The original Toy Story came out 24 years ago and was not only more technologically advanced than anything moviegoers had ever seen before, but it brought life to characters that have stood the test of time like Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy’s toys. Toy Story 2 followed just four years later and we learned that these amazing characters had the ability to tug on our heartstrings as we shed our first tears in the franchise through Jessie’s story. When Toy Story 3 was announced eleven years later, the first thought many of us had was, "Why?" But it became one of the best animated films ever and gave us a perfect ending with Andy passing along his toys to Bonnie. What could Toy Story 4 possibly do to improve one of the greatest film trilogies of all time?

Even though nobody was asking for Toy Story to become a quadrilogy, seeing the fourth installment will change your mind and make you realize this is an essential piece of the story. I went in very hesitant about this film, but I was hooked immediately by a prologue that takes place nine years prior to the events of this film that explains what happened to Bo Peep, who was absent in Toy Story 3. Woody has always been the central character of the franchise and this film is no exception, finding him being forgotten more often than not during Bonnie’s playtime.

Questioning his place in Bonnie’s room, Woody seizes an opportunity to become important to Bonnie again by sneaking into her backpack to tag along to Kindergarten Orientation Day. In an effort to turn her bad day around, he sneaks through the classroom and unknowingly supplies her with the craft materials to create her new favorite toy, Forky! Made of discarded craft materials and an eating utensil that is only part fork, Forky becomes sentient and desires to complete his destiny of being thrown away.

After Bonnie's orientation, her family decides to take an end of summer road trip, a plot device that is the basis of some of the greatest comedies of all time, this one included. When Forky throws himself out of the RV window, Woody takes off after him to try to return Bonnie’s favorite toy. Hilarity ensues even further when Buzz takes off to try and rescue Woody, while my favorite subplot involves Jessie and the rest of the toys trying to stop Bonnie’s family from proceeding with their road trip before Woody, Buzz, and Forky can return to the RV.

Toy Story 4 is not only the best film in this franchise but also one of the most perfect films in a long time. The plot is a little reminiscent of the original film, but instead of Woody trying to keep from being replaced by a Space Ranger, he's  trying to teach a new "toy" that his sole reason for being is to bring joy to Bonnie. Along the way, we come across an old friend in Bo Peep and meet a whole new cast of great characters like Duke Caboom, Gabby Gabby, and the plush comedy duo Ducky and Bunny. I could go on for hours about how great each of the new characters are but it’s best to find out for yourself. Even though there are quite a few new characters to introduce, none of the classic Toy Story favorites get lost in the plot. I can honestly say that I laughed and cried more in this film than any of the others and came out wanting to buy more Toy Story 4 merchandise than I did after the original.

Toy Story films have always been subliminally about us and how we deal with new things (i.e. people in our lives, the feeling of loss, and growing up), but boy does this one hit you right in the voice box on so many levels. My three tips for fans heading to see this in the theater are:

  1. Bring a lot of tissues.
  2. Keep an eye out for easter eggs. There is something hidden from each of the Disney-Pixar movies in this film.
  3. Stay until the very end of the credits, not only out of respect for the talented artists that worked on the film but also for a sweet tribute to Don Rickles and the payoff to one of the best jokes in any film.

 If I had to rate Toy Story 4 on a rating scale of 1 to 10, I’d say it’s off the charts and goes "To Infinity and Beyond!"

 

Our main correspondent for Walt Disney World and the Orlando area and a heck of a paleontologist if he does say so himself.

 

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