Of all the sequels Pixar is developing right now, Toy Story 4 is the one that's been met with the most skepticism from moviegoers. That's largely in part because many feel that 2010's Toy Story 3 so perfectly concluded the franchise, with Andy's emotional and heartfelt goodbye to his lovable group of toys serving as an exclamation point for the studio's flagship series.
In fact, the way in which the third installment neatly wrapped everything up was a big reason why Pixar's creative team waited so long before even discussing a return to this world. But now that a fourth entry is only a couple of years away, there are those that are wondering just what it was that caused the studio to revisit Woody, Buzz, and the gang on the big screen. Pixar president Jim Morris provided some clues, saying that they intend to take the series in a new direction.
While speaking with Disney Latina (hat tip /Film for translating the quotes), Morris explained that Toy Story 4 is not a continuation of the original trilogy and will instead will aim to tell its own narrative:
"The third movie ended in a beautiful way and completed a trilogy. I think this movie is not part of this trilogy. It is a separate story, which in turn I do not know if will be continued. Never begin a project with that in mind."
In this day and age of studios building extensive shared movie universes (and scheduling slates of projects years in advance), it is somewhat refreshing to hear that Pixar is focusing on making Toy Story 4 the best movie it can be before worrying about future films. It's also nice to know that the fourth chapter will operate more as a standalone story, leaving the legacy of the first three films largely intact. Longtime fans worried Pixar will sully the brand's reputation should take solace in this development.
And really, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the studio's going this route. Months ago in their press release announcing the film, Pixar explicitly stated that Toy Story 4 would be starting "a new chapter in the lives of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the 'Toy Story' gang." From a certain point of view, it's similar to Disney reviving Star Wars with The Force Awakens, launching a new chapter in the lives of Luke, Han, and Leia years after Return of the Jedi. In both instances, the original trilogies told complete stories, and these new features are doing their own thing.
So how can Toy Story 4 craft a worthwhile new chapter for our old friends? The first three films dealt with the group's relationship with Andy; each one detailing a new step in the evolution from boyhood to young adult. Perhaps in an effort to avoid rehashing old material, Morris said director John Lasseter will be looking to shift gears from exploring how toys interact with their children, and instead putting the spotlight on the toys themselves:
"It is not a continuation of the end of the story of 'Toy Story 3.' Temporarily it is, but it will be a love story. It will be a romantic comedy. It will not put much focus on the interaction between the characters and children. I think it will be a very good movie."
From this quote, it sounds as if the fourth movie will be similar to the many Toy Story shorts and TV specials that have been released in the past few years, in that the gang's new owner Bonnie is rarely (if ever) seen, and the toys find ways to entertain themselves.
That change-of-pace could revitalize the Toy Story movie series, though it remains to be seen what exactly Morris means when it comes to the rom-com angle. Still, with Rashida Jones and William McCormack (the screenwriters of the well-received romantic dramedy Celeste and Jesse Forever) penning the script, it may well prove to be an entertaining watch.
Toy Story 4 will be in theaters June 16, 2017.