Explainers

Toy Story 4, Explained

Updated June 21, 2019
13 min read

The family-friendly animation behemoth Pixar returns this year with the fourth entry in the beloved ‘Toy Story’ franchise, in a year that is already filled to the brim with Disney releases. But again, one simply cannot have enough of Disney, can one? That seems to be the mantra here, because I remember people appearing apprehensive of a fourth one, at least in the beginning when it was announced, provided the high bar that ‘Toy Story 3’ had set for the franchise, and more importantly, how perfectly, flawlessly and emotionally it wrapped up everything for this playhouse, with Andy moving on to college and giving all his toys to Bonnie.

If you are thinking that I am over Andy’s “thanks guys!” and Woody’s “so long, partner” from the ending of the third one, you are entirely mistaken. That scene still gets me, nine years after I first watched it and was reduced to a sobbing mess, and I have no qualms in admitting that I was one of the apprehensive heads when they set out to make a fourth one. I mean, what possibly could top it without giving me an emotional breakdown in a movie hall with a hundred other patrons? But then again, perhaps it didn’t need to. I have always had the highest order of faith in Pixar, but I told myself that ‘Finding Dory’ happened too.

To sum it all up, I am still not sure whether we absolutely required a fourth one, but now that I have watched it, I can say that the folks at Pixar don’t take this stuff lightly. If they meant the characters to return, the reasons are solidly written and will stay with you. Yet again: Do I think that a fourth one was absolutely necessary to continue or cap the story of these beloved toys? No. Does it come close to the third one? Again, inches closer than any other entry in the franchise, but still, no. Finally, am I glad it got made and had a good time at the movies? Absolutely and unequivocally, yes. Read on to find what I thought of the film, along with a brief summary of the plot and ending, and what the future could potentially hold for this franchise.

Toy Story 4 Summary

Prologue

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Sitting in my seat, excited for the film, do you know what the first moment was when I realised that I was watching another Toy Story movie? I will have you know that it wasn’t the characters, but Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” playing while the opening sequence rolled to a foot tapping high. We are quickly introduced to the gang, in a flashback to the events of one stormy night nine years ago, when the makers leave absolutely no stone unturned in highlighting Woody always ready to go the extra mile and take the extra step when it came to loyalty to his toy-friends or to his owner kids.

Quite aptly so, ‘Toy Story 4’ is Woody’s story and his resolution. The group is able to successfully rescue RC from being swept inside a storm drain, and while they are busy, Molly gives away Bo Peep, much to the dismay of Woody. He tries to prevent her from going, and when he finally confronts her, she helps him move on by reassuring him that being taken away was a part of a toy’s journey.

Present Day: What are the Toys up to?

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Coming back to the present day after the delightful intro, set two years after Andy gave away his toys to Bonnie, Woody, Buzz and the other toys seem content with their new life as Bonnie’s playtime mates, with Bonnie’s older toys showing them the ropes, and repeatedly reminding Woody how Bonnie was not the same as Andy, just as he tends to become a little overbearing. What was truly heartbreaking here, at least for me, is that Bonnie almost completely stops caring for Woody, routinely ignoring him during playtime, as if mysteriously so, and in essence breaks the promise she made to Andy when he gave his oldest pal away. That was sacred, Bonnie. Anyhow, as the story progresses, Bonnie is all set to go to kindergarten and Woody being himself, sneaks into her backpack as he feels she might have a tough time adjusting to kindergarten. Well, at least someone kept their end of the promise.

Forky

Next, Woody’s fears turn true as she is shy and uncomfortable in front of other kids, but is helped by Woody when he places a spork and a couple of other items from a trash can for Bonnie to use during crafts class. Bonnie then crafts a toy out of the spork and names him “Forky”, who she immediately develops an affinity towards. She places him in her backpack, where Woody is shocked to see him come to life. Back home, Woody justifies going to kindergarten with Bonnie to the other toys and introduces them to Forky, who discredits that he is a toy and shows almost “suicidal” traits as he continuously rushes towards the bin, believing himself to be trash and it to be where it belongs. Seeing how much he meant to Bonnie, Woody takes it upon himself to help Forky overcome his literal existential crisis, and make him believe that he indeed was a toy.

