Toy Story 4: The Forgettable Epilogue – Film Dissection

So ‘Toy Story 4’ has finally hit cinemas, supposedly to be the ‘true’ conclusion to the animated saga. But does it live up to it?

From back in 2010 when I first watched: ‘Toy Story 3,’ I was blown away by the true greatness of this animated trilogy. Still to this day, I still honestly believe that the ‘Toy Story’ films are one of the best trilogies to ever be put to the silver screen. Combing beautiful animation, with incredibly memorable and iconic characters, in addition to plenty of humour, excitement and surprisingly in-depth themes at points. The films felt like one big story, split into three parts purely for the audience’s easy enjoyment, and I (along with many others) was very happy with the way the third film ended, finishing the story in both a satisfying and emotional way. That is of course until Pixar announced a fourth film to be released back in 2014.

So as I wasn’t really anticipating any-more sequels to the ‘Toy Story’ series (thinking this fourth entry was purely created to be a cash-grab), I wasn’t really looking forward to the film all that much. But after seeing all the fantastic reviews from both critics and audiences alike, I started to think that perhaps Pixar may have pulled off the impossible. So I went into the film with decent expectations, wanting to be pleased. Unfortunately however, although I don’t think the film is terrible by any means. The film is easily the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ films for me, feeling almost like an additional adventure with the occasional memorable moment sprinkled in. Aside from the ending of the film of course, which seems to be the main element that is really winning people over.

The film takes place a while after the third film, now focusing on the gang of toys living with their new owner: ‘Bonnie.’ However, this is where my first issue with the film comes in, as although we don’t find out exactly how much time has passed. It seems to have only been a months going by ‘Bonnie’s age within the film, yet during this time she has now grown out of: ‘Woody,’ completely ignoring him in favour of all her other toys. While I understand children can grow out of their toys in time, this simply feels like too large of a shift to me, especially when compared to ‘Bonnie’s love for: ‘Woody’ back in ‘Toy Story 3.’ This also plays into the ending of the film that I already mentioned, as here we a difficult moment for ‘Woody’s previous owner: ‘Andy’ as he hands over his favourite toy entrusting it to ‘Bonnie’ with a promise, to which she now completely ignores when going onto the next film, making this beautiful moment now mostly pointless and making ‘Bonnie’ feel like a victim of some weak writing.

The main narrative continues on however, as ‘Woody’ follows ‘Bonnie’ as she nervously heads to her first day at kindergarten, where she creates her own toy out of pieces of rubbish which soon become a sentient toy. This eventually leads the entire gang on a road-trip with ‘Bonnie’s family as ‘Woody’ attempts to stop ‘Bonnie’s new creation: ‘Forky’ from throwing himself away, believing he is a piece of rubbish rather than a toy. This soon leads onto ‘Woody’ encountering his old flame: ‘Bo Peep’ as he finds her now a rouge toy living a free life. It’s around this point many more of my issues start to arise, as from this moment on, the becomes film entirely revolves around: ‘Woody’ and his love interest. Ditching many of the classic ‘Toy Story’ characters such as: ‘Jessie,’ ‘Rex,’ ‘Ham’ and ‘Mr. Potato Head’ in favour of many new characters voiced by famous actors, and while many of these characters are mostly entertaining, it’s a shame none of the other characters get any kind of conclusion or even anytime to shine like in the previous film.

Even one of the main characters from the franchise: ‘Buzz Lightyear’ has a very reduced role in the film, making his relationship to ‘Woody’ barely even notable, despite it being a very heavy focus throughout the trilogy. It’s also due to this that the film’s conclusion lacks the emotional impact I feel it should have, as when ‘Woody’ eventually decides the leave the gang for good. He only shares a simple hug with many of his long-time friends, many of which he’s barley even shared any screen-time or even dialogue with throughout the film. Which I do believe there was time for, as many of the new characters took up a lot of the run-time with a few of them not even adding anything to the story, purely just there for comedic effect, which is a real shame, as I feel if this scene was handled well, it could’ve been even more impactful than the ending of: ‘Toy Story 3.’

