'Toy Story 4' Takes Cues From a Surprising Movie Genre
Oh, the horror. It looks great.
On some level, the Toy Story movies have always grappled with the terror of existential crisis, but the new trailer for Toy Story 4 makes this latest entry feel straight-up horrific.
Disney-Pixar released a full trailer for Toy Story 4 Tuesday, and it examines existence in a whole new way by introducing a suicidal spork with googly eyes — along with ventriloquist dummies that behave like zombies, a possessed doll named Gabby Gabby, and a Stepford paradise for toys. Woody is also catfished into a terrifying trap that involves all of the above, and there might even be another secret villain more sinister than Lotso from Toy Story 3.
Let’s begin with an unsettling new addition: Woody introduces a “new friend” that Bonnie (their current human owner) made in school. Originally introduced in the November 2018 teaser trailer, Forky is a plastic spork with googly eyes, some pipe cleaner features, and a broken wooden popsicle stick for feet, assembled using glue and putty.
Forky is easily overwhelmed and doesn’t think he should even be alive. “I was made for soup, salad, maybe chili, and then the trash!” he says while leaping from a moving vehicle. On Twitter, some are calling this a hilarious representation of millennial culture, and that’s so devastatingly accurate that it hurts.
Since the beginning of Toy Story, these toys have struggled to determine their self-worth in a universe where they’re literally objects.
What does humanity mean when you’re a toy? What is the meaning of such an existence?
We should have seen the transition to more adult themes coming. In Toy Story 3, the most powerful moment comes during a disturbing incinerator scene, when a colorful, fun-loving animated film pivots to a jarring reminder of mortality in an uncaring world.
The nature of this cinematic universe changed forever when Jessie asked in Toy Story 3, “What do we do, Buzz?” His only response was to acknowledge their imminent death and reach for her hand. These toys were united in their fate.
The toys we grew up with faced imminent death with tenderness and resignation. We admired them for it.
(This moment parallels the ending to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, when Sam and Frodo accept death on Mount Doom only to be saved at the last possible moment by giant eagles sent by Gandalf).
In the years since, Disney-Pixar must have recognized how much this scene resonated with fans of the series.
The new story feels like a thematic callback to the first Toy Story, which saw Woody help a newcomer to their group through an existential crisis. In 1995, that beloved newcomer was a space ranger named Buzz Lightyear with an inflated ego. In 2019, that newcomer is an unloved utensil that doesn’t think he deserves to be alive. If that’s not a reflection of our time and the generational shift over the last 24 years, then existence really is meaningless.
When Forky decides to leave while everyone’s on a road trip with Bonnie’s family, Woody makes the rash decision to leap from the car to bring him back. Much like Toy Story, it then becomes a quest to get home to Bonnie with plenty of obstacles along the way.
Woody is lured into an antique shop in a nearby small town when he sees Bo Peep in a window. (This side character from Toy Story and Toy Story 2 was ostensibly Woody’s love interest, and a throwaway line of dialogue in Toy Story 3 tells us she was discarded.) Is this really where she wound up? Or is this a different Bo Peep that lured Woody into some kind of fake toy paradise for more nefarious reasons?
Quickly, Woody and Forky are attacked by creepy dolls and a zombie army of ventriloquist dummies. Their slack jaws and limp limbs as they press through narrow corridors feels exactly like a stereotypical zombie sequence.
They’re supposedly saved by Bo Peep, who then tries to lure Woody away from Bonnie and into the welcoming hands of a new child. Could she be the secret villain, much like how Lotso pretended to be an ally only to become a corrupting influence? We won’t know for sure until we see the movie, but Toy Story feels more mature — and scarier — than ever before.
Toy Story 4 will be released June 21, 2019.