The Adventure Begins!

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Bonnie and the toys then head for a road trip with Bonnie’s parents, and while on it, Forky jumps from the car’s window, still believing himself to be trash despite Woody’s best efforts. Woody goes after him too and eventually finds him, while the two walk to the family’s next stop. On the way, the two share a heartfelt conversation in which Woody explains the joys of being a toy through his own experiences while Forky discovers that Woody may not completely be over Andy.

Just before reuniting with the family, the duo stumble across an antiques store where Woody spots Bo Peep’s lamp, and eventfully walks inside in the hopes of meeting her again. There, they encounter a doll named Gabby Gabby who appears to have sinister intentions, along with four of her ventriloquist puppet like enforcers, each named Benson. She initially offers to take the two to Bo Peep, but quickly reveals her true intentions of taking Woody’s voice box, as having her own broken prevented her from being taken by any of the kids visiting the antique store. Woody immediately resents and tries to escape the shop with Forky seeing Bonnie and her mother enter the shop, but Forky ends up being captured by Gabby Gabby and her minion Bensons, while Woody escapes.

Through a fortunate turn of events, Woody ends up at a playfield where he meets Bo Peep again, who has now become a “lost toy”. Ofcourse, in Toy world, that means toys who are quite literally lost or given up by their previous owners, and yearning for a human owner once again, except for Bo Peep, who now lives a nomadic life, going around helping desolate toys reach children. Along with Bo, a miniature cop named Giggle McDimples, and her three sheep Billy, Goat and Gruff, Woody and Bo set out to get Forky from the antiques shop.

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On the other side of things, Buzz too jumps out of the car sensing it was too late until Woody returned with Forky, but after making some progress following his “inner voice”, ends up in a carnival stall, where he meets plushies Bunny and Forky, who are spectacularly scene-stealing and have some of the best comedic lines in the movie. The three escape from there with Buzz promising them to find an owner in Bonnie, and eventually reconcile with Woody, Bo, and the rest of the gang. They break into two teams of sorts to overcome Gabby Gabby’s surveillance and the Bensons: one to reach the cabinet in which Forky was being kept with Gabby, and the other to acquire the key to the cabinet from the owner of the store: a scene that is singularly the funniest scene in the movie, and it has them aplenty anyway.

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Meanwhile, Bo and Woody enlist the help of Duke Caboom, a Canadian stuntman toy voiced by Keanu Reeves, and one look at him would straightaway reveal that it was a role tailor written with Reeves in mind. The team frantically try to execute the plan while it falls apart, beginning with Duke’s recollection of his past owner and why he was abandoned. The toys barely make it out of the store, without Forky, and while rest of them insist on moving on, Woody decides to go back for Forky. His confrontation with Bo Peep reveals that he was doing it to mean something to Bonnie.

The remaining toys return to the carnival, while Woody goes back inside and sacrifices his voice box for Gabby Gabby who wishes to experience the joy of being played with once, like Woody. Regardless, the storeowner’s granddaughter Harmony rejects Gabby Gabby, who is now heartbroken. Bo has a change of heart towards Woody who was just trying to be loyal to his owner, and she decides to return with her gang to Woody, who comforts Gabby Gabby and has her tag along with him. Thereafter, the finale ensues at the carnival in a colourful farrago of action, drama, comedy and a LOT of emotions.

Toy Story 4 Ending, Explained

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The sequence of events up till here might be confusing to some people after all, especially when read in text, so to sum it up, Woody, Forky, Bo Peep, Bunny, Ducky, Gabby Gabby, and Duke are all at the antiques store, while the rest of the gang including Buzz, Jessie, the Potatoheads, Slinky, Rex, Hamm and the others are back at the RV. Buzz remembers that Bonnie’s backpack is still in the antiques store after she left it, and buys the group some time by literally shouting it out, making her remember.