My biggest issue with the film is also relevant to the ending, as personally, I didn’t find ‘Woody’s decision to stay with ‘Bo’ within his character. While I have seen many people attempt to defend his decision, I simply don’t feel that fits in with the rest of the series. As the theme of sticking with your owner regardless of whether you get played with or not has always been at the centre of the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy and ‘Woody’s character overall. Obviously, the film does attempt to give ‘Woody’ a character arc throughout the film, focusing on a toy’s need for more than just an owner, and the overall focus of self-worth, which is interesting, but I simply feel with the film’s rushed pacing and very large character arc they are attempting to pull-off, it just simply just doesn’t work. Perhaps if this was a single film I could believe it, but going off what we’ve seen before this, it’s just too big of a jump to me that ‘Woody’ would abandon his owner and friends of years for freedom.

Now I do feel this story for: ‘Woody’ could definitely work, and I do like the idea of the two best friends ‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz’ going their separate ways. But I just don’t feel this was the way to do, perhaps if this character arc was built up for ‘Woody’ in previous films it would’ve worked better. In regards to previous films, ‘Bo Peep’ returning again in this film was a smart move on the writer’s part. As this character is far more developed than she was previously, and I can see her being used to convince ‘Woody’ down a different life-path over some random new toy introduced purely for that reason. Overall, it seems like there were trying to do something a little ‘different’ from previous films, and I think that’s great. But I feel this way mostly conflicts with what was set up previously in this series. It’s not that this film is ‘bad’ per-say, it was just very disappointing for me.

Of course, the film does have many merits, as the animation is phenomenal (being almost photo-realistic at points) along with some great voice-acting, an interesting/unique antagonist and a decent original score once again by Randy Newman. But personally, I find the story, characters and overall themes of: ‘Toy Story 4’ a little messy. The film has been described by many as an ‘epilogue’ to the ‘Toy Story’ franchise, almost like a little additional bit of story after the main narrative. Giving ‘Woody’ a conclusion alongside his old owner: ‘Andy.’ But for me personally, the film doesn’t quite land on its feet. Feeling more than an additional adventure with the iconic toy cowboy rather than anything truly impactful or conclusive of note, and for me, the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy will always be the true animated classic, with this film serving as a decent side adventure. But clearly, I’m in the minority on this, as it seems most people adore ‘Toy Story 4,’ so at least the franchise can still appease most.

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What Happened to Pixar Animation? – Film Discussion

Whatever happened to the beloved animation studio Pixar?

Pixar Animation used to make some phenomenal animated adventures that the entire family could enjoy together, regardless of their age. Mixing brilliant storytelling with beautiful animation and incredibly memorable characters, each film never failed to stand-out amongst the rest. Some of the films such as: ‘Monsters, Inc.’ or ‘Wall.E’ for example (my personal favourite Pixar films), really got creative with their own narratives and flushing out their individual worlds. However, in recent years, I’ve noticed a serve downgrade in quality from their films. As it seems ever since the release of: ‘Toy Story 3’ back in 2010, Pixar has had a real reliance on sequels, prequels and spin-offs over original films. While still mostly enjoyable, I have noticed the storytelling, character arcs and world-building all seem to be lacking when compared to their earlier films.

