Early reviews for Toy Story 4 are in, and one thing is abundantly clear: The world is about to fall in love with Forky.
That’s right, the neurotic new character voiced by Veep’s Tony Hale is tipped to steal the show in the fourth (and possibly final) entry in the enduring animated franchise. Who could resist that goofy grin, the unibrow, and those pipe cleaner arms?
Forky is joined by a cadre of other new toy-faces as well, with the voices of Christina Hendricks; both titular stars of the late, great Key & Peele; and the internet’s boyfriend, Keanu Reeves. No matter how much the ensemble expands, though, or how hard we fall for Forky, the real draw of this series will always be the core group of toys at its center, and the emotional range they’ve activated in viewers through their onscreen adventures going back to 1995.
It’s been a long 24 years since the first Toy Story and we’ve all been busy. If you haven’t seen each of the previous films, or have somehow avoided even the original, here’s your one-stop shop to get caught up so you don’t have to go in cold for Forky Fest this weekend.
The toys you need to know
Woody and Buzz Lightyear: The dynamic between this duo is the original foundation of the franchise. Cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) was the most beloved toy in young Andy’s collection, and the leader of it, before astronaut Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) showed up. The two initially tangled but then became best buds.
Rex: A rather timid tyrannosaurus, voiced by the inimitable Wallace Shawn.
Slinky Dog: Woody’s most faithful defender, who speaks in a laconic drawl originally supplied by Jim Varney, until he passed away; now voiced by Blake Clark.
Hamm: The good-natured piggybank voiced by Pixar’s ubiquitous John Ratzenberger.
Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head: Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) has a love/hate relationship with just about everyone, constantly slinging sarcasm and insults. Although Rickles passed away back in 2017, the Toy Story team mined his audio archives for usable lines to keep the character in the new film. Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris) joined the gang in Toy Story 2 and evened out her insta-husband’s personality somewhat.
Jessie: This cowgirl counterpart to Woody first appeared in Toy Story 2, when we found out that Woody was the lead toy in a faddish Howdy Doody-era kid’s show called The Round Up Gang. Jessie is played with total commitment by Joan Cusack.
Bullseye: A silent, equestrian former member of the Round Up Gang.
The aliens: Voiced by Jeff Pidgeon, these overzealous, three-eyed scene-stealers always turn up in Toy Story movies, forever damaged by their formative experience inside a grabber game.
Trixie and Buttercup: A triceratops (Kristen Schaal) and a unicorn (Jeff Garlin) introduced in Toy Story 3. Trixie immediately became cozy with Rex when they were introduced.
Get ready for an easter egg hunt
The first three Toy Story films are rife with Easter eggs and references to other movies. Whether it’s the carpet from The Shining’s Overlook Hotel turning up in sociopathic Sid’s house in Toy Story, Slinky Dog’s nod to that other Tom Hanks project, Forrest Gump, in Toy Story 2, or hints of the supposed shared Pixar universe, you’re gonna wanna keep your eyes peeled.
Bo Peep and Woody’s relationship
In Toy Story, Bo Peep was flirtatious with Woody—”What do you say I get somebody else to watch my flock tonight”—before developing a crush on the newly arrived Buzz Lightyear. By Toy Story 2, Bo and Woody had rekindled their interest in each other, but there was too much going on with the whole Woody-gets-kidnapped plot for many sparks to fly. While Bo is out of the picture for Toy Story 3–thrown away in a purge from Andy’s room that apparently included Etch-a-Sketch–it appears she’ll play a major role in the new film. Perhaps just like Andy playing with his forgotten toys, these two will pick things up right where they left off.
Why you’re going to cry
Even more so than other Pixar properties, the Toy Story series is laced through and through with extremely emotional themes for adults and kids alike. These films are as much about the inexorable march of time as Boyhood, as concerned with mortality as The Seventh Seal, and as infused with existentialism as any Charlie Kaufman project. These films are every bit as profound as they are funny. When Buzz asks Woody at the end of Toy Story 2 whether he’s still worried about when their owner Andy will stop playing with them, the reply is: “It will be fun while it lasts.” By the end of Toy Story 3, the toys greet their impending doom by incinerator (it’s a long story) with the same level of grace and zen. Don’t let the presence of Forky fool you, my friends: Toy Story 4 will have you in tears. Hell, maybe just thinking about everyone and everything you’ve loved and lost since the first Toy Story will make that happen.
Where we last left everyone
Well, we don’t quite know where Bo Peep is, but all of Andy’s other remaining toys went to a new little girl named Bonnie by the end of Toy Story 3, as Andy headed off to college. (Trixie and Buttercup were Bonnie’s toys to begin with.) Presumably, the gang has spent the intervening years since the previous film waiting around for Forky to arrive.