Just as Bonnie returns to the store along with her mother, while her father is busy fixing the RV after Jessie punctured its tyre, the gang with help from Duke are able to have Forky back in the backpack who Bonnie is delighted to see, while Woody instructs him to inform the other toys that they will meet at the carousel at the carnival. While there, Gabby Gabby notices a girl who seems to be separated from her parents at the carnival. The team stage Gabby being discovered by her to comfort her, just as her parents are found, leading Gabby Gabby to finally have an owner and a family. Duke Caboom too redeems himself as he jumps over 40ft to reach the carousel with the rest of the gang.

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Meanwhile, the rest of the gang in the RV create rather hilarious circumstances, including faking the GPS voice to quite literally pressing the full pedal for race in the RV, that force the family to reach and stop near the carousel in the carnival. The group meet over extended awnings from the RV, and now is the time for goodbyes that is going to hit the hardest. Bo and Woody finally have their long-awaited moment, with both implying their love towards the other, and just as Woody is about to bid farewell to Bo and the gang to return to his original gang, he has second thoughts. Buzz understands his situation and encourages him to stay back, citing that Bonnie would understand.

Woody decides to stay back to help Bo and the remaining gang of “lost toy” find children so that they can be played with. The group bids a hearty farewell to Woody who learns the virtue of finally moving on and choosing something that he desired. Especially heartbreaking is the scene where Woody and Buzz share a farewell hug, and both of them visibly hold back. The film closes as Buzz and Woody jointly utter “To Infinity and Beyond!”, clearly implying that their journey, albeit in separate directions, had just begun.

Post Credits Scenes

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The film makes sure that you stay in your seats while the credits roll, as they give you a glimpse into the new factions that the toys find themselves in. There are as many as five sequences that occur simultaneously as the end credits roll, and all of them show our beloved toys in their new roles and capacities after the farewells, much like the previous ‘Toy Story’ films.

The first and the second one clearly show what Woody’s and Bo’s lives look like after he chose to stay. The two, along with the rest of the gang, willingly knock down targets at the shooting stall and make the shooting kids win, in an effort to find the lost toys at the stall a home and an owner.

The third one is yet another hilarious bout from earlier on in the film, wherein Ducky and Bunny relive their slightly scary fantasies, this time fantasising about giant versions of themselves shooting lasers from their eyes and wreaking havoc on the carnival. The fourth one shows the lives of the toys on Bonnie’s side, who is shown to return from her first day in the first standard. Jessie jumps out of her bag and reveals that Bonnie made another toy that day, similar to Forky, except that this time, she used a plastic knife. Forky is immediately smitten just as she is only barely sentient and able to speak, thinking of herself as “trash”, just as Forky did, who then vows to show her around the ropes and help her come to terms with her identity. The fifth and final one occurs after the credits have rolled and sees Duke Caboom replacing the famous Pixar lamp from the logo. Combat Cal returns too, and is finally given his long due high-five from Duke.

Final Word

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‘Toy Story 4’ is astoundingly well done, and while it pales in comparison to the superior ‘Toy Story 3’, never rising to the emotional fever that it was, that still means it’s pretty dang great. The animation is spotless: one really comes into a sense of impressiveness looking at Bo Peep: who was absent from the third movie and last made an appearance two decades ago in ‘Toy Story 2’. Every virtual frame is filled with colour, and an astute sense of adventure: there seldom are any dull moments.

However, when it takes a pause from its manically energetic happenings, it is for conversations and lessons and sermons that still hit hard, even to a full-grown adult. Your kid is bound to have a great time because there is plenty for the little ones, but in signature Pixar style, this one still hits adults the most right in the feels: the virtue of moving on and letting go, of friendship, of loyalty, and of one’s purpose are decidedly adult in nature and yet have a feel-good natured vibe around them, nicely packaged as a summer sequel. Well done Pixar!

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