he feels comfortable leaving her. In setting up this new character arc for Woody, they effectively take away from the character arc with Andy and Bonnie, which feels dissatisfying when looking at the films as a series.

I think that this could have been mitigated if they set Toy Story 4 a couple of years after 3, when Bonnie is in 2nd or 3rd grade rather than in kindergarten. Had they implied that Bonnie’s detachment from Woody was gradual, it would have felt less like Bonnie broke Andy’s promise and more like she naturally changed tastes as she grew older. This still would have worked with the road trip/antique store/carnival/Bo Peep scenarios and even the Forky scenario (3rd grade is probably the furthest they could push this). But by suggesting that all of this happened so soon after the end of Toy Story 3, they’ve made it difficult for me to be complacent with how things concluded.[/spoiler]

Well, that ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would. Overall, I’m not really sure what rating I would give Toy Story 4; I think I need to let it sink in and think about it for a bit longer. The film was a blast to watch, but I’m not sure if all of the risks taken will have paid off in the long run.