Toy Story 4: The Rise of Forky

September 24, 2019

After a whole nine years, the long-awaited sequel to Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 3 has finally, yes, finally, arrived in cinemas across the globe. Now there is one thing everybody is dying to know about this film, other than if it’s a tearjerker or not. That is, does this film live up to the beloved franchise?
Disney Pixar’s Toy Story 4 is the directorial debut of Academy Award nominated screenwriter Josh Cooley, primarily known for his work on the 2015 film Inside Out. Toy Story 4 was written by Rashida Jones, Andrew Stanton, Will McCormack, and Stephany Folsom, and includes the voices of a tremendous number of all-star actors and comedians, including Tom Hanks, Annie Potts, Tim Allen, Tony Hale, Joan Cusack, the comedic duo of the 21st century Keegan Micheal Key and Jordan Peele, Wallace Shawn, and of course, the internet’s current sensation, Mr. Keanu Reeves himself. 

This film follows the character of Woody and how he makes it his duty to not only make sure a kid is happy, but to make sure a toy is happy as well. Along the way, Woody struggles to make sure Forky, the newest addition to the gang, made by their owner, Bonnie, does not throw himself away, but instead realizes how important he is. Woody comes across old friends, and a whole bunch of new friends, who all have a certain role in how things play out in the film. Speaking of all these old and new characters, let’s start with the actors who bring them to life. 

Not that it’s at all a surprise, considering the cast involved, but the voice acting in Toy Story 4 is spectacular. The standouts being, of course, Tom Hanks and Annie Potts. Both actors bring a new layer to their characters, especially Potts. Woody (Hanks) and Bo Peep (Potts) are easily the most complex and interesting they’ve been throughout the entire franchise. While Hanks brought his A game to the other three Toy Story films, in the fourth, there were even more levels to Woody, as he now has to deal with not being alongside his previous owner, Andy, and has to take what seemed to be the role of the father in this film- something he’d never done, which was an aspect I found to be perfect for the character’s last outing. 

Unlike Woody, Bo Peep had never been the main protagonist in the other movies, having only small fun cameos. However, in Toy Story 4, Annie Potts really brings it, as Bo Peep now plays a major role in the story. She has many sides to her character, her new adventurous side, her new leadership side, her independent side, and the very interesting aspect of her being a lost toy, which shows the other half of what being a toy is like- something never before explored in the saga. Over all, the character of Bo Peep can frankly be described as a straight-ahead “badass.” 

One of my biggest worries going into this film was the inclusion of Forky, voiced by Tony Hale. A character like this can easily grow to be annoying, as he is the type of character who is always following the main character, always screwing up plans, and constantly being played for laughs. The marketing for Toy Story 4 led me to believe this would be the case for Forky, but to my surprise, Forky turned out to be one of my favorite things about the movie. A big part of this is due to Tony Hale’s voice acting. He really sold the character and made us care for him, and, well, laugh a lot too. It felt as if Forky and Hanks had a real life chemistry and dynamic that they brought to the screen. Along with that, his interactions with the other characters were just adorable and so fun. 

One of my only complaints with Toy Story 4 was the lack of screentime for the side characters. In all three of the other Toy Story films, side characters like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Ham, Slinky, Jesse, and Rex all played a role in helping the story come together, but in Toy Story 4, they were majorly sidelined and barely did anything to move the story along. I understand that this was done to have the story focus on Woody and the new characters, but to me it doesn’t feel like a Toy Story movie unless the whole gang is involved. It felt less like another entry in the saga, and more like a fun solo Pixar adventure. This isn’t to say the voice actors of these side characters don’t do a good job, most do a great job and provide hilarious and heartfelt moments, but I would have preferred for them to have been included in the story more often. 

The animation in Toy Story 4 is flat out stunning. There isn’t a single frame in this movie that won’t make you do a double take to make sure you aren’t looking at a real life picture. The animation is almost photo realistic and so pleasing to look at. The colors are vibrant, every frame is filled with life, and everything is so detailed, from the backgrounds, to the designs of the characters. The animation is also used to sell the emotions of the characters. You can feel what they are feeling by just looking at the toys on the screen, which really helps to make you care for them as if they’re real human beings. 

By far the biggest reason I love this movie is just how exciting and fun it is. Not once in the almost two-hour runtime did I feel the slightest bit of boredom. There are tons of nail-biting moments that come from the road trip plot, which adds a time crunch aspect to the movie. The toys constantly have to be moving and it makes the movie so exciting. Along with that, something is always happening. In every scene there is either a hilarious joke or a heartfelt moment, which leads into my next point, the emotional moments.

As someone who grew up with the Toy Story franchise, and whose first movie ever was Toy Story, I was expecting to feel some sort of emotion, especially after how devastating the ending of Toy Story 3 was, but I was not expecting to cry as much as I did. I’ll not get into spoilers, because believe it or not, not everyone has seen the $1 billion film yet, and I wouldn’t want to ruin the ending, but the way Woody’s character arc is wrapped up is perfect for him and leads to many tear-jerking moments near the end. Occasionally there will be moments that feel pointless and just episodic in some ways, but the way this movie wraps up proves that it wasn’t just an easy cash grab, but it really did have a purpose and an important story to tell. 

This might not be a perfect movie, and I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite of the Toy Story films, but it is one of the best animated movies I’ve seen in a while and one I will surely watch again. 

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