Did we really need a Toy Story 4? Of course not. Or maybe we did: I must confess it really surprised me that I really, really enjoyed this film, and more so that Pixar somehow made the film feel necessary, too. That last point is the real game-changer for me. This was the first Toy Story film that I didn’t watch at the cinema and didn’t purchase on disc on home release: I really didn’t see the point of another Toy Story. In an industry that just seems endlessly reliant on sequels, reboots and remakes, Pixar making another Toy Story film just felt like a cynical, cash-grabbing exercise that lent further weight to the ‘Disney is Evil’ scenario so familiar on the Internet these days. It was a seductive scenario and I was suckered by it, more fool me.
That said, I’m still afraid that Disney will announce a Toy Story tv series for Disney+ sometime (and if they already have, I won’t be surprised). Its the endless battle between art and commerce I suppose. Films are made to make money, its a business, and films are product, not necessarily ‘art’. Its so easy for us film fans to become cynics.
At any rate, I was certainly a sceptic going into this, more curious regards the improvements in the animation and art tools the guys at Pixar are using now than how well the actual script would turn out, confident that it would quickly betray itself as the cash-cow it surely was. But you know, I was very pleasantly surprised. Maybe its the irresistible magic of the very first Toy Story, the concept and its wonderful characters: in hindsight, how could it fail, how could they screw it up? Then again, it’s like wondering how anyone could screw up making a Star Wars movie and then being surprised by Lucasfilm ‘finding a way’. I suppose the secret to this film is that it doesn’t ‘break the world’ in quite the same way as The Last Jedi did, but also organically progresses things nevertheless (in ways that the JJ Abrams Star Wars films didn’t). At any rate, it would seem Pixar could teach the guys at Lucasfilm a thing or two, or maybe the cynic in me was just bewitched by the magic. Shock, Horror- maybe we need a Toy Story 5!
One thing is patently clear- this film certainly looked absolutely gorgeous. I think I need to put this films 4K UHD edition on my shopping list, because I’m pretty certain that must be a wonder to behold. Do they have a 4K boxset of all the Toy Story films? I shall have to have a look sometime. I can only imagine how beautiful this film must look in crisp 4K detail and with the extra ‘pop’ and sense of depth usually associated with HDR. Even in standard HD the later scenes in the nighttime fair looked so three-dimensional: the Pixar artists do this thing with keeping foreground objects/characters in focus and the backgrounds soft and blurred, almost abstract, its something we’re used to seeing in live-action but of course here its all inside the box, artificial. Its a little bit like the opposite of the ‘uncanny valley’, something that fools us into thinking something is real when it is purely artifice. A part of this films success is how perfectly the subject matter, toys, always fits within the technology of the animation, the constraints its greatest asset: the original film was always dreamed up and designed within the parameters of the tech, and even after so many Pixar films, the Toy Story series feels the most natural and ideal combination of narrative and visual CG style.