I had extremely high expectations for Toy Story 4 (2019), which I know is common especially among people born in the nineties. But Gosh darn it were those expectations exceeded.

Toy Story has to be one of only two perfect trilogies in movie history, alongside Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. I went with my partner and our friend whose live intake of the animation was incredible to witness; one man had the biggest smile on his face for almost the entire film, whilst the other sat so far on the edge of his seat that it looked like he was going to fall off it.

It feels odd to say it was an animation because the picture looks mind-blowing realistic. It’s not a secret that technology has advanced exponentially since the making of the first Toy Story fourteen years ago. With games like Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018) and Days Gone (2019), we’re becoming more accustomed to computer-created images emulating real life. Yet, I was still blown away by how clear it was how each toy would feel due to the texture of their clothes, shine on their skin and the way they moved. The photorealism of the rain, the way their hair falls and the trees were truly incredible.

London film critic Mark Kermode says this is the first film in the series that is actually about being a toy, and not about a child having living toys. The film addresses an existential question – what does it mean to be a toy? What does it mean to exist, to be alive? A parent wrote into his show and said he thought it brilliantly resembled the life of a parent, and how to cope when your child grows up and doesn’t want to play with you anymore.

When the film finished, I was mad. I was flabbergasted. Through the tears, I was furious. (SPOILERS AHEAD) I thought: Woody would never leave Slinky. He’s lived without Buzz Lightyear, Bo Peep, Jesse and Bullseye, but I don’t believe he would truly leave Slinky. How is Rex going to manage his anxiety without Woody’s help? Does this mean it’s officially the end of these films?

I wrote to my friend demanding an explanation for this heartbreaking ending.

“Sometimes people need to leave to do what they need to do. Woody learnt that his place was not with them anymore and it’s time to move on,” she replied. 

“It was a beautiful message and I wish I learnt it as a kid. Some children’s parents get divorced and maybe they need to in order to live happier lives. This will help children understand that people splitting up is not such a bad thing”.

After feeling much better about the ending, we began speaking about the character of Bo Peep… and did not stop for two days. I would say she has as much character development as Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings). I went from hating Bo, to wanting to be her. Bo was only ever a seductive character in a pink puffy dress who could have been flirting with more than just Woody for all we know. Like many female characters, her only purpose within the films was to flirt with Woody and make him feel like a strong man.

How the tables turned.

Now in blue pants, still with childbearing hips; Bo is independent and most importantly, she is happy. She lives an exciting life without being the side piece to a man. Not only is she liberated, but she is also a badass. She fixes toys, including herself, acts as a leader for the toys that want her guidance, whilst looking after her three sheep, Billy, Goat and Gruff in a maternal manner. She goes from teasing a blushing Woody to yelling at him in an antique store, for thinking his problems take priority over hers. In fact, she’s so independent that she chooses not to follow Woody in the end, resulting in him following her.

A lot of young girls watch a lot of films where they are shown their place in society; to be an accessory to a man and make him look strong and feel successful as if we are still living in the 1930s. It is inspiring to see a progressive feministic message, especially in a children’s film. My friend added, “I didn’t realise all my life I was trying to be the old Bo when really I could be the new Bo”.

Whilst men might think Woody ‘dogged the boys’ and dislike the dumbing down of Buzz Lightyear, female audiences are feeling empowered. The film is loaded with female leading characters alongside Bo, including Jesse now as Sheriff, and antagonist Gabby Gabby.

When the trailer was first released and the world laid eyes on the new character, Forky, I was confused. How could we fall in love with a spork? He won’t be able to partake in Disney’s trick of making characters act like dogs in order to make the audience love them; Bullseye, Trixie, Meeko, Stitch, Sven and many more. Once again Disney made me wonder why I would ever doubt their ability to make a character lovable. Forky almost steals the show, winning over the audience in a matter of seconds. Moments as simple as him walking hand in hand with Woody along the road for too long or saying ‘Bo Bo Bo Bo’ in many different ways were some of the funniest parts in the film.

Although I could keep writing about different topics within this film I’ll end with this – do yourself a favour, give an army man toy a high five and go watch Toy Story 4.

Photo: courtesy of Pixar Animation. These images have not been modified.

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