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For the fourth time, the characters of Toy Story face abandonment. They end up lost, accidentally separated from their kid, and spend the rest of Toy Story 4, trying to get back.

In spite of their familiarity, Pixar’s touch gives each Toy Story a certain flair. Where Toy Story 3 moved Andy toward adulthood, Toy Story 4 reverts to kindergarten. In that, Toy Story 4 becomes Woody’s (Tom Hanks) story, albeit with a mature hand that moralizes about accepting change.

Toy Story 4 retells Toy Story 3, but does so from the toy perspective. It’s no longer the kids coming to terms with letting go. Now it’s Woody understanding the meaning, the importance of a moment: Just one moment or one thing. Whatever that is matters more than Woody being in the backpack of his new kid Bonnie. Toy Story 4 begins with Woody peeking from a closest, ignored and collecting dust. Woody’s ego always hung over this series, and this blow begins a smart, clever character progression.

Toy Story 4 retells Toy Story 3, but does so from the toy perspective

There’s an antique shop at the center of Toy Story 4. The villain resides there, a doll named Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) ignored for years because of a broken voice box. In Woody, Gabby Gabby sees a chance to speak and be loved, if only he she took his internal voice.

That’s a critical motif – conscience. Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) takes this to a comical extreme, while Woody listens to his; it tells him everything. Toy Story 4 deflates his sense of self-importance. Woody is a hero insofar that anyone notices. When Bonnie connects to a malformed spork, designating it her favorite toy, it’s clear Woody no longer matters.

Although Forky (Tony Hale) is hilarious and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) becomes a key figure, the heart of Toy Story 4 is Gabby Gabby. It’s this doll that never had anything. No kid, no playtime. She’s labeled defective and was when she left the factory. Through her, Woody comes to see all that he was given through Andy. He misses that time (even saying Andy’s name instead of Bonnie’s), and understands the need to pass that on.

Therein is the Toy Story 3 element, another movie about letting go and moving on, even if growing up functions differently in toys from the human characters. It’s not incorrect to say Toy Story 4 doesn’t need to exist, but the first three movies were Andy’s. To its credit, Toy Story 4 finds the way to keep going, delivers a strong character arc, and does so with another emotionally crushing ending.

Video

Unless unknowingly done elsewhere, Toy Story 4 is the first all-4K rendered CG animated film. With current techniques and textures, that means an absolutely pristine, sharp transfer to UHD. Minor things look better. Maybe not holding ready made eye-catching power, but facial textures and cloth stand out. Scuffs on Woody’s hat and imperfections on Lightyear’s plastic never looked so perfect.

The real boost comes from wide shots. Whether of a house, scenic mountains, or the carnival, the resolution brings a level of sharpness unparalleled. That goes for anything, whether videogame or live action movie. That precision delivers the best available material on this format, even if only a small part Toy Story 4.

If there’s a downer, that’s the HDR pass. It’s grand in terms of shadows. The opening takes place at night, in a storm, and under a car. Black level density shines, flawless in falling toward pure black while sustaining gradients. Highlights tend not to carry that spark, albeit with exceptions. Again at night, carnival rides light up and a brief sequences in the antique shop among crystal chandeliers reflects intense brightness. However, the rest lingers, mostly droll and adequate.

A minuscule grain filter runs through the image. It’s so tiny as to be imperceptible for most of the runtime. Disney’s encode (and it’s a rather small file size) doesn’t have to fight to keep up. That means pure color stays as such, vividly saturated without compression problems. Primaries bulk up, glowing as needed. HDR aside, there’s enough to Toy Story 4 to label it reference.

Audio

After the end credits, there’s a short sequence where two toys imagine themselves as giant monsters. It’s as if in that moment, the Dolby Atmos track remembers there’s a subwoofer because there’s practically nothing happening in the low-end prior. In other words, it’s Disney and Atmos.

Even in terms of positional channels, this mix is a wimp. After the intro drops rain into each speaker (including overheads), things settle. Most action follows through the fronts, ignoring surrounds unless necessary to track visual motion. Ambiance never picks up, even when in the carnival setting. There’s a little fun when under a carousel, but this is another Disney dud.

Extras

The UHD holds nothing, not even a commentary from director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen – that’s on the Blu-ray only. Continuing on the 1080p side, a short Bo Peep featurette runs six minutes while exploring her role and design. Cast and crew discuss their personal connections to toys in Toy Stories, running six minutes.

There’s an additional bonus disc, although hardly worth the plastic. A short peek at voice recording with actress Ally Maki runs just short of six minutes. A recap of Buzz and Woody’s story barely makes it past three minutes. A playground scene is dissected by the animation team, a nine-minute peek behind-the-scenes. The carnival set earns a run through that lasts a whole minute. Five new characters earn separate featurettes (13 minutes total), with incomplete deleted scenes making it to 28-minutes.

Toy Story 4
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Where Andy’s story found a conclusion, Toy Story 4 hones in on Woody’s journey and realizations of his place making this sequel purposeful.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 42 full 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: