One of the many pleasures of each new Toy Story movie is that we get new, tear-jerking songs from Randy Newman. From the iconic “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” to his Oscar-winning “We Belong Together,” Randy Newman writes music for this franchise that matches the heart of the characters and the story being told. That trend looks to continue with Toy Story 4. Take a look below to see the toys coming to life in the video for “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy.”
In keeping with the tradition of Toy Story songs, Randy Newman’s “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy” is equal parts tear-jerking and heartwarming. The song is obviously told from the perspective of Tom Hanks’ Woody, and country singer Chris Stapleton was appropriately tapped to be the voice of the lonesome cowboy.
Whereas “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” speaks to the dynamic of friendships and how friends are there for one another, “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy” tells the sad story of what it's like when you don’t have friends and what a difference friends can make in your life. It’s a sentiment that can basically be summed up as ‘no toy is an island’ and everyone needs friends.
It is quite sad to think about Woody as a lonesome cowboy because he’s had other toy friends since we first met him in Toy Story. But the lyrics of this song make it seem like there may be something still broken in our favorite cowboy that he will need his friends to fix.
The trailers have made it seem like Toy Story 4 is very much Woody’s story and how closely the lyrics of “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy” match the story of the film will ultimately determine whether you need one box of tissues or two.
The way the lyrics play out with the video, we see that the friends that came along and changed Woody’s life are Buzz Lightyear and Bo Peep. Perhaps it is the return of the latter that cures Woody of his loneliness and whatever crisis he is going through in the film. I can’t help but wonder though if for Woody to not feel lonely anymore, he has to stay with Bo, and that means leaving the rest of his friends.
Although I expect Toy Story 4 to have no shortage of crushing scenes, the visuals in “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy” video are actually pretty upbeat, reflecting what the friendship among the toys means and not Woody’s loneliness. So despite the evidence to the contrary, we can still hope for a happy ending with all the toys together like they are at the end of this music video.
You’ll also notice at the end of the video, the license plate on the RV is ‘TS-A113’ from Emeryville. These are fun little Easter eggs because Emeryville, California is where Pixar Animation Studios is headquartered. A113 shows up in every Pixar movie and is a reference to a classroom by graphic design students, including Pixar luminaries like Brad Bird and John Lasseter, at the California Institute of the Arts.