Pixar dropped a bombshell the afternoon of November 6 as it announced Toy Story 4, to be directed by John Lasseter for a June 16, 2017, theatrical release. The news comes as a shock no matter which side of the coin you stand on, and that’s just the thing: With this being such a huge move for the franchise, the studio, and for animation at large, everyone has an opinion. And what better place to converse about animation’s biggest decisions than with a community of animation addicts?
Here’s what some of the Rotoscopers writing team has to say about Toy Story 4: the pros, the cons, and everything in between.
“The world is a better place when Woody and Buzz are around to make us laugh, make us cry, and inspire our imagination.” I said that one year ago in advocacy for additional Toy Story shorts and television specials. Out of any film series, anywhere, of all time, Toy Story is irrefutably the one that means the most to me, and I know I’m not alone in saying that. Right now as I type this in bed, a Buzz Lightyear pillow comforts my back while my childhood Woody toy sits across the room. These characters, like John Lasseter acknowledges in his statement concerning Toy Story 4, are family.
In his book Creativity, Inc., Pixar President Ed Catmull states, “We knew that audiences who loved our films were eager to see more stories set in those worlds (and, of course, the marketing and consumer products people want films that are easier to sell, which sequels always are).” Citing the need for original films as a way to take creative risks, he continues, “[W]e came to the conclusion that a blend—one original film each year and a sequel every other year, or three films every two years—seemed a reasonable way to keep us both financially and creatively healthy.”
A fourth Toy Story film is not something I thought was even fathomable. I thought if it happened at all, it would be long after I go gray. Toy Story 3 ended magnificently and does not warrant any further exploration. Its continuation, I thought, was untouchable in a full-length capacity. I viewed Toy Story Toons as the the perfect medium for this franchise to live on, as shorts provide more time with characters we love without the pressures or long-term legacy stability that comes with another sequel. Is Toy Story 4 something I would say *needs* to happen? Not necessarily. Since it *is* happening, though, am I going to rob myself of being floored to have another playdate with my childhood heroes, the characters who inspired my love of animation, just because of a cautionary mindset? Not a chance. Here we go. Let’s do this.
I am a screenwriter because of Toy Story 3. That is no exaggeration. It is the truth. That movie connected with me emotionally on a level no other movie has even gotten closed to. To me, it is perfect. And a huge part of how good it is and how much it affects me is how perfectly it ties up every plot point, every character arc and every theme not from this movie but the entire trilogy. The ending of TS3 makes it look as if Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were just building up to that moment.
And now Pixar wants to go on. Why? I don’t know. I was fine with their Toy Story Toons and the holiday specials. It was cool to see these characters I love so passionately again. But I do not want another feature. I do not want another Harry Potter book. I do not want another season of Breaking Bad. All these things are works of art that have shaped me in some way or another. And they ended. And that’s okay, when good things end. You need to let go. Which is kind of the lesson of Toy Story 3. And maybe Pixar should watch that movie again, because doing a sequel is like making a videogame adaptation of The Iron Giant and making it a shooter game full of cool weapons. It goes against everything the movie stands for.
There’s no denying that Toy Story as a franchise forever shaped the way animated films are made and layed the groundwork for for the future of the animation industry. Despite the continuously competitive nature of the current field, each and every animation company will always and forever owe their existence to that film. Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Sony Animation, and even Walt Disney Animation Studios wouldn’t be what they are because of Toy Story. That being said, I too can’t help but question the existence of a Toy Story 4 in relation to Pixar’s current standing. Are all the cynical grumblings about this film justified? In a way, yes.
As of right now, I’m still conflicted on how I should feel about it. I will say that my overall feelings do lean towards those say that another movie isn’t really needed. Toy Story 3 closed the book on these characters in such a heartfelt and profound way that I’m honestly don’t know what more (outside of Toy Story Toons and the holiday specials) could be done with them. It also doesn’t line up with Pixar’s current goal of recovering from sequelitis and the creative rot that came about as a result of that. Then again, anything can happen in the three years between now and this movie, and John Lasseter did state that they wouldn’t be making this movie if an idea hadn’t come along that excited him. As for me, I just hope that he (and the rest of Pixar) will have learned their lesson from Cars 2 and will have won the audiences back in a way that could possibly get us excited about a Toy Story 4.
What do you think is the best decision for Pixar and ‘Toy Story 4’? Are you excited?