I love Toy Story, but I am dreading Toy Story 4

Patrick Wilson is the main host of the weekly Popcorn Muncher Podcast and also writes as a regular guest contributor to The Popcorn Muncher.

Pixar's roster of beloved playthings returns for Toy Story 4
Pixar’s roster of beloved playthings returns for Toy Story 4

So I’m really not looking forward to Toy Story 4. It’s certainly not because I’m a miserable person who hates the movies. On the contrary, they were a major part of my childhood. Toy Story was the first movie I ever saw in a cinema and I was truly obsessed. I had all of the toys, including an actual pull-string woody, a Ham piggy bank and about five different Buzz Lightyears of varying sizes and spacesuits. I even remember one Christmas when my dad travelled across counties to make sure I had Buzz Lightyear’s spaceship for Christmas Day, even though it was sold out everywhere. These were the pre-Amazon Prime days, kiddos.

So to say that I love Toy Story is an understatement. I feel like it’s part of me. This continued with each movie, as they grew up with me. In 2000, I was eight years old and I was moving on to the “cooler toys” of scooters and walkie-talkies. That same year, Toy Story 2 arrived on the scene and followed Woody dealing with the fact that, one day, Andy would grow up and start to move on, just like I was.

Toy Story 3, though, was the real masterstroke from Pixar. As I was ready to make the step into college, so was Andy. The movies didn’t just grow up with me – the protagonist did as well. Pixar decided to make a movie that wasn’t just a fun follow-up for a group of lovable characters, but the finale and send-off for those who had grown up with the series. We were Andy, we grew up and it was time to move on and let go of the characters we loved so much. It’s a masterful movie that works without the nostalgia but, with that nostalgia behind it, it becomes a classic tearjerker and a love letter to the kids who fell in love with these characters and were taking the first steps into adulthood.

Andy said goodbye to his childhood toys in the heart-breaking Toy Story 3
Andy said goodbye to his childhood toys in the heart-breaking Toy Story 3

So why does the prospect of Toy Story 4 fill me with disappointment? After all, we’ve had several short films so it’s not like the characters were ever fully laid to rest. I have two reasons for my apprehension: one cynical, and one that I find much harder to deal with.

Firstly, I see Toy Story 4 as a blatant cash grab. I know how cynical that makes me sound, but we have to accept that the movie industry is a business. The toys essentially print money and everyone still adores these characters. This movie will make bank, there’s not doubt about it, and it’s much easier to dredge up a beloved IP than to attempt to make another Inside Out or Coco. It just makes business sense.

But that’s not the reason I’m so down on a fourth movie in this franchise. The thing I’m wrestling with is that after Toy Story 4 comes around, Toy Story won’t be mine anymore. I can’t imagine that Toy Story 4 is going to deal with a 26-year-old Andy who isn’t quite where he expected to find himself at that age and occasionally writes opinion pieces on the movies of his childhood. Andy has moved on from his childhood, the toys have moved on from Andy and Toy Story has moved on from me.

I see this movie being the kick-off point for those little ones that are now the same age as I was when I saw Toy Story back in 1996. It will belong to them now. Even if the new movie did target my generation of fans, it wouldn’t be fair. It would be selfish of us not to let a new generation experience these characters and their stories for themselves. It may be the first time they’ve seen the characters that I have loved for my entire life, and they deserve a chance to fall in love for the first time like I did. But it will be theirs now. It’s not mine.

That’s why I’m sad. Growing up and embracing adulthood is hard and letting go of the things that we held so dear as children is a major part of that. Toy Story is a franchise that defined my childhood, but the Buzz Lightyear spaceship my dad drove so far to buy me is in an attic somewhere, gathering dust. I’ve moved on from my childhood and it’s time for me to accept that these movies have moved on as well. It’s not that I don’t realise it; it’s just hard to accept.

I want to be the bigger man and let it go gracefully, but there’s still a petulant child within me, dressed in his Buzz Lightyear pyjamas and stamping his feet because he has to share his favourite toy. I hope Toy Story 4 is a good movie, I really do, and I hope that kids really enjoy it and embrace the joy these characters bring in the same way that I did 20 years ago. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to let them go.

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen voice Buzz and Woody in the Toy Story films
Tom Hanks and Tim Allen voice Buzz and Woody in the Toy Story films

How do you feel about Toy Story 4? Are you excited to see the gang again, or are you worried about what Pixar will do? Let me know in the comments section.

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