The definition of a roller coaster is movement or change in a dramatic changeable manner — and that sums our first thoughts sitting in our screening of Toy Story 4. Hold on, because you’re in for a roller coaster of emotions. From the very first opening scene, we were captivated with a seamless story (that didn’t have us questioning the transition from previous Toy Story films) and a stunning rain sequence that rivaled the beauty of the Land of the Dead in Coco.
After the intensity of the stormy introduction, we were struck with immediate nostalgia as the iconic white puffy clouds from Andy’s room appear on the screen while You’ve Got a Friend in Me happily played to an audience of smiling faces (we took a peek at the crowd and loved seeing their excited expressions).
What do we give the film overall? Our ratings tend to rise over time, but we’re currently rating Toy Story 4 an 8.5 (out of 10). The film is visually stunning (as you’d expect), the new characters fit in wonderfully (just as seamlessly as the new characters did in Toy Story 3), and Randy Newman’s score is beautiful. Oh, and be sure to stay through the credits for a great moment between Duke Caboom and Combat Carl!
Read our text review below, watch our video review (on YouTube and embedded below), or listen to our audio review on episode #67 of the Pixar Post Podcast (also embedded below).
Duke Caboom — The new stuntman definitely wowed the audience. Almost every time Duke was on screen, the audience connected with him. We even noticed that he garnered the loudest laugh during one of his spectacular stunts in the third act. Keanu Reeves did a stellar job voicing this confident-yet-crybaby character and brought so much to the table.
Forky — Forky was definitely another crowd favorite. Our Son easily laughed at Forky the most and the audience was consistently chuckling as Forky’s child-like innocence caused Woody some serious consternation. Tony Hale knocked voicing Forky out of the park and really solidified him as one of the great Toy Story characters.
Ducky and Bunny — This duo, voiced by the hilarious comedic duo of Keegan-Michael Key (Ducky) and Jordan Peele (Bunny) brought their fast-talking action to the characters. The writing for these two was perfection and their sharp wit matched their designs seamlessly. You know their famous plush-rush from the trailer? Well, there is a long-play joke with Margaret (the elderly store owner of Second Chance Antiques) which is even more gut-busting than the standard plush-rush from the trailer — Wow! We couldn’t imagine anyone else voicing these two.
Gabby Gabby — This loveable, yet, kind of creepy doll will leave you with goosebumps one moment and an ache in your heart the next (seriously). Christina Hendricks does an absolutely jaw-dropping performance as the 1950’s doll who just wants to be loved but we’re still not sure how we fully feel about her character — should we love her or not?! LOL!
Giggle McDimples — Giggle is such a great character that not only brings a ton of humor but also is a great conduit for Bo Peep to talk out her questions. Yes, Bo Peep is strong and resolute in this film, but it’s Giggle that helps her realize that Woody can be loved for his faults as well as his strengths (which may be one and the same). Giggle was also our Son’s favorite new character (followed by Forky) because of her infectious on-screen presence (her great laugh) and he also loved that she saves pets as part of her Pet Patrol operation — how cute!
The Toy Story 4 team gave us just enough of Andy’s and Bonnie’s toys that made the film feel complete. We felt the addition of the original characters added just enough to support the new storyline, similar to how the characters were tagging along in the elevator scene in Toy Story 2.
The return of Bo Peep showcased her enhanced take-charge attitude and her character was written in a way that didn’t feel forced or unnatural — it truly felt like it would be her natural evolution. It almost felt like she too was growing up, mirroring the story of kids who outgrow their toys.
Just as with Ducky and Bunny, Buttercup has a few amazing one-liners and was most definitely a scene-stealer towards the end of the film.
The story was fantastic. It featured a big cast (which we love), it was fast-paced, but still allowed for moments of calm and reflection. We truly enjoyed watching the story unfold in a way that left us wanting even more — wait, more? Yes, we would truly welcome seeing much more of the Toy Story gang on screens after seeing this film.
Julie even noted that she didn’t know she wanted this film, but now feels that it was necessary.
After discussing the film in more detail at home, there is one moment that we cannot believe was so perfect — what was it? The reuniting of Woody and Bo Peep after many long years is something that we wouldn’t have ever imagined but was so beautiful and natural that we have to applaud the entire cast and crew for this heartfelt moment.
Thinking about the movie early on, we were slightly worried about their reuniting because it’s so pivotal, but Josh Cooley (Director) did such an amazing job letting the scene unfold naturally, that it was definitely a tear-inducing moment without a word even being spoken.
Of course, art is subject to opinion and although there were a few moments that we felt were ever-so-slightly hurried, the story was brilliantly woven and didn’t feel forced in any way. The balance that they achieved between the humor and heart was also wonderfully executed and we applaud Stephany Folsom on her first Pixar project as screenwriter.
Of course, with any Pixar film, you expect to see beautiful cinematic moments, and Toy Story 4 doesn’t let you down. From the bright and colorful explosion of lights at the carnival to the highly accurate and beautiful rain sequence which opened the film, you will not find visual faults with this movie.
We get into the smaller nuances, like paint on Bonnie’s closet door hinges or light streaking across Woody’s face from pegboard holes in our video review (if you really want to get geeky)!
We were excited to hear the final mix and all the new songs — when we visited Pixar Animation Studios, some of the music in the film was still temporary. As you watch Toy Story 4, you’ll hear how Randy Newman included familiar callbacks to the other Toy Story films which helped balance the old and new elements of the film. Fans of Toy Story 2, in particular, will love hearing a callback to Buzz’s introduction music from that film as he listens to his inner voice.
The new character themes composed by Newman were stunning, with Forky’s theme sounding sweet and innocent with light piano, and then for Duke Caboom, a slow accordion took the lead in his character’s backstory. When Woody first notices Bo’s lamp inside the Second Chance Antique Shop, the only note we wrote in the theater was, WOW!
Toy Story 4 also features two new original Randy Newman songs, I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away, and The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy. Both tunes were great additions, however, our only note was we wish the songs were a bit longer, like the full-length songs Strange Things or You’ve Got a Friend in Me.
HIDDEN ITEMS/EASTER EGGS
If there’s one thing Pixar fans love, it’s the easter eggs! As we discussed in episode #66 of the Pixar Post Podcast, with Craig Foster, Ling Tu, and Alex Marino, Toy Story 4 has the most easter eggs of any Pixar film to date. In fact, each Pixar feature, short, and toon has been showcased in Toy Story 4.
Keep looking as hard as you can, but you’ll probably have to watch multiple times to view all the instances of the standard A113, Pixar ball, and the Pizza Planet Truck. Some of them are very sneaky and pass by in a second, while others hover on the screen long enough to fully enjoy them.
As a teaser, you’ll also notice many familiar callbacks to the television specials as well as short films — including a particular restaurant where smaller toys could be acquired. Oh, and don’t even get us started on how much we want Bonnie’s lunch box!
Listen to the episode using the embedded player below or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts.