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That’s Another ‘Story’

| Tuesday, November 11, 2014

toy story WEBKERI O'MARA | The Observer
Exactly five minutes before I hopped into the family van to make my first expedition up to the kingdom of South Bend, Indiana, my younger sister presented me with one of the most treasured items in my dorm room: a Woody doll. She told me, “Andy gave away his Woody before he went off to college, so I’m giving you one.” It was an awe-worthy, full-circle moment, similar to the closing scene in “Toy Story 3” during which I cried and cursed college-bound Andy for not taking his beloved piggy bank and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head to campus.

I, like so many other millennials who had grown up with Andy, thought that that moment was the end, the sheer, definite, no-way-could-there-ever-be-another end. Andy goes off to college sans his toys symbolizing his transition into adulthood, theoretically. Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the gang are all newly adopted second-generation playthings to adorable youngster, Bonnie. Lotso, the evil bear who smells of strawberries, is strapped to a dump truck and forced to ride through piles of disposed garbage for all eternity … theoretically.

When news confirmed the inconceivable last week that there would be a “Toy Story 4” released the summer of 2017, my initial reaction sounded something like the following: “Don’t you dare take my childhood and crumble it up and throw it in a corner to die in the grisly graveyard of unspeakable sequels and prequels.”

If you want to get in touch with any millennials’ soft side, simply utter the phrase, “to infinity and beyond,” and the feels of nostalgia begin to flow. Last Thursday’s news instantly divided the masses between those who were thrilled to get yet another chance to see the toys together onscreen, and those who saw no need for a fourth film other than another opportunity to target a younger generation of customers, uh, fans.

Yay! More toys! Maybe Barbie and Ken will get a Kelly. What if Buzz gets a pet companion for Bullseye, like a cow (because cows jump over the moon). Will Jessie’s backstory be brought full circle with the “Andy’s mom theory?” Can we please have Sid team up with Al and seek revenge? Or Zurg? Can Zurg pull a “Return of the Jedi” and show up in Bonnie’s backyard waiting for Buzz? Fire up your engines, Santa Claus.

However, the latest reports from the Pixar gods mention in the slightest of contexts that the next installment will focus on a love story. The L.A. Times also reported that the film will pick up right where “Toy Story 3” left off. I’m somewhat bummed about this, because if the creators followed the biological timeline of their target audiences, maybe Andy would be graduating college and be engaged to Bonnie’s cousin, so then Bonnie could take Woody and the gang to the wedding, but the toys would have major relationship relapse issues. I would pay to see that. The more important question, though, is who the heck is going to fall in love or even what kind of love (maternal? brotherly?).

The film’s director, John Lasseter, put to ease my skepticism by reassuring what Pixar storytelling is about when it comes to beloved characters. He explained to the L.A. Times that a fourth film would not ruin the series, saying, “A lot of people in the industry view us doing sequels as being for the business of it, but for us it’s pure passion. We only make sequels when we have a story that’s as good as or better than the original.”

Lasseter also decided to lasso in Rashida Jones and Will McCormack as the film’s screenwriters, saying, “They have such a great sense of character and originality. And I wanted to get a strong female voice in the writing of this.”

When the world first met Woody and Buzz nearly 20, yes, 20 years ago, the adult world finally accepted what kids had known all along: toys are alive and want nothing more than to be loved. In reality, this was and continues to be an unmatched marketing campaign for the “Toy Story” franchise. What kid is not going to want to see if his or her cowboy doll will start conversing with the teddy bear as soon as the coast is clear?

I’ll trust the Pixar gods for now. They know and love these characters more than any critic, and they know how much we love them. They will take care of Woody and Buzz. They will play nice.

“Oh the sentimentality, it consumes me,” I thought to myself melodramatically during that first four-hour car ride, holding Woody in my hand as though he were poor Yorek.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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