Toy Story 4 and ruminations on, of all things, philosophy

Pixar just dropped the first full trailer for Toy Story 4 and it reinforces what the teaser hinted at. A few months ago, Pixar dropped this seemingly charming little ad for the movie, showing the cast joyfully swaying and apparently happy to star in another installment in the thus-far perfect series of movies. And then a spork shows up and everything goes crazy…

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

Let’s back up for a moment.

Toy Story 3 released in 2010 to rave reviews but if you went back in time a year or so, when the movie was first announced, the reception was far more mixed. Toy Story 2 was a masterpiece of a movie, improving on the original in every way. When it ended, it did so having perfectly resolved the relationship between Woody and Andy, leaving the toy content to be there for his owner until the day he inevitably grew up. We didn’t need to see Andy grow up to know how Woody would handle it; Toy Story 2 gave us all we needed.

Or so we thought.

Toy Story 3 did show us what it would be like to see Andy grow up as well as the effect it had on his toys…and it was heartbreaking. The movie defied all the skeptics’ expectations of being a cash grab or a pale imitation of the first two films. It was as fun and funny as you’d expect but also deep and dramatic, ending with a finale that brought me to tears (and many others).

For almost a decade the franchise sat dormant. Now Pixar is on the verge of going for number four and just as they did in 2009-2010, skeptics are saying it’s unnecessary. They’re saying the franchise has nothing more to say.

Clearly, that’s not the case.

Someone once broke down Pixar and the way they tend to add a second layer to their movies, giving them a deeper significance than their competitors:

When it comes to the Toy Story movies, these are stories about more than just “toys are really alive and do stuff when their owners aren’t looking.” That’s the premise that appeals to kids; adults see the deeper meaning:

Toy Story 1 is about learning your identity: Woody struggled with his place as a toy being passed over for the newest it-thing. Buzz struggled to understand that he wasn’t really what the commercials depicted him as.

Toy Story 2 is about accepting your identity: Being a toy means being played with but eventually the players grow up. Can you handle that? Are you prepared to be let go by one loved one so you can be embraced by another?

Toy Story 3 is about redefining your identity: If you don’t adapt you will die, or else you’ll live a bitter and hateful life.

Now we come to Toy Story 4, and just when you think there’s nothing more to say…

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

Toy Story 4 will be about growing beyond your identity.

There are two major things happening in the movie: One concerns Woody and Bo Peep and the plot seems a little too much like the third one, with everyone discovering a wonderful place where they can be happy and not have to rely on one “kid” anymore. It’s also a little like the second movie, with Woody being tempted to leave his “kid” behind and settle down somewhere else, somewhere different (not just in locale but on a fundamental level). This being Pixar, I’m confident there’s more going on, but that’s the first read I got.

The other story is the one that really gets me excited: Forky.

In the teaser Forky utters only two simple lines: “I don’t belong here” and “I’m not a toy.” And with those words, Toy Story went from a charming little movie about toys and their relationships with their owners to something far more complex and, dare I say, philosophical?

Forky questions his very existence, and not in the same way Buzz did in the first movie. Buzz didn’t think he was a toy because he was ignorant. He believed he was something greater than a toy. Forky likewise doesn’t think he’s a toy; he thinks he’s something lesser. He’s…a spork. Made for, in his words “soup, salad, maybe chili.” He later asks, point-blank “Why am I alive?”

That’s the question, people. The big one. The most philosophical of all philosophical ruminations.

It leads me to ask: is Forky different from Buzz? What’s really different? Bonnie makes him the way some factory made Buzz. Is it just the fact that Forky was instantly aware of his existence and Buzz needed time to adjust? I don’t think so. I think Forky is struggling because he was made and doesn’t want to be. He exists when he would rather not. To butcher Descartes: He thinks…but would prefer not to be.

That’s deep, and not just for a children’s movie. It’s deep all the way around.

Toy Story doesn’t shy away from asking deep questions:

1: Does my fabrication lessen my existence? That’s what Buzz wrestled with in the first movie.

2: Is immortality worth it if I have no purpose? That was Woody’s internal conflict in the sequel.

3: Can we survive if we don’t adapt? That’s what everyone wondered in the third film.

4: What does it mean to be alive? That’s Forky’s dilemma here.

I don’t know how he will resolve everything within himself, but I’m confident—based on the previous films—that the movie will make me weep as much as it makes me laugh. And based on the teaser and trailer, I’m confident also that it will make me ponder things on a deeper level than any other so-called “kid’s movie” has ever done.

I can’t wait.

Latest Articles

Star Trek Discovery S02E14: And with that, season two is over…

Star Trek Discovery S02E14: And with that, season two is over…

Riverdale S03E18 Review: Jawbreaker – G is rapidly spreading throughout town and it ain’t pretty!

Riverdale S03E18 Review: Jawbreaker – G is rapidly spreading throughout town and it ain’t pretty!

The Rise of Skywalker: FINALLY! We get to overanalyze a Star Wars teaser again…

The Rise of Skywalker: FINALLY! We get to overanalyze a Star Wars teaser again…

Did WrestleMania 35 mark a turning point for WWE?

Did WrestleMania 35 mark a turning point for WWE?

WWE WrestleMania 35: Weekend in Review!

WWE WrestleMania 35: Weekend in Review!

Which was the most shocking death in Game of Thrones’ history?

Which was the most shocking death in Game of Thrones’ history?

REVIEW: SHAZAM!’s infectous joy overrides its flaws

REVIEW: SHAZAM!’s infectous joy overrides its flaws

REVIEW: Pet Sematary is a highly effective horror with two little flaws

REVIEW: Pet Sematary is a highly effective horror with two little flaws

Your SO OF COURSE preview of WWE WRESTLEMANIA 35!

Your SO OF COURSE preview of WWE WRESTLEMANIA 35!

The OA Review: Season 2 – I’m crying and confused!

The OA Review: Season 2 – I’m crying and confused!

Star Trek Discovery S02E10 & S02E11: Answers Red Angel questions…before raising brand new ones

Star Trek Discovery S02E10 & S02E11: Answers Red Angel questions…before raising brand new ones

The Mummy is still awesome…twenty years later

The Mummy is still awesome…twenty years later