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Posted at 02:47 PM ET, 06/27/2011

‘Toy Story 4’: Is it happening?


"Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation,” the short that precedes “Cars 2.” (AP)

Tom Hanks is supposed to be doing press interviews to generate publicity for his new film, “Larry Crowne.” But instead, at least Monday, he’s inadvertently focused a lot of attention on a fourth “Toy Story” movie.

During a new interview with the BBC, he said that “Toy Story 4”is happening.

“I think there will be, yeah,” he told a reporter who asked whether there will be another film involving Hanks’s Woody and Co. “I think they’re working on it now.”

Hold on there, pardner. Pixar, it appears, was not quite ready to make this announcement yet.

I called the studio this afternoon and was told by a publicity rep that “we’re not commenting.” Translation, assuming that the respectable Mr. Hanks is telling the truth: Woody the cowboy was totally not supposed to break this news for us.

Obviously, official studio confirmation is still needed. But for the sake of argument, as well as Buzz Lightyear, let’s discuss whether this is a good idea. Should “Toy Story” continue as a franchise, or is this a case of Pixar wrongly attempting to push a beloved and highly marketable movie series to an infinity and beyond where it doesn’t belong?

This “Toy Story” announcement comes at a particularly dicey time for Pixar. “Cars 2” is the No. 1 movie in America, but it’s also the worst-reviewed film in Pixar history, with a shockingly bad 33 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some reviewers, as well as some audience members, seem to be catching a whiff of something they never smelled on Pixar before: The notion that money-making opportunities might be coming first, while story — something Pixar’s great minds have been masters of — is starting to come second.

A fourth “Toy Story” would be the third sequel the studio has recently greenlit for upcoming release. In addition to “Cars 2,” “Monsters University,” the follow-up to “Monsters, Inc.,” is slated for release in June 2013. (Pixar also has two original movies, “Brave” and a recently announced top-secret project, on the horizon as well.)

In other words, perhaps the most beloved and trusted movie brand in Hollywood is at a potential crossroads, one where critics are ready to blast the studio’s creative team at the slightest hint that it hasn’t unspooled a yarn that is sublime on every level. And if lucrative toy tie-ins are starting to be more of a motivator than love of artistry, a mantra among Pixarians, critics have every right to, well, criticize.

But let’s not consider this “Toy Story 4” idea — again, if it’s even a definite deal — as evidence of the potential demise of Pixar. As bummed as I am about “Cars 2’s” inability to live up to Pixar’s admittedly high standards, I don’t think all sequels at the studio should be dismissed outright.

In fact, while watching and loving “Toy Story 3” last summer, it occurred to me that they were setting things up for a potential continuation. Now all the toys are in the hands of the adorable little Bonnie, a potential replacement for Andy. And we met, all too briefly, some new toy characters, including Trixie and Mr. Pricklepants, not to mention Barbie and Ken. Surely the brains at Pixar can devise an imaginative story line that involves our old favorites and these fresh, just-as-lovable playthings. Actually, we know they can, since they already did to a brief degree with “Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation,” the short that precedes “Cars 2.” (And a short, it must be noted, that has already spawned its own line of action figures.)

In any case, Tom Hanks seems to think they can. As a matter of fact, he seems to know so.

By  |  02:47 PM ET, 06/27/2011

Categories:  Movies

 
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