Nepal | July 03, 2020

‘Toy Story’ lives on, but should it have?

Associated Press
Share Now:

NEW YORK: Like “Casablanca,” ”Toy Story 3″ concluded with the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

It’s an ending that has very possibly produced an ocean’s worth of tears, not to mention countless awkward moments for children mildly embarrassed by their parents suddenly turning into waterfalls. “Um, dad, it’s a movie about a toy cowboy.”

Toy Story 4

Characters Bo Peep, from left, Woody, Forky, Jessie and Buzz Lightytear pose at the world premiere of “Toy Story 4” on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, at the El Capitan in Los Angeles. Photo: AP

But the sentimental crescendo of the “Toy Story” trilogy was real. The films’ young boy, the one whose name was emblazed on the bottom of Woody’s foot, had grown up. Andy was going to college. The fate most feared by the toys — boxed up in the attic — was miraculously avoided when Andy gifted his beloved playthings to a young girl named Bonnie.

As he drove off, after one last imaginative romp in the yard, Woody watched Andy go like a wistful father. After three brilliant and heartfelt parenting parables that ruminated on ageing, loss and impermanence alongside the pitfalls of arcade claw machines and toddler daycare centres, this was the final goodbye. Goodbye to Andy, yes, but goodbye to childhood. “So long, partner,” said Woody.

Big Gulp.

The finale was immediately received as a classic Hollywood ending. “The chances of topping this one are infinitesimal,” New York magazine wrote at the time. “Toy Story 3” won the Oscar for the best-animated film. Everyone, including the film’s makers and cast, believed they had neatly, perfectly wrapped up their trilogy.

“From the inside, ‘Toy Story 3’ was definitely the end of it,” said Tim Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear. “That one scene was it.”

But, of course, that wasn’t it. “Toy Story” has returned, nine years later, with “Toy Story 4.” In today’s movie business, nothing is safe from ongoing sequelizing, not even a story about the very necessity of letting go and making peace with the passage of time.

That movie franchises have been extended well beyond their natural cycle is nothing new. But “Toy Story 4” may mark when Hollywood officially gave up saying goodbye.

It’s probably a fool’s errand to wish for prudence from a corporate-made, multi-billion dollar property that was, from the outset, designed to sell as many toys as it jerked tears. “Toy Story 4,” which opens in theatres Friday, is widely expected to make around $150 million over the weekend and gross close to $1 billion over its worldwide run, just like “Toy Story 3” did.

And, for some, Woody is again coming to rescue. The Walt Disney Co-release will break a spell of underperforming sequels. The box office has recently slumped about 7% below last year, partly due to a string of disappointing returns for badly reviewed (or just plain bad) sequels: “Dark Phoenix,” ”The Secret Life of Pets 2,” ”Men in Black: International.”

As Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations notes, it’s difficult for any studio, even Disney, to leave $1 billion on the table.

“Audiences might not actually need ‘Toy Story 4’ but theatres desperately need it,” said Bock. “It’s very reflective of where we are today with sequels and continuing sagas. We’re at a point where three is no longer the magic number. It’s beyond that.”

It would be an unfair Buzz kill to call “Toy Story 4” simply a blatant cash grab. Quality control is too high at Pixar to give us a “Toy Story” sequel on par with, say, “Jaws: The Revenge,” or something that we collectively pretend never existed, like “Godfather 3.” ”Toy Story 4″ is quite good, critics say. Though many reviewers have questioned its necessity, the film rates 99% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Directed by veteran Pixar animator and first-time feature filmmaker Josh Cooley, “Toy Story 4” finds Woody and the gang now settled in with Bonnie. But Woody slips into another existential crisis of self-worth when Bonnie favours other toys, especially one she quickly crafted herself out of a spork and some kindergarten trash. She names him Forky, a neurotic character voiced by Tony Hale. When Forky goes missing on a family road trip, the resulting adventure forces Woody to confront the possibility of not only post-Andy life but post-kid life.

It’s become a standard business for franchises to slowly abandon the numbers that might too bluntly remind fans of their lengthy runs. The “Fast and the Furious” series understandably chose to title its upcoming instalment “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw” over its almost shocking actual numerical value: “Fast & Furious 9.” Pixar, at least, hasn’t shied away from where this “Toy Story” fits in, even if it’s a lead actor would have gone a different direction.

