In a film series, the second is the most important. It is a litmus test of two important questions: 1. Is there an audience appetite for the sequel? and 2. Is there enough of a narrative to warrant a second movie?
Toy Story 2 (1999) is the second tale within the Toy Story franchise. After Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy collector, it is up to his friends to save him. While Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) works on the outside to free Woody, Woody makes friends on the inside. Jessie (Joan Cusack) is a cowgirl and a part of the wild west line of playthings.
I enjoyed Toy Story 2. It has everything that made its predecessor great and then some. It is funny, entertaining, and suspenseful, and the addition of the new characters provides enough stretch to make the story plausible.
When we are very young, we play with a certain group of toys. When we grow up, our toys change dramatically.
Toy Story 3 is the third film within the Toy Story franchise. Andy (voiced by John Norris) is just about to leave for college. The toys he once considered to be beloved friends are supposed to be taken to the attic. But instead, they are donated to a daycare center.
The treatment they receive from the children at the daycare is a complete 180 from how Andy loved and treasured them. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), and co are now being handled by sticky-fingered toddlers who lack the respect of Woody and Buzz’s former owner.
If they are to get home, they must convince the disillusioned Lotso (voiced by Ned Beatty) that they were all once loved. Helping the boys in their quest is Barbie (Jodie Benson), who is working with her counterpart Ken (Michael Keaton) to free them all.
This movie is adorable, funny, and fits well into the overall story within the franchise. It also speaks of the fact that we all grow up eventually. What we once loved will eventually be consigned to the past and will be replaced by something entirely different.
As Buzz continues in his efforts to get his crew home, time moves on. When he finally achieves his goal, he discovers that it has been sixty years since his first attempt. An army of robots led by Zurg (James Brolin) is doing everything they can to steal his power source. Leading a small band of misfits that includes Alicia’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), Darby Steel (Dale Soules), and the animatronic cat Sox (Peter Sohn), they must save the day and stop Zurg.
I have mixed feelings about this film. As a standalone narrative, it’s not bad. I appreciate the diversity and representation of the characters. But I also feel like Disney and Pixar are perhaps becoming a little too reliant on a known quantity instead of trying out something new. The lessons within the story are universal and ageless, but that does not take away from the fact that this is the fifth time that we have seen Buzz on the big screen.
When a sequel or a prequel to a beloved franchise is released, the hope is that not only will it live up to the original work, but it will expand the story.
In 1995, the original Toy Story was released. It was an instant success and revolutionized animated films. 24 years later, Toy Story 4was released.
The 4th film in the series picks up just after the 3rd film ended. Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), the young girl who inherited the toys is starting Kindergarten and is not feeling it. During orientation, she creates Forky (Tony Hale) and immediately adopts him as one of her toys. But Forky is not immediately convinced that he is a toy.
When Bonnie’s parents take her on a road trip before school starts, Woody (Tom Hanks), makes it his business to ensure that Forky does not escape. But inevitably, he does, separating Woody from Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the toys. Before reuniting with the rest of the crew, Woody meets up with Bo Peep (Annie Potts), his unrequited crush who has become a bad-ass. They have to rescue Forky from the hands of potentially psychopathic Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) with the help of Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves).
Upon release of the trailer, some may have asked why this film was necessary. The previous film tied up the narrative strings so perfectly that this film may seem like an easy cash grab by Disney.
It’s not. It expands the narrative in new and different ways. I loved the expansion of Bo Peep as a character and the message that it sends to women and girls of any age. I also loved the narrative of coming to the realization that things and relationships change. When we come to that point, we can either stay where we are or have the courage to step into the unknown for an adventure that is not yet revealed to us.
This film has humor, has heart and speaks to both children and adults.
I absolutely recommend it.
Toy Story 4 is presently in theaters.
P.S. Stay past the initial credits. The post credit scenes are worth the wait.