I graduated high school just before the release of “Toy Story 3.” To say it hit hard would be an understatement. Alongside Andy, Woody and Buzz, my generation had grown up, and that was that. I never thought we’d see the franchise again.
But of course we would. Successful film sagas don’t stay dormant, and “3” ended too openly for the characters not to make some kind of return.
After nine years, that’s exactly what’s happened.
Set shortly after the events of “3,” “Toy Story 4” finds Woody and the gang keeping diligent watch over their new caretaker, Bonnie. A bright and imaginative young girl, Bonnie turns a plastic spork into a new toy called “Forky,” who joins Woody, Buzz and the rest on a cross-country road trip with Bonnie and her family.
Together, the toys all start to understand just how big the world really is, and if this is to be the end of the “Toy Story” saga — what an end indeed.
No film series has coincided so directly with my life. I was just a little younger than Andy when I met Woody and Buzz. I was on my way to college with Andy when he donated his toys. And I’m figuring out the details of my life’s meaning and purpose just as Woody confronts these questions himself.
The answers he finds — the same answers I’m trying to find — give him peace.
I didn’t think it would be possible to follow “3” with another film. I really did believe the trilogy was done and over, and any continuation would be flawed and stillborn. And yet Pixar, as they’ve almost always done, has somehow hit another walk-off masterpiece.
Embracing a philosophical story, dressing it up in stunning animation, witty dialogue and excellent voice acting — “Toy Story 4” is the true conclusion of a journey 25 years in the making, and I’m so happy to have seen it through.
That said, who’s to say we won’t see Woody and Buzz and the rest again someday. Film sagas don’t stay dormant, after all.
But life keeps changing for all of us. We continue getting older. We experience new things. We meet new people. And I’m sure we’ll need “Toy Story” again to get us all through ... To infinity, and beyond.