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The beautiful desolation of the "Toy Story" movies

It is hard to imagine that a children's franchise is as oppressively existential as the "Toy Story" series – and the latest episode, "Toy Story 4", is perhaps the bleakest (and most beautiful) of all.

That does not mean that I would not recommend "Toy Story 4" as a great family movie. Like the first three films, it is full of laughter that young and old appreciate, and tells an exciting story with lively characters and beautiful animations. Pixar has a knack for crafting adult-themed films that still tell age-appropriate stories for the little ones – artistic independence and ratatouille, environmentalism and Wall-E, grief and up, and so on. Toy Story 4 continues this tradition, and though it has more than a few emotional hurdles, it does not make it any less a bright, colorful and humorous experience.

At the same time, all the "Toy Story" films are fundamentally depressing for two reasons: they are all about the premise that sentient toys, rejected by owners or potential owners, feel useless, and they all contain subplots, in which toys pose the question of whether they want to live as beings at all, their essence The existence depends on playing with children.

In the first "Toy Story," a cowboy doll named Woody (Tom Hanks) becomes jealous of a new space-ranger toy called Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) because he's a little afraid of that boy named Andy's starts To love Buzz more, and that he loses his sense of purpose. In the sequel, Woody again fears an imminent rejection as Andy accidentally tears his arm and does not take him to a cowboy camp. The option of living as a museum exhibit offers Woody a more attractive, long-term alternative to a temporary occupation of toys.

As "Toy Story 3" rolls around, Andy has not played with his toys for years and is about to leave the college future of eternal obsolescence. In "Toy Story 4," the toys focus on the life of a new owner, a little girl named Bonnie, and discover how lost toys cope with lives in which they do not have human children as companions.

There is a depressing real applicability to this concept. Whether we admit it or not, we all depend on being wanted by other people to feel fulfilled in our lives (despite the stereotypes that we "only need you to be happy"). We demand the love and / or acceptance of romantic partners, family members and friends, respect from our communities, approval from supervisors, employees and / or the marketplace. The idea that we may be considered unpopular or unworthy is too painful to think about: it can lead to a life of loneliness and rejection, career failure, or even complete shame and shame. To admit that these truths are often dismissed as weak or needy, but ignoring that they determine our lives and determine our happiness, is openly delusional. We are all toys of the people around us and only a few of us react much better than the toys in "Toy Story" when we are shunned, overlooked or forgotten.

Many of us respond by not wanting to be a toy at all ̵

1; a thoroughly understandable impulse that goes into each of the "Toy Story" movies. In the first film, Buzz initially believes that he is a real space ranger and goes into deep depression when he learns he is just a toy. "Toy Story 2" introduces a cowgirl named Jesse (Joan Cusack) who suffers from severe PTSD after being given away by her original owner and initially determined never to reconnect to a child. "Toy Story 3" has a similar backstory for the villainous Lotso (Ned Beatty) who has been lost and replaced, though he responds to his trauma by becoming a vengeful tyrant who lies and tries to lure the toys around him to control.

"Toy Story 4" brings a new twist to this story trend with the character of Forky (Tony Hale), a spork with pipe cleaner arms, popstick legs and cheap googly eyes on his face, who insists that he tends to trash as a toy. Like Buzz in the first film, he really does not think he is a toy and obviously finds the term ridiculous. While Buzz felt that way because he mistakenly saw himself as a real space adventurer, Forky rightly realizes that he was never made as a toy and was almost nothing but garbage. His grief stems not from a delusion, but from a sense of illegitimacy – the concept that his shameful origin denies him the right to feel welcome in anything other than rejection. It is perhaps the darkest of all the existential crises faced by the toy characters in these films, though the film finds a clever way to make it recognize its identity as a toy by crossing it with what it loves about garbage.

The unexpected highlight of "Toy Story 4" is not Forky, but Bo Peep (Annie Potts). In the first two films, she was Woody's love interest, but little more, and in the third she was summarily written out with a stray dialogue line before she was completely ignored. Here she transforms into one of the most radical figures ever to appear in the franchise: a "lost toy" that not only copes with being rejected (as Jesse does in "Toy Story 2"), but enthusiastically picks it up. When she reunites with Woody, she shows him a world in which toys can experience adventure and help one another without clinging to the need for children's consent – or feel shaken if consent is denied. It soon becomes clear that Woody's desire to return Forky to Bonnie is not the main story of the film; it is Bo Peep who saves Woody, being a slave who fulfills his own expectations.

After the heartbreaking conclusion of the film, Woody separates from the rest of the toys in the group to stay with Bo Peep and join her on their adventures. It's a bold inference that might have felt like a violation of the franchise ethos (a lot of silly toys have adventures led by the supposedly inseparable Woody and Buzz), but it works because Bo Peep's autonomous worldview is so convincing has been. Not only does Woody's character arc from the previous three films respond satisfactorily, but it is also a lesson in dealing with the existential crises noted in all four films.

There are no easy answers to the problem of feeling futile. We will always depend on the consent of others (Woody still needs Bo Peep and it is unlikely that he would have given up his child-centered view of the universe, unaware that she would then be there as his companion) and we will always be internal Experiencing conflicts about the people we want to be and who we are. This confusion and suffering is a constant in life. But happy ends are still possible, even if these problems are never completely solved. This is the lesson that every "Toy Story" movie has told in its own way, and they are the reason why this is one of the few franchises where every sequel fulfills the promise of the classic original.

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