Toy Story: The Next Generation
by Craig McFarland
Associate Editor-In-Chief, Beyond the Mouse Host
What Pixar always seems to get right about their films is they don’t assume the audience won’t understand subtle nuance just because they make their films for children. There is a certain empathy they bring to all their projects and characters. Rarely are their villains mustache-twirling baddies. Likewise, their heroes have flaws – some evident and some underlying. They tell stories about growing old, morality and society in a way that’s not only digestible for kids, but has takeaways for people of all ages.
I’m a fan. I’m in the bag for most Disney and Pixar projects the day they are announced. However, Toy Story 4’s announcement left me with a bit of trepidation. To me, having literally grown up with these characters, Toy Story 3 seemed like a perfect send-off to the trilogy. I was left feeling emotional about a box of toys being left at the doorstep of a new owner and thought it was a perfect cap on a satisfying trilogy.
What I didn’t understand is that Toy Story wasn’t only “owned” by me and my generation. There were more stories that could be told and more characters that could be explored. That truth became evident as I sat in the theater with my son yesterday.
Afterwards, I asked him the standard questions, like "Did you like it?", "Who were your favorite characters?", etc., and he kept talking about Forky. However, while the creation of Forky was something that I didn’t necessarily think was the crux of the film, my son helped me see it in an entirely new light.
Bo Peep – the toy we haven’t seen play a major (or even tertiary) role since the first film – was another favorite. Her story sets us off in an entirely different direction, and it really connected with my young fan. A Bo Peep toy instantly took a spot on my son’s vaunted “Santa list.”
So, yes, Toy Story 3 was a fitting end to Andy’s journey (and, by extension, mine). That doesn’t mean that the story ends. Toy Story 4 proves the real adventures are just getting started for a whole new generation. Sign me up for Toy Story 5-10, or whatever Forky/Caboom Disney+ show they can come up with. These toys have a lot more stories to tell, and I’m not ready to see them put on the shelf.
Craig is a lifelong Disney fan, and associate editor-in-Chief of the Front Row Network. He co-hosts Beyond the Mouse for the network. In addition to podcasting he stays busy in the local theater scene, and by day is an academic advisor at the University of Illinois Springfield.