Back in 2013, Pixar Animation Studios President Edwin Catmull announced that the studio will strive to release "an original film a year," on average. So far Pixar has already taken steps to make good on that promise; the studio currently has Inside Out playing in theaters and has The Good Dinosaur slated to arrive in November 2015 (both being original animated feature films), to counter-balance the handful of sequels that are currently in development.
One of those Pixar sequels is Toy Story 4, a project that surprised many people when it was officially announced in late 2014 - not because Toy Story 3 was a commercial flop (on the contrary, it grossed over $1 billion in theaters), but because the third Toy Story movie provided what many considered the perfect conclusion to the Toy Story film trilogy. However, Toy Story 4 is described as being more of a standalone story set in that cartoon universe (like the Toy Story shorts and specials released in recent years), rather than an ill-advised attempt to build on the previous movies.
Pixar general manager Jim Morris previously referred to Toy Story 4 as being a "love story" and "romantic comedy", but refrained from spilling any details beyond that. However, on the first day of the 2015 D23 Expo, Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter - who is co-directing Toy Story 4 with Josh Cooley (who co-wrote Inside Out) - clarified which characters that love story will involve, as he told the press (via CNBC)
"It's a love story with Woody and—and this is news—Bo Peep."
Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) were a romantic couple in the first two Toy Story films, but in Toy Story 3 it was implied that Bo had been sold by the Toys' owners (Andy and his family, at that time) at some point in between Toy Story 2 and 3. The Toy Story 4 screenplay from Rashida Jones and Will McCormack - who previously wrote indie romantic dramedy Celeste and Jesse Forever - will presumably explore what happens when, through circumstances to be revealed, Woody and Co. (who now belong to young Bonnie Anderson) are reunited with Bo Peep, giving Woody and Bo a chance to rekindle their connection.
On a related note, here are the teaser posters for upcoming Pixar films (which, in addition to Toy Story 4, include Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2) on display at the 2015 D23. For additional photos, head on over to /Film:
There is potential for Toy Story 4 to be another worthwhile addition to the Pixar filmography, based on the premise alone. Jones and McCormack's Celeste and Jesse Forever script blends comedy and pathos with its examination of how a relationship can change over time (and not necessarily for the better), so it stands to reason that the pair will take a similar approach to looking at how Woody and Bo have each changed, after being apart for so long (against their own wishes). That is, in a family-friendly manner and style befitting the Toy Story cinematic universe, of course.
Lasseter has promised that Toy Story 4 will also have a "strong female voice," so Jones - who makes a "voice cameo" as Cool Girl's Emotions in Inside Out - ought to play a key role in crafting the film's plot. In particular, Jones is quite capable of fleshing out the Bo Peep character so that she becomes a more complex individual (beyond the fairly simple love interest she was in the first three Toy Story movies) for the Toy Story 4 narrative.
Such a story could nicely blend heart and humor (like Pixar's best work); though, if not handled right, such a narrative could also just undermine the poignancy of Woody and Bo having been separated in the first place. There are a number of talented storytellers collaborating on Toy Story 4, so hopefully they will be able to make the most of this setup - and deliver yet another Toy Story sequel "that's as good or better than the original," as Lasster put it.
Toy Story 4 opens in U.S. theaters on June 16th, 2017.