You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything about Toy Story 4 in over a week. That hasn’t been due to a mistake, or an oversight, or not having any new info or the time to write up a post about it. It’s because I’m really discouraged with the attitude that has been surrounding this movie lately. It’s getting even worse as the release date approaches, and I’ve come to the point where I have to decide how much is enough.
Back when I started this blog, in September 2015, it was with a sense of joyful anticipation. Toy Story 4 had been announced in the fall of 2014, and the D23 Expo in the summer of 2015 had provided some new details about the movie, as well as the news for Toy Story Land in Walt Disney World. We were on the cusp of what was, to me, a thrilling time to be a Toy Story fan. After believing Toy Story 3 was the end, and the last of the TV specials having aired with no new shorts in the works, it was exciting to have something to look forward to again, and to share every little discovery I stumbled upon. Those of us who have been fans since then (or earlier) rode the waves of disappointment with each of the setbacks Toy Story 4 faced, and hoped that the film would come out stronger for the extra time and the longer wait we had to endure.
Fast forward to 2019. The first real updates in years trickled out. Leaks of character images surfaced, before we even had anything official from Pixar. But while some of us were positive about the newness, the negativity started to loom larger and larger on the horizon. Bo’s new look was “ugly.” So was the redesign of her sheep. Childhoods were “ruined” by the updated animation style of Andy. All was apparently lost because there was a photorealistic cat instead of Andy’s dog, Buster – even though the toys live with Bonnie now. Time after time I’d post something I’d found, only for the comments to be littered with hate. Sure, I’d delete them where I could, and block the worst offenders, but new ones always popped up. It was inevitable.
Then the factions started developing. It’s no secret that Jessie is my favorite character. I’m not unbiased in my writings; I make that clear. Why is she so important to me? I’ve written about it before, but to simplify it here, it’s because her personal struggles – her anxiety, panic attacks, and abandonment issues – resonate deeply with me. Also, her relationship with Buzz has always reminded me of my husband and myself. But when I started getting concerned about her role in Toy Story 4, suddenly I became labeled a Bo hater. Suddenly I had people commenting on my posts and sending me private messages just to say “Jessie sucks.” Okay, I’m not five, I can deal with the immature insults, but why is this necessary? I never said I hated Bo. I never said I didn’t want her to have her moment. And I never said I thought Jessie should be the star. Why does it have to be one or the other? All I wanted was to see Jessie have her fair share of screen time – and honestly, to see both girls get to have some scenes together, as friends themselves. Is that too much to ask? Does that justify harassment?
Now, with the Toy Story 4 book releases upon us, the latest ire is focused on those who want to read the story in advance. I have been upfront about ordering several of the books – but I have also been adamant that I would not share spoilers. And I’ve already explained that I identify with Jessie because of anxiety. These characters mean the world to me, and I have been fraught with nerves through the duration of the movie’s very vague marketing campaign, worrying about the absence of my favorite character and the rest of the classic gang, as well as concern over the “emotional” way the film is supposed to end. Back in the day, I read the Toy Story 3 junior novel – in the store, not even at home – weeks before I first saw the movie, and I have never regretted it one bit. While the rest of the theater was fear-stricken over the incinerator scene, I knew everything was going to be okay. I could pay attention to the details, and savor the scenes more fully. To me, that’s far better than risking a panic attack over a dire-looking chain of events – and it makes me no less of a fan for wanting to know the outcome ahead of time. But that’s me. Those who want to avoid spoilers aren’t less worthy fans, either. I have friends on both sides of the debate; I respect both opinions; and I adjust what I discuss with them accordingly. Yet just like with everything else in society – and on the internet especially – everything has to be cut and dry, black or white, wrong or right, my way or the highway. There’s no room for understanding.
I remember when Toy Story 3 came out, it was one of the happiest summers of my life. My son was three years old, and it was going to be his first movie in the theater. My family was visiting from across the country, and we were going to get to go to the movies and see it all together. I remember the thrill of each new commercial, the paso doble preview on Dancing with the Stars, and the daily discoveries of new fanart, fanfiction, and treasures when I was out shopping – as well as the new friendships that were forged, quite a few of which remain to this day, and have only gotten better with time. As this storm of Toy Story 4 contention has been brewing and gaining intensity, these friends and I have turned more and more to each other, keeping our discussion between ourselves, like it was back in the good old days. Just this past weekend, I was out shopping with one of my fangirl friends, and found THE cutest Jessie plush I think I’ve ever seen. I squealed in the middle of the store and didn’t even stop to think about sharing the merchandise display in my Instagram stories or how quickly I needed to write about the other new toys they had in stock. I bought her, I reveled in my find, and enjoyed the moment. And THAT is what fandom is supposed to be about – not about competition, or proving who’s the “better” fan. It’s about the happiness that a movie (or television series, or book, or whatever it may be) brings, and all the positive things that can come out of it.
It’s after three in the morning here now, but I couldn’t sleep because all of this turmoil going through my head. All this over a movie that was supposed to bring me – and my fellow fans – joy, not strife. I had to get it out, with the hope that maybe then, I could find some peace. But where does this leave things? I honestly don’t know. All I know is I want to feel now like I did back in 2010. It’s a rare and special thing to get a new movie in your favorite franchise, and I want to enjoy the ride. I don’t know what I’m going to feel after I read the books – but I will read them, every one, cover to cover, as my husband plans to do with me. Regardless of the outcome, I am looking forward to seeing Toy Story 4 in the theater – and we only have six weeks left until it’s finally out. Before long, the hype that we’ve waited for since 2014 will have moved on to the next big thing (along with all the bandwagoners). Do I want to waste that brief window of time defending myself online? Or do I want to hold it close to my heart, and appreciate it with those who understand me and where I’m coming from? I don’t know what I’ll choose to do when the next bit of news comes out; I’ll make that decision when the time comes. But for now, I need to find my happy place again. Because that’s what really matters.
Image © Disney/Pixar. Rant all my own.