You can’t accuse Pixar of not hyping Toy Story 4 enough. There have been billboards and posters up on every surface, and we first saw the preview in theaters last Christmas. For months my kids have been bemoaning that it doesn’t come out until June. Eli has insisted we get to every movie for the last six months just in case there’s the trailer he’s already seen of the movie 1,000 times.

Well, guess what? June finally arrived.

I decided to take them out of school early last Thursday to see the very first showing in San Francisco. I’m either the best mom or the worst mom, but I know which way Eli and Evie would vote. We did not feel let down.

The entire Toy Story oeuvre is representative of how Pixar changed the game for animation. Sure there’s the computer generated animation itself. Early on, the software wasn’t sophisticated enough to render people very well which is why some of the first movies were about toys or cars or fish or monsters.

But clearly, that’s caught up. The biggest leap forward was a $200 million software bet Steve Jobs made while still running the company to completely rebuild the animation engine—enabling for the first time characters to have curly hair or to see individual hairs move in the wind. We got to see the spoils of that bet first with Brave, where curly hair was a major feature.

But the real way Pixar changed animation was its heart-first storytelling. And that’s what’s stayed consistent if you look at the very first film and the most recently released one. They have famously made films adults love to watch as much as kids, but they also always assumed their kids could handle tough, real-life concepts. And not just “Oh, the mom died. Again.”  

Pixar always refused to compromise on story. In the Michael Eisner Disney era, sequels were almost embarrassing direct-to-DVD pale copies of the original movies. A way to do little more than wring more cash out of the original hits. Pixar taught Disney that sequels and the kids dying to revisit that world again should be treated with respect.

Toy Story 3 was the most extreme of the emotional tear-jerkers and the scariest. I don’t know an adult who hasn’t cried watching that movie. Eli was a little worried that Toy Story 4 would up that game even more, but it had more subtlety in its emotion. Yes, I did cry. But there was even more of a blurred line between hero and villain in the story. And if Toy Story 3 was about kids growing up and the toys (proxy for the parents, in some ways) having to let go, Toy Story 4 expanded on that theme.

What happens when you give your entire life to a child and then they no longer need you? There’s a different answer this time around that seems to signal the finality of the series.

(Also Forky is possibly the best character in the entire Toy Story cannon.)

Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:

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