The Toy Story films used to have the rare distinction of being one of the few franchises that got better with each installment, at least when it came to the original trilogy. Back in 2010, Toy Story 3 ended with Andy heading off to college and handing down his toys—including his best pals Woody and Buzz—to a new kid, Bonnie, after one last tearful play session. It was a perfect way for Andy, and for us, to say goodbye to these characters we’ve loved for so long.
Then, in 2019, Disney came out with Toy Story 4. The film itself was fine (we gave it a B) and made more than $1 billion at the box office. One common criticism kept coming up, though: bringing back Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang somewhat undermined the sweet send-off they got in the previous film. They got a new ending this time, with Woody heading off with Bo Peep and a group of other kid-less toys while Buzz and the others went back home with Bonnie.
Now, despite giving Woody, Buzz, and their toy friends another pretty definitive conclusion—not to mention last year’s disappointing spin-off Lightyear—we’re going back to do it all again. What’s left to say? We’re not even sure Pixar knows. This could be a case of Disney putting down a pin and then drawing a map around it. Can the as-yet-unannounced creative team (Toy Story 4 had no less than nine names with “original story by” credits) top either of those emotional resolutions? Although we don’t know anything yet about the story, cast, or characters, we remain skeptical. And we’re not the only ones. Here are a few of the reactions we’ve seen on social media since the news broke earlier this afternoon.
After the high bar set by the original trilogy, Toy Story has been a case of diminishing returns. In between Toy Story 3 and 4 Disney kept the franchise alive through a series of shorts and specials, all of which were entertaining in their own way but couldn’t match the quality of the storytelling in the features. Then we got the major downshift that was Lightyear last year, a spin-off that underperformed both commercially and critically. That doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence. Nor does the way this project was announced, dropped into the middle of an earnings call amidst news of mass layoffs and a handful of other sequel projects, including Zootopia 2 and Frozen 3.
Can Toy Story bounce back if the fifth film defies the odds and proves to be a worthy successor? It’s not out of the question. Audiences will have to decide whether they’re ready to say hello and goodbye to these characters yet again. The odds aren’t in Toy Story’s favor, but we’ll just have to wait (for some indeterminate length of time) to see.