Toy Story’s final chapter has successfully made adults and children alike smile, laugh, and cry. The fourth movie in the franchise highlights themes expressed in previous movies, as well as touches on some new ground with what it means to be a toy in this world. Woody and the crew have spent their entire lives bringing joy to children; being there for them when they need it. In previous iterations, the stories for the toys have always painted ‘lost toys’ in a negative light, as if not having a child is the worst thing that could happen. In Toy Story 4, they address what it means to have a life after children grow up and leave. A story that reflects what many of the parents (who brought their children to the first Toy Story in 1995) are dealing with today.
Woody’s character has always been focused on protecting his child: Andy. The first film revolved around him coming to terms with sharing his child with Buzz Lightyear and the other toys. Much like how a parent needs to accept that their child will find other interests in life. The second film focused more on Woody and his ego. He choose to turn down a life of fame in order to be there for Andy. Many parents have to sacrifice their own happiness in order to be there for their children. In the third film we start to see what Woody, and many parents, go through when their child no longer needs them. Andy has grown up, and even though he still loves Woody, he doesn’t need him anymore. Bo Peep was gone and created a void, much like a spouse leaving, and Woody had nothing else aside from caring for his child. The movie ends with Woody and the gang being given to Bonnie, another kid, so that he can care for someone else while Andy leaves. However this still did not give Woody any independence or closure. The fourth and final film really highlights the metaphor of toys being like parents to their children. And with this, gives Woody a proper send-off. He learns, with the help of others, that he can have a life outside of caring for a child. Especially after the child starts making their own toys.
Forky is a unique character in the Toy Story universe. Since the first movie, people have been curious about what brings a toy to life. This movie doesn’t really answer that, but it does confirm it has nothing to do with a factory or mass production. Bonnie created a toy, and therefore it has life. If we continue the metaphor of toys being parents for the children, then what is Woody and Forky’s relationship with Bonnie? The film does not specifically relate Bonnie to Andy, but I believe this fourth film does complete their stories, just in a less obvious way. Toy Story 3 showed us what happens when a child grows up and starts their own life. Toy Story 4 shows us what happens when they start a life of their own. Forky represents the children that our children create. Woody is a grandfather; the story of Toy Story 4 is how people who have dedicated their lives to their children, can still have a meaningful life after they no longer have any responsibilities in being a parent.
The most noticeable change in Toy Story 3 was the disappearance of Bo Peep. There really isn’t an answer for this until the start of Toy Story 4. The movie starts you off with tears, showing Woody turning down love over his responsibility. He chooses Andy over leaving with Bo Peep. She goes on to become a ‘lost toy’ but discover her freedom. She becomes Woody’s guide in the film; leading him to discover what life is like after having children. There is a powerful scene, after the toys escape the antique shop, where Woody proclaims that he has to save Forky because he has no other purpose in life. By the end of the film he is given a second chance to make the decision from the beginning of the film. He now realizes his life’s purpose shouldn’t be dedicated to Bonnie, it should be dedicated to himself. He did his job and now he can rest. This is a message a lot of the parents in the audience need to hear. It is okay to have your own life once your children do not need a parent anymore. And if you did your job right, then they wont.
The most surprising addition to the franchise is the perspective of toys like Gabby Gabby and the duo Ducky and Bunny; toys that have never had children to begin with. Gabby Gabby thinks that she isn’t allowed to have the unconditional love that a child gives you because of a malfunction in her voice box. This can represent women who are not able to have children biologically (in this case due to a birth defect.) Once she has the surgery she needed, she still gets rejected by the child she dreamed of. This is a depressing scene and I understand why the character was destroyed after the fact. Eventually she gives herself to a child that is in need, and rescues her in a way. Bunny and Ducky are two toys that have been waiting three years to have a kids of their own. The way they are introduced, as a prize in in a carnival game, made me think of the ridiculously hard conditions couples have to face in order to adopt a child. I assume it was a coincidence that they are both male and trying to “adopt” a kid.
Since the first film, twenty four years ago, the Pixar film franchise Toy Story has been making audiences think about what it means to be human. By giving life to inanimate objects, it helps us all think about ourselves more objectively. We root for the heroes, Woody and Buzz, because we want to be those characters. We all want to be loved, to know our true selves, to be noble in the face of vanity, and in some cases to stand up to the bullies that torment others. We all cried in theaters, both in Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4. It is hard to say goodbye to the people you love, even if they are fictional child play-things. I started watching these films as a child and grew up along side the characters. The stories adjusted for us as we aged and had more life experience. Like Bonnie and Andy, we now have to live a life without Woody. Toy Story 4 already showed us that life away from the things you love can still be important and full of joy.
Movie watched and article written by: Troy Smith