For all intents and purposes, this weekend's D23 Expo has centered on one thing and one thing alone: expansion. Yesterday, in addition to unveiling plans to build upon both its Anaheim and Orlando-based theme parks with Star Wars-themed lands, Disney also previewed exclusive footage from the MCU's Phase III opening act, Captain America: Civil War, and featured first looks at other forthcoming franchise expansions including Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and Alice Through the Looking Glass. Even Pixar - despite its yearly commitment to original films - dominated the sequel game, showing off posters and details for Finding Dory, Cars 3, The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4.
As recently clarified, though, the fourth installment in Pixar's most successful series will not serve as a traditional sequel or direct follow-up (thankfully too, considering how beautifully the original trilogy ended); rather, it is being described as a standalone love story between Woody and Bo Peep. But as fans will remember, Bo Peep made no appearance in Toy Story 3, having been sold by Andy and his family at a garage sale. And it is that very absence that will serve as the catalyst for Woody and Buzz's next adventure.
Via Collider, John Lasseter revealed further details at D23 regarding the personal inspiration behind Toy Story 4, and the narrative hook that will propel the story forward, with Bo Peep at the center.
"As we were looking around we came up with this idea because Bo Peep was not in Toy Story 3, and it actually worked beautifully into this….so Woody and Buzz light-year go out to find Bo Peep and bring her back, and it’s a very special and emotional love story. But it’s extremely funny too."
The literal search for love is certainly nothing new by today's movie standards. Look no further than this summer's Paper Towns, which sees a teenaged protagonist embark on a wild goose chase - complete with clues and all - for his missing potential soulmate. While Bo Peep will hardly be leaving Woody any complex bread crumbs to follow, the premise features plenty of similarities.
Pixar has practically perfected the 'search and rescue' formula, with many of its films centering on a character's journey to find something, whether that something be physical, emotional, or in many cases, both. In fact, Toy Story 2 featured Buzz and co.'s attempts to find a stolen Woody and return him home; as such, it will certainly be interesting to see how the animation studio approaches this 'new' story from a refreshing angle.
Originality aside, though, fans can rest assured the film will come from a genuine and heartfelt sense of purpose, as Lasseter also spoke about the personal experiences - specifically, his wife's own life story - that helped craft the narrative.
"I’ve been very inspired by my wife Nancy‘s story in her life before I met her. It’s an incredible story, and it’s been sort of a bit of an inspiration for this."
This should help settle any initial qualms about the film, specifically those concerning the actual need for a fourth Toy Story (and its motivation as a mere cash grab). Pixar is known - and renowned - as much for its beautiful animation and iconic characters as for its heart, so the fact that the film derives from real-life love and emotion, as well as wants to charter lesser known territory by focusing on a background character, bodes well for its outcome. That said, the standard for the franchise has been set very high, and Pixar is going to need a lot more than Bo Peep's staff to reach it.
Toy Story 4 opens in U.S. theaters on June 16th, 2017.