On November 22, 1995, the first Toy Story hit theaters and told an incredibly compelling tale of what it would be like if the toys we played with as kids had minds of their own. These toys were given very real personalities, complete with very real and incredibly human emotions. Four years later, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the gang returned for their second adventure in Toy Story 2.
Eleven years later, they all returned in what was expected to be the final movie in an excellent trilogy, Toy Story 3. Here, Andy – the kid who played with all these toys for years – was grown up and going to college. The toys struggle with the fear of being sent away or locked in the attic, but in the end, they get the best reward possible: They are given to a small child, Bonnie, and their adventures as playthings start over.
But, as it turns out, that wasn’t their final adventure. Disney and Pixar came up with one last hurrah, Toy Story 4, which came out last weekend. If you have not seen it – with kids or without, I won’t judge – you need to immediately.
Warning: Spoilers are below. Stop here if you do not want to read any details of the plot.
The story begins by filling a plot hole from earlier in the series: What happened to Bo Peep, the love interest of Sheriff Woody? In a previous film, she is referred to simply as one of the “ones we lost,” in the process of the kids (Andy and his sister, Molly) growing up. However, we see a rainy night, and Woody and the gang sneak into Molly’s room while everyone is downstairs, trying to find RC, the remote control car, who is stuck outside in the rain, in danger of floating away.
The scene shows just how veterans like Woody and Bo Peep quickly analyze the situation and figure out a plan to save RC. However, during the rescue, a man shows up and takes Bo Peep, her sheep, and her lamp away. During their rainy goodbye, Bo Peep offers Woody a chance to come with her, saying “Kids lose toys every day.” We see the power of their connection before Woody hears Andy outside in the rain. He is in a panic, looking for Woody. The sheriff hesitates and ultimately stays behind without Bo Peep.
When he sees Bo Peep again, years later, she is a lost toy (she escaped a nearby antique store a while back) who sees a chance to explore the world and meet a lot of children by playing in the local park and eventually plans to leave town with the traveling fair that has stopped by. Woody recruits Bo Peep and her sheep to save a spork/craft named Forky and get him back to Bonnie.
Eventually, he does succeed, but he is faced once again with the tough decision: Go with Bo Peep or go with his kid. Buzz helps Woody by saying “She’ll be fine,” with Woody assuming he means Bo Peep until Buzz says “Bonnie will be fine.” The movie ends with the toys all leaving with Bonnie and her family, save Woody, who stays with Bo Peep to see the world.
I will not lie to you folks. I cried twice during the movie. The first time was at the end of the opening scene, when Woody chooses to stay behind while Bo Peep leaves. The second time is when he chooses to leave his kid behind to stay with Bo Peep.
Granted, it was hard to not cry at the end of Toy Story 3 when Andy hands over his toys to young Bonnie and he has that moment of realization that he’s giving away his childhood – particularly as he hands over Woody. However, while that was a satisfactory ending, it didn’t quite feel like a true ending for Woody and the gang. There was a new kid, new adventures, and lots that could still be told if Disney and Pixar chose to tell it. It was very open-ended.
Toy Story 4, however, is left just as wide-open, but also feels like an appropriate end to the story. Woody is an old-hand at this toy thing. He was, by his estimate, produced in the 50’s, making him more than half a century old. Jessie and Bullseye are probably the next oldest (they were collector’s items, too) but every other toy was much newer. Buzz Lightyear, who made Woody very much a “Get Off My Lawn” kind of guy, was still basically a child (this is best demonstrated in the movie when Woody talks about his “inner voice” – his conscience – telling him what to do, and Buzz thinks he’s referring to his voice box and drawstring).
So, “retiring” Woody at the end of the movie makes the most sense and brings about a sense of finality that Toy Story 3 didn’t have. That’s not a knock on the previous movie, which is still probably my second-favorite in the series, but the fourth installment goes a long way to actually close his story.
It’s been 24 years of great adventures, and this movie is the perfect closer.