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Having said that, it took a while for Toy Story 4 to become the movie that we all saw in theaters this past summer. Several different writers were involved in the project and large portions of the film were rewritten. While it isn't all that usual for Pixar movies to go through significant changes over time, Toy Story 4 felt like it was going through even more rewriting than usual.
However, the crew at Pixar knew that they had to justify Toy Story 4's existence, and that meant making a movie with, among other things, an emotionally impactful ending. We know that Toy Story 4 had a very different ending at one point, one in which Bo Peep and Woody made the decision to go their separate ways. Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley says in the special features to the Toy Story 4 Blu-ray, that, while that ending had all the emotion they were looking for, it ultimately was missing something else, a satisfying character arc for Woody. According to Cooley...
Finding the ending of a movie is extremely hard. Especially a Toy Story film where you want it to be really impactful, and really emotional. This one came pretty close. In this ending, Bo saw this child that she really connected with and she realized ‘oh, I really would like to be with a kid again.’ And Woody realized in that moment ‘I’m going to have to let Bo go.’ So it’s much more bittersweet in terms of their relationship. I really liked this ending, but we realized Woody wasn’t changing as a character. He was kinda just the same Woody that he was at the beginning of the movie and everything just kinda reset. And we were trying to avoid that. So this ending, even though it was emotional just ended up not being quite right for the film.
The feeling from many was that Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending for the series. We saw Andy grow up and eventually grow out of his toys. They moved on to a new owner, where they would be loved and played with again. However, as Josh Cooley and others at Pixar told me when I visited the studio earlier this year, the idea that Toy Story 3 had to be the end only makes sense if you believe the movies are about Andy, and they're not, they've always been about Woody.
Woody has grown and changed a great deal over the course of the Toy Story movies. In the first one, he's jealous of Buzz Lightyear for usurping Woody's position as the favorite toy. In Toy Story 4, Woody becomes the protector and champion of Forky when the craft project becomes Bonnie's favorite.
Making Toy Story 4 only makes sense if Woody is going to continue to grow as a character, and the original ending to Toy Story 4 doesn't show that growth. If everything just returns to the status quo, then the entire adventure for the characters becomes less important.
It's difficult to imagine that the Toy Story franchise could have anywhere else left to go. Of course, we've said that before.
Toy Story 4 is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K starting today. It can also be found in Digital HD.