In recent years films such as: ‘The Good Dinosaur,’ ‘Monsters University,’ ‘Brave,’ ‘Finding Dory,’ ‘Cars’ two and three and of course the upcoming ‘Toy Story 4.’ Have all ranged from sub-par through to simply awful, the ‘Cars’ series of course being the best example of this. As this series has always been Pixar’s black sheep. Never truly having the magic that makes Pixar special, always feeling like more of a cash-grab than anything else. ‘Cars 2’ being the easiest example of this, as this film is Pixar’s only rotten film to date. The ‘Cars’ series has always felt very immature to me, although I didn’t hate the original film, it’s definitely no one’s favourite. In regards to Pixar’s other sequels: ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Toy Story 4,’ ‘Finding Dory’ is nothing more than a reskinned ‘Finding Nemo,’ with the exception of a few amusing characters, the film has nothing more really to offer. Despite having fantastic reviews from critics for some reason, the film was never anything other than a massive nostalgia slap for me. As of now ‘Toy Story 4’ hasn’t been released yet, but I feel when it does it’ll be another film with great reviews, but with nothing truly memorable about it. As I personally believe the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy was ended so well, I don’t truly don’t understand why they feel the need to continue that story other than profit.

‘Monsters University’ is probably my favourite of Pixar’s recent continuations of their old stories, although I don’t think the film reaches the heights of: ‘Monsters, Inc.’ purely due to less originality and dark themes. I do still think the film is very funny, and it does explore the monster world further. It’s one of the few films I can say where it feels there was true thought put into it, as it doesn’t just lean on the legacy of the previous film. Finally, we come to Pixar’s original films. This being: ‘The Good Dinosaur’ and ‘Brave’, now whilst I don’t think these films are awful per-say. They simply just aren’t that memorable. ‘Brave’ having a few funny moments and an interesting setting, but falls more into classic 2D animated story at points. As for: ‘The Good Dinosaur,’ it’s simply a returning home story, with nothing of note at all other than the nice animation. It seems most people agree with me on this one too, considering its very low box-office return.

Now of course, there are some recent exceptions, Pixar’s ‘Inside Out,’ ‘Coco’ and last year’s ‘Incredibles 2’ I did enjoy very much. These films proved to me that Pixar still does have some great stories in them, although these films aren’t perfect and I wouldn’t rank them as high as the classic Pixar films personally, they definitely show potential. I would love to see more original animated films like this from Pixar. Considering how much money ‘Coco’ made when it was released, it’s clear they still make money just from the Pixar name alone. So why do they feel the need to rely on sequels? Many people would point to Disney pulling their leg, and although I could believe that. I also think it’s due to Pixar simply becoming uninterested, they now think of themselves as the animation giants the audience believes they are. This means they no longer take risks, and are comfortable simply gaining profit of their previous franchises.

This could also be due to a lack of original ideas of course, Pixar simply feeling more comfortable returning to their previous stories. But considering some of their big competitors such as: DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Animation, Warner Bros. Animation and Illumination Animation are all still pumping out original films (granted not all quite to the Pixar standard). Films such as: ‘Captain Underpants,’ ‘Ferdinand,’ ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘Despicable Me’ are all still a very enjoyable watch. Some of these films even making a pretty big box-office return, with the ‘Despicable Me’ spin-off: ‘Minions’ even becoming one of the highest-grossing animated films ever earning over £900 million. Even the company teamed-up with them, that being Disney, are beating them recently when it comes to original animated flicks, with Disney’s ‘Zootropolis’ being one of my favourite films of 2016 when it was first released.

In conclusion, what happened to Pixar Animation is very clear to me. They simply got lazy, focusing far more on wanting to make a large profit rather than give their audience new exciting stories. The company isn’t completely dead, films like ‘Coco’ and ‘Inside Out’ clearly proving there is still talent there. But with the older writers and creators now backing down from the company with newer faces arising. I’m concerned that Disney and Pixar executives may continue to push for more sequels, prequels and spin-offs with the knowledge that the films will always make money regardless of their quality. This is mostly why I fear for: ‘Toy Story 4,’ as even though I really hope the film is great, I currently have a lot of doubts in my mind about it. Pixar however, have also recently brought out a trailer for their next film following on from ‘Toy Story 4’ titled: ‘Onward,’ which does appear to be a completely original story focusing on elements of fantasy and adventure, so perhaps not all is lost for the iconic animation company just yet. But only time will tell I suppose…

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