The Toy Story franchise has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The films have an enormous amount of meaning to me as a person who grew up watching them and as an adult who can fully appreciate the scope of the universe that Pixar created. Disney’s recent announcement that there will be a fourth installment to the series has stirred up a bit of controversy among fans. There are several reasons why some are excited and why some are feeling that this is just another cash grab on the part of Disney.
John Lasseter, the creator of the beloved Toy Story characters, will be directing. He directed the first two pictures and also brought us A Bug’s Life. As an executive producer, Lasseter has compiled quite an impressive resume in recent years with hits like Big Hero 6, Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph and Brave. Lasseter has dazzled both children and adults with his animated tales since Luxo Jr in 1986. On the other hand, Lasseter isn’t an infallible visionary. He’s also responsible for Cars 2 and Planes, two films that were wildly unpopular with both audiences and critics. If Lasseter wants Toy Story 4 to succeed, he’ll need to approach the film with the same passion that caused everyone to fall in love with those talking toys.
A major concern is where to go with the story from here. The third film resolved the themes that were carried through the entire series and wrapped up the storyline in a perfect bow. I personally walked out of Toy Story 3 feeling completely satisfied. I didn’t feel hungry for another sequel because what Pixar accomplished in those three movies was enough to last me a lifetime. I suppose the toys can go on adventures under the care of their new child, but will that also mean another three movies? A fourth movie could certainly signal that the franchise will stretch on and on until the writing inevitably becomes tired and audiences lose interest.
Another hurdle the writers will have to overcome is adapting the universe to be relatable to children in 2017 while maintaining the originality of the concept. Kids are becoming increasingly dependent on technology for entertainment. Pixar needs to reconcile this reality with the fact that the whole appeal of the original film was that Andy was a reflection of the average American child. There are plenty of children who don’t have the luxury of smartphones or video games in their lives, so the lessons and humor dependent on gadgets won’t resonate with them. It will be interesting to see whether the writers acknowledge the existence of this screen-obsessed society or continue the storyline in a universe that doesn’t directly reflect modern America.
As skeptical as I feel right now, I’m going to reserve judgment until I know a little bit more about the film. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are both back on board. Still, it’s going to take a lot to impress me. The first film was released when I was 3 years old and I saw Toy Story 3 the night before I graduated high school. Who knows – 2017 is a long way away. By then, I’ll probably be ready to welcome Woody and Buzz back into my life with open arms.