'Toy Story 4' Probably Won't Ruin the Perfect Ending of 'Toy Story 3'
Why You Shouldn't Worry
Whenever I talk to people about Toy Story 4, the general consensus seems to be something along the lines of, "It looks good, but I thought 3 was the perfect ending." Some people, including myself, have questioned whether Toy Story 4 is necessary. The people behind the film have said that they were so happy with Toy Story 3 that they would not have made a fourth one unless they felt that there was a story that really needed to be told. Whether or not Toy Story 4 will seem "necessary," it seems like it will be, at the very least, a well-animated, entertaining film. It is difficult to imagine it being a better ending for the series than Toy Story 3 would have been. But would its mere existence diminish the ending of Toy Story 3? I am inclined to say no.
A Perfect Ending Regardless
Having just rewatched the scene at the end of Toy Story 3 in which Andy gives away his toys, and has one last playtime with them before going to college, I still feel emotional. The mere knowledge of a fourth film existing does not lessen the impact of this scene for me. While Toy Story 3 is no longer the final film in the series, this scene still feels like the perfect ending to an arc regarding the toys' relationship with Andy. It's still very poignant. He goes off to start a new chapter of his life, and the toys start a new chapter in their new life with Bonnie.
Sure, this film would have worked as an ending to the series as a whole. And it did for a few years... At least, some would think it was a few years.
The Series Never Really Ended
Despite Toy Story 3 being the last film of the franchise for a while, there was still some Toy Story content being released onscreen. In 2011, just a year after the release of Toy Story 3, Cars 2 was accompanied by a six-minute short titled Toy Story Tunes: Hawaiian Vacation. Taking place after Toy Story 3, the short centers around Woody and the gang trying to give Barbie and Ken the vacation that they've missed out on as Bonnie goes to Hawaii with her family. A few months later, The Muppets film was accompanied by Toy Story Tunes: Small Fry. This seven-minute short involved Buzz getting left behind at a fast food restaurant, and trying to return to Bonnie's house as a miniature Buzz tries to take his place. A year later, the 3D release of Finding Nemo was accompanied by another seven-minute short, Toy Story Tunes: Partysaurus Rex, in which Rex plays with bath toys.
Since 2012, there have been no more installments of Toy Story Tunes. But 2013 saw the release of a 22-minute Halloween TV special titled Toy Story of Terror! In this special, Bonnie's toys go to a motel where toys mysteriously go missing one by one. A year later, a 22-minute Christmas special titled Toy Story That Time Forgot aired on TV. This one involves the toys encountering action toys belonging to Bonnie's best friend Mason. Like Toy Story Tunes, these specials also take place after Toy Story 3.
Of course, some might say, "Well, those don't count. Those are not the movies." And I can kind of understand that perspective. These are short stories that might be considered narratively inconsequential compared to the films. And, to be fair, there are probably lots of people who are not even aware that these shorts and specials even exist, whereas the three films are common knowledge.
To me, the Back to the Future films are a well-rounded trilogy with a perfect ending. But I have played the 2010 Telltale game, and read some of the IDW comics that started in 2015. Both of those tell stories set after the conclusion of the trilogy. And as sacrilegious as the idea of a fourth Back to the Future film can seem at times, I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed some of these stories had they been written and released as films in the 1990s.
It should be noted that the Toy Story shorts and specials have returning voice actors, so they can maintain a sense of legitimacy in the eyes and ears of the viewers. But even if they are considered "canon," fans might still be wary of the idea of there being another feature-length film. We get so used to there being a set number of things in our favorite franchises that we sometimes cry wolf when another installment is on the horizon. But maybe that shouldn't always be the case.
'Toy Story 3' Will Remain Intact
For some series, an extra installment after a great ending can turn out to be mediocre or just plain bad. But Toy Story 4 looks like it has potential to bring good stuff to the table. With a character like Forky in the picture, there are thought-provoking existential questions such as, "What constitutes a toy?" and "At what point does a toy become sentient?" I don't expect the film to go in-depth on these questions, but it adds an extra layer to what will probably be a very entertaining movie, at the very least. It seems harmless overall. Many might enjoy it. And those who don't enjoy it, for whatever reason, can still choose to just watch the first three films after the fact, and not rewatch the fourth film at all. And those who still watch and enjoy the fourth film can still feel the emotional impact of Toy Story 3 on repeated viewings. As Woody says in the original Toy Story, "I'm not worried. You shouldn't be worried." Woody did end up worrying about Buzz, but then it turned out that Buzz was good. Maybe Toy Story 4 will follow suit by generating good buzz (Pun intended).