At the heart of what makes Toy Story such a memorable franchise, is the philosophy buried deep into each film. The characters in the Toy Story franchise all live for something bigger than any of them, and they live for their need to e played with and to make a child happy. The franchise explores themes like growing old or one’s purpose in the world, and now it seems that Toy Story 4 is looking to take the philosophies it laid the groundwork for in earlier films to a whole new level.
Toy Story 4 puts Woody on yet another adventure that challenges his place in the world. Woody has always seemed to know his place: being there to make a child happy, whether it be Bonnie, or his previous owner, Andy. But when a new toy joins Bonnie’s room (a literal plastic spork named Forky) and sets himself and Woody on a roadtrip to reunite with Bonne, Woody is forced to reconsider his place in the world, and sees just how big the world can be for a toy, and to find his place amongst it all.
The film also deeply explores its own mythology: What defines a toy…or a child’s play-thing at all for that matter? Forky consists of inanimate objects (a spork with googly eyes), but as soon as his creation comes to being by Bonnie, he is a living ‘toy’, like the rest of the members of Bonnie’s room. Can any object used by a child for play be brought to life? Does the life of a toy only begin when they are created, or when they mean something to a child? Does a toy cease to exist when they no longer have purpose? Can a ‘toy’ reject his/her role as living toy and the ability to exist in the universe like Forky hopes to do in this film? The questions that this film opens up continues to be endless.
Forky also ponders these very questions in the trailer, blankly asking Woody; “why am I alive?” to Woody’s frustration. He explains to Forky that the reason he exists to make Bonnie happy, but that of course challenges Woody: Perhaps his purpose is to be there for Bonnie, but maybe there is more to life for a toy than simply being an object of play, throwing Woody’s very existence into an existential crisis. This is going to be a complicated movie.
Toy Story 4 opens June 21st, but we haven’t even began to scratch the surface on its complexity.