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Why “Toy Story 4” Is not a Kid’s Film

“Cars 2” was universally panned for its weird torture scene, and while I found it the best of the Cars series, most people didn’t appreciate the adult themes in a child’s movie. “Toy Story 4” doesn’t have the torture scene though it does have a half toy and a scene of involving dummies trying to rip Woody’s voice box from him. As for adult themes, “Toy Story 4” runs circles around Lightning McQueen and friends, and they make the film deep and darkly depressing. There are scores of Easter Eggs for the Pixar fan, including “Lifted” and Dinoco.

Spoilers after the trailer.

The first part of the film contains elements from previous films. A flashback to nine years ago shows what Woody is willing to do so that no toy is left behind and how Bo Peep is removed from the home. It also shows how Woody is tempted to leave Andy for the love of Bo Peep, but his loyalty to Andy keeps him home.

Flash forward and Woody is abandoned in the closet. His “Sheriff” badge is given to Jessie while Bonnie plays games with all the other toys. Woody puts on a brave face and does his best to keep everyone safe and organized. However, his disappointment and pain are clear. When Bonnie faces the trauma of going to Kindergarten, Woody tags along and helps her build a new friend. The new friend is a spork that wants to be in the trash, so Woody spends an entire song trying to keep the spork from throwing itself away. Much of the rest of the film involves Woody trying to save the spork from an antique store.

During his adventures, Woody meets up with Bo Peep, who has been on her own for years, and is faced with a decision: Does he go back to “his kid” or does he stay with the love of his life? This parallels the exact decision that adults have to make when it comes to their relationships or their children, except Woody is abandoning his child for his old flame.

The choice he makes is disturbing on several levels. Woody chooses Bo Peep going against his long-held beliefs about loyalty and no toy left behind – something he learned in the first film during his rivalry with Buzz.

He also goes against his character traits of compassion and selflessness, which are still on display moments before his final decision. The implication is that if your child ignores you, it’s okay to abandon that child for someone else. When the going gets tough, Woody leaves.

If Woody is the father in this scenario (the film revolves around getting back to his child), Bonnie is being left in a selfish decision that is spurred on by Buzz, who misunderstands what his inner voice is. In essence, Woody is spending his child’s inheritance and never going to see her again.

But he’s not just abandoning Bonnie. He’s abandoning the toys that he’s become a leader to, and he’s abandoning his friends. Woody choosing carnal love over enduring the hardships if familial love that come with a changing position and lifestyle is exactly what many people are doing nowadays.

For more Disney-related analysis, order “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

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Disney California Adventure 2019 photos

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Disney Fox Merger Sounds Death Knell for Creatives

Book cover for Penguinate! The Disney Company

The official merger of Disney and Fox has sounded the death knell for creativity. While scooping up Fox’s assets is the right business decision for Disney, it is one that writers, movie makers, ad executives and other creatives should fear.

With Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Fox, and its own studio, Disney will own an estimated 40% of the box office. The merger allows Disney to exercise economies of scale and negotiating power not seen this side of Wal-Mart.

Writers already face enormous competition to get their stories read. Every indie writer out there who wants to see their stories on the big screen has just had their chances reduced by one major player. Making a living as a writer is difficult enough without having Fox’s ability to seek out new storylines withdrawn from the market.

Looking at Disney’s upcoming movie slate, Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King are remakes of animated films. Dumbo will have to lose the crows. Will Smith will have to do his own genie thing because it would be ridiculous to copy Robin Williams. Other than that, these three films look to be Xerox photo copies of their animated counterparts. We’ve already seen them and we’re going to see them again.

The sequels list is longer. With Avengers: Endgame, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far from Home (though not as far as you might think), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Frozen II and Star Wars Episode IX on the slate, there is hardly any room for an original idea. While sequels can bring something new to franchise, they don’t require as much risk taking or creativity to make.

Which leaves Disney with Artemis Fowl and with DisneyNature’s Penguins as its only non-sequel, non-remake movies coming out in 2019. With 11 films left on the slate, Disney has one new story that will probably flop and a documentary to offer. Take a moment to ponder that.

Even if Disney remains true to form and let’s Fox operate the way Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm have, Fox was depending on its Avatar sequels and X-Men films to keep it in the black. Films Disney was already on board with.

Creativity will have to come from film makers with smaller budgets who, despite lacking marketing savvy and budgets for said marketing, have a film hit big. Like writers, these smaller film makers will have to find a way to cut through the noise of modern media and its giants to harness the power of going viral, and they’re going to need you to help. It’s going to be an uphill battle for creative people to get out there, but it always has been.

(Full disclosure: I own Disney Stock ad will go see all the Disney/Marvel/Pixar branded movies they make.)

For more thoughts on the Disney company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” For more on creativity, buy “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Photos from Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure

Pixar Pier sign

The Disneyland Resort is still trying to figure out what it needs to do to get more people flowing into its second gate: Disney California Adventure. Retheming Pixar Pier is the start of the Disney Company’s ambitious plans. However, it does nothing to change the equation on a higher level. Pixar Pier is laid out the same way. With the only space left to occupy being the place where the old Maliboomer used to be, it’s hard to see anything drawing more than Toy Story Midway Mania does now. The Incredicoaster did have a long wait on a night when there was no “World of Color.” Gone are the days of 20 minutes to get on the only inverted loop in the Disneyland Resort.