“It really should be called ‘Toy Story: Forky,” said Tom Hanks. “Because it’s all about the Forky.”

Sequels have always been a somewhat touchy subject for Pixar. Since its groundbreaking first feature, 1995’s “Toy Story” (the first full-length computer-generated animated movie), Pixar has, for much of its existence, eschewed repetition for originality. In his 2014 book “Creativity, Inc.”, Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull called quality “the best business plan” and suggested sequels can lead to “creative bankruptcy.”

Lately, things have been changing at Pixar, and not just because of a recent preponderance of sequels including “Finding Dory,” ”Cars 3″ and “Incredibles 2.” Former Pixar chief John Lasseter, who directed the first two “Toy Story” films, exited the company last year after acknowledging “missteps” in his behaviour with female staff members. In 2017, Rashida Jones departed “Toy Story 4,” which she was helping to write, and said then that the company had “a culture where women and people of colour do not have an equal creative voice.”

“Inside Out” and “Up” director Pete Docter, who has a story credit and is an executive producer on “Toy Story 4,” last year took over as Pixar’s chief creative officer. The studio’s next two releases will be originals: “Onward” next March and Docter’s own “Soul,” in June 2020.

And given Pixar’s unique stature as one of Hollywood’s few remaining factories of fresh storytelling capable of reaching mass audiences (its last original, “Coco,” grossed more than $800 million), some are rooting for “Toy Story 4” to — really this time — be Woody’s last go-around. Not because they won’t watch another one, but because they will. In a movie world of endless “Star Wars” episodes and even actors who can be digitally resurrected, closure — the kind preached in “Toy Story 3” — is increasingly a hard-to-come-by commodity. Not everything is meant to keep going for infinity and beyond.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

In Pictures: Protest against govt's ineffective response to COVID-19 crisis

Kathmandu, July 2 Youths hold placards while maintaining safe distance as they take part in a protest at Patan on Thursday demanding better and effective response from the government in handling COVID-19 outbreak. Read More...

Botswana investigating mystery deaths of 275 elephants

GABORONE: The number of elephants found dead in Botswana's Okavango Panhandle has risen to 275 from 154 reported two weeks ago, the government said on Thursday. Authorities are investigating the unexplained deaths over the past months. Poaching has been ruled out as the carcasses were found Read More...

Deepika Padukone champions #DobaraPoocho on importance of discussing mental health issues

KATHMANDU: Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone has urged to be a little more attentive towards their loved ones and repeatedly inquire about their life struggles and mental health issues, through a campaign #DobaraPoocho. Taking to her Instagram on June 30, 34-year-old actor posted a video about che Read More...

Bob Dylan makes chart history with Rough and Rowdy Ways

KATHMANDU: American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has made a chart history with his 39th studio album Rough and Rowdy Ways — the critically-acclaimed full-length debuted at No 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, amassing three million streams and the equivalent of 53,000 album units in the United States. Read More...

British musicians call for govt to help live music industry

KATHMANDU: Some 1,500 British musicians including Sir Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran and The Rolling Stones called for the British government on July 2 to support the live music business survive the novel coronavirus pandemic as the future for concerts, festivals and the people who work in them looks bl Read More...

Actor Samragyee RL Shah exposes sexual, mental and financial exploitation in the Nepali film industry

Actor says many others suffering in silence KATHMANDU : Nepali actor Samragyee RL Shah, who has opened up about harassment she claims to have faced in the Nepali movie industry via a series of videos on her Instagram account, has shared with The Himalayan Times graphic details what she has fa Read More...

Ray Fisher says director Joss Whedon was gross, abusive and unprofessional on Justice League set

KATHMANDU: American actor Ray Fisher has accused director Joss Whedon of gross, abusive and unprofessional behaviour on the set of the 2017 film Justice League. Taking to Twitter on July 1, Fisher who played the young superhero Cyborg in the DC Comics film wrote, "Joss Wheadon’s on-set treatme Read More...

City honour Liverpool - then hammer them 4-0

MANCHESTER: Manchester City generously applauded new champions Liverpool onto the field before their Premier League match on Thursday -- and promptly showed no mercy by thrashing them 4-0 at the Etihad stadium. With the title secured a week ago, there was little at stake for Juergen Klo Read More...