Another ‘Toy Story’ is too much of a good thing

Noah Cannon, Staff Writer

Is there ever too much of a good thing? Is there ever too much love? Too much kindness? Or is there ever too much of a certain franchise?

Since I was a child, my favorite movie has been Pixar Animation’s very first feature film, “Toy Story,” directed by John Lasseter and starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. “Toy Story” has touched my heart as no other film has. I’ve loved and cherished it for as long as I can remember, and I doubt another film will captivate me and fill me with unbridled joy. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced two new animated features for Disney and Pixar. The first is the third installment in the Frozen franchise. The other is “Toy Story 5,” with Tim Allen set to reprise his role as the lovable space ranger toy Buzz Lightyear. I had just read the news about the announcement and it shocked me. We were getting another “Toy Story?” Why? 

“Toy Story” debuted on Thanksgiving weekend in 1995. Despite its near-universal critical and commercial success, if you took a time machine back to the 90s and told somebody that “Toy Story” would gain four sequels, a spin-off film, and a handful of TV specials, I doubt anyone would have believed you. Not even the brilliant creative minds at Pixar. 

We’ve had two brilliant sequels to “Toy Story” over the last 27 years. “Toy Story 2” won the Golden Globe award for best feature film musical or comedy, and “Toy Story 3” won the best-animated feature at the Oscars and became the third film in history to be nominated for best picture. “Toy Story 1, 2, and 3” are three perfect films. And “Toy Story 3” is arguably the perfect ending to a delightful trilogy. Andy is all grown up and he expressed his love for his toys before lovingly passing them on to a new little girl. Then, he drives off into the sunset for college as Woody laments, “So long, partner.” No movies have brought me to tears as much as the “Toy Story” films had and for the longest time, I thought that was the end, and I was satisfied that we had, in my mind, a perfect trilogy. 

But then something happened. In 2018, a trailer dropped on YouTube for “Toy Story 4.” “Toy Story 4?” Was my mind playing tricks on me? I was in denial, telling myself that there deserved to be a fourth installment in this glorious franchise, that it was totally necessary and spectacular. And, to be fair, I liked it. I loved a lot of stuff about the film, but not Woody’s character. Here’s where the problem with milking a franchise comes in. Because it was the fourth installment in a series that already had a perfect ending, the Pixar team had to do nothing that they had ever done before in the series so that they could make it fresh and entertaining. And so, the result was Woody realizing that he’s not loved by his kid anymore who for some reason wanted nothing to do with him, despite absolutely loving him about a few months before the movie takes place. And so, he follows his heart instead of his toy code and leaves his family to go have adventures with the love of his life, Bo. 

That was the scene that broke me. As emotional and beautifully animated as the film was, that was NOT Woody. That was not the character that I grew up loving and adoring. The Woody I know always said that the most important part of being a toy was to be there for your child, not to be played with. However, Woody has hypocritically abandoned his child and is told to listen to his inner voice instead. He says goodbye to Buzz, Jessie, and all his other toy pals before living a life of on-the-nose adventures, ruining the happy, perfect ending of “Toy Story 3” for the sake of milking out another movie. 

Now, we’re having a fifth one. Sigh. 

If this was announced when I was seven or even when I was sixteen, I’d have thrown my hands into the air and exclaimed, “Yes! I’m so excited! Woo-hoo!” But now, as a twenty year old, I can say that I’m mixed about the news. The child in me is still there inside, screaming with joy from the depths of my memories, but the man in my head is nervous, saddened, and scared. What will happen to these characters that I’ve loved since I first could love? Will they be butchered even more? Will Woody even be in it? Will it be modern for the sake of being modern instead of focusing on telling a good story? 

Most importantly, I have to ask myself why. And I know the answer. To make money. That might sound cynical, but hey, welcome to the 20s. All joking aside, that’s why all these franchises are getting more and more unnecessary installments and spin-offs—to make money. And while I understand that money is the purpose of businesses like Disney and Pixar, why can’t they do that by making something original? Something bold, emotional, and new? Something that isn’t afraid to take risks and be raw and even mature at times? The wonder and joy of my hero Walt Disney’s early films were seeing him, and his team of talented artists, composers, and storytellers make something fresh, built from the ground up, and downright touching. The same can be said for Pixar when they first started. I said this in a previous article from last semester, but the first eleven Pixar films are spectacular because of their stories and originality, how each film did something fresh and new that also felt familiar. 

So, can we please use our imaginations some more? Have we run out of ideas that we’ve resulted in making a dozen “Star Wars” spinoffs, a new “Indiana Jones,” and another “Toy Story?” We don’t need another “Toy Story.” Is spoiling a perfect ending and butchering its characters worth it to make a few bucks? 

I can’t emphasize this enough. Toy Story means the world to me. It always has and always will. And I am not optimistic about the future of this continuing franchise. I’m scared. I’m probably going to see the movie for the sake of love and nostalgia, but seeing what happened with “Toy Story 4,” I am not sure how it will turn out. All I ask is that Disney and Pixar please stop milking their franchises and finally let them rest. Let go of the past and make something new, something that holds the ideals and beliefs of the past but is fresh and fun at the same time. Hopefully, new talented creative young minds will not be afraid to make the movies that they want to make. Movies that do the impossible. As my hero, Walt once said, “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”