It may not have looked it in the beginning, but a movie about toys that come to life when their owners are not around has managed to elevate itself into a meditation about existentialism and the painful experience of making choices that one cannot turn away from.

Toy Story 4 is the installment of the franchise that asks, “What is the purpose of a toy? To be played with? What if there is no longer anyone to play with the toy?”

The film answers this question, and ends this franchise, with a note that is equal doses sad, worrying and absolute. The only thing missing was closure. It does not seem that there will be another sequel after this movie, but Toy Story 4 does not have the finality to it that its predecessor had. Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending to a story that spanned over a decade.

Toy Story was about growing up and, even if it is painful, having to let go, as the kid in that movie finally does by giving his toys to another kid. Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest were no longer Andy’s toys, and this devastating act of growing up was the best finale the franchise could have given its audiences. What happens afterwards should have been left to our imaginations. But the Toy Story franchise is a multibillion-dollar asset to Disney, and this is one juggernaut that would not allow anyone their well-deserved rest. The toys were resurrected yet again, and if this was inevitable, Toy Story 4 was the best possible instalment the franchise could have gotten after how devastatingly final the third one seemed.

The toys new owner is Bonnie, a kindergartener who is worried about her first day in school. But Woody, being the loyal toy he is, tags along on her first day to school and helps her build a makeshift toy using a plastic fork, some glue and wires, called Sporkie. To the surprise of everyone, Sporkie technically counts as a toy and comes to life. But Sporkie does not want to live. He believes he was only meant to be a plastic fork that is used just once and thrown away - not a child’s plaything. He wants to be thrown into the trash, a strange thing to wish for, as this would not kill him, but this was the best the filmmakers could do in a family movie not to allude to suicide.

As in all the Toy Story movies, some of the toys get lost. Bonnie, her parents and the toys go on a trip, giving Sparkie the best opportunity to make an escape for it. Woody, believing that Sporkie is the most important toy to Bonnie at the moment, tries to save the day as usual. Along the way, he finds out that it is him that is really lost and needs to escape.

The original 1995 Toy Story was one of a handful of films that managed to change the film industry. It was the first major feature film to be fully computer animated. Each of the frames in the movie - of which there are 110,880 - took three hours to generate. It was a mega project but also one of the best movies made under the Pixar Animation Studios banner, including Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Wall-E. Toy Story started the computer-animated avalanche of blockbusters that quickly put hand-drawn animated movies - such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast - out of business.

The Toy Story franchise was also responsible for giving us movies such as Wreck-it Ralph, where video game characters come to life when there are no humans around, and The Secret Life of Pets, where pets become fully self-aware when their owners are not around. But Toy Story had the magic the rest were unable to exude. Each instalment had its character go through a trial that changes them for the rest of their lives. It is a devastating blow every time. But this is only magic that can be sustained as long as Disney allows these characters to rest in peace. It is time for our imaginations to take over now.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 29,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1000]


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