We’ve all grown up with the Toy Story franchise. The drooling toddlers that attended Pixar’s game-changing original back in 1995 are now driving, voting – and preparing to take their own kids to the insanely anticipated Toy Story 4 on 21 June.
If that’s you, save yourself from whispering throughout the entire film, and get your tots up to speed with this wham-bam guide to Toy Story 4’s main characters and their stories so far.
It shouldn’t happen to a cartoon cowboy. Leader of the gang since the start, this floppy lawmaker has been through the wringer in service of original human owner, Andy. Lost and framed for murder in Toy Story. Stolen by toy-museum goons in Toy Story 2. Enslaved at a pre-school by an evil pink teddy in Toy Story 3.
After the teenage Andy gifted his toys to local toddler Bonnie, Woody hoped for a quiet life. But in Toy Story 4, there’s a new toy ruffling feathers, a road trip that goes horribly wrong, and an existential crisis. “I was made to help a child,” sighs Woody. “I don’t remember it being this hard...”
Created from plastic cutlery and pipe cleaners in her arts and crafts class, Forky is Bonnie’s new favourite toy in Toy Story 4, and the noble Woody is happy to step aside (“Forky is the most important toy to Bonnie right now – we all have to make sure nothing happens to him”).
Trouble is, this loose cannon considers himself a utensil, not a toy – “I was made for soup, salad and chilli!” – and when he leaps from the window during a family road trip, he sparks the gang’s biggest adventure yet.
A quarter-century ago, this square-jawed Space Ranger swaggered out of his packaging to replace Woody in Andy’s affections.
Back then, Buzz was a delusional egomaniac who refused to believe he was ‘just’ a toy, and the pair’s rivalry was the heart of the original movie. But they bonded during the escape from the bedroom of Andy’s toe-rag neighbour, Sid, and if it wasn’t for Buzz’s heroic rescue in Toy Story 2, Woody would still be gathering dust in a Tokyo toy museum display cabinet. Now, when Woody follows Forky into the wilderness, it’s down to Buzz to rally the toy-box troops.
This shepherdess was a low-key presence in the early movies, mostly memorable for making Woody blush with a pecked cheek. But in the new Toy Story, as Woody and Forky stumble across an old curiosity shop in a theme park, they find a more assertive Bo, who makes them question whether to return to Bonnie at all.
“Open your eyes, Woody,” she coos, gesturing over the fairground that could be the cowboy’s new home. “Who needs a kid’s room when you can have all of this?”
Usually found propping up the counter of the fairground shooting gallery, and swapping tall tales about that time they fought off a Cabbage Patch Kid, this motormouth double-act supply the belly laughs in TS4.
“They’re effortlessly funny, which would be enough,” says Cooley. “But they’re [also] incredible actors that understand story. Their improvs weren’t just for comedy sake, they were story- motivated.”
Everyone has owned a toy like Duke Caboom: a motorbike stunt rider who can’t quite perform the tricks his packaging promises.
Fresh from the ultra-violence of John Wick 3, Reeves is a brilliantly leftfield choice for the swaggering daredevil with the secret inferiority complex. “Keanu became Duke Caboom,” says producer Jonas Rivera. “At one point he stood up on the table and struck poses while proclaiming victory. It was so funny. It’s all in the movie and it’s all Keanu.”