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June 24, 2019 11:37 PM   Subscribe

Toy Story 4’s Forky Has Haunting Metaphysical Implications for the Toy Story Universe (Slate) "A new Toy Story movie is in theaters this weekend, and as audiences all over the world emerge from another thrilling Pixar adventure with Buzz, Woody, and a newly-independent Bo Peep, one question is on everyone’s lips: “What does the introduction of ‘Forky,’ a homemade toy fashioned from pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and a spork, imply about the nature of consciousness in the sentient toys of the Toy Story universe?” Fortunately, the films offer enough evidence to reach a definitive conclusion. Unfortunately, that conclusion is too awful to contemplate. So let’s contemplate it!" (Spoilers for Toy Story 4)

"Forky, voiced by Tony Hale, is a tottering, talking existential crisis who is bewildered by his newfound sentience and wants only to return to the trash. He’s also a prime opportunity for Disney to sell a massive quantity of merchandise. With that in mind, I set out to see if I could buck commercialism and genuinely build my own Forky." (Slate)

"It's pretty remarkable, really, that they're able to tackle such complicated human feelings as anxiety, jealousy, inferiority complexes, and depression - considering the series' primary characters aren't humans and are, well, toys. But it's only in the latest and fourth entry in the series, Toy Story 4, that they tackle perhaps the most complex feelings yet: an existential crisis." -Toy Story 4: Forky's 10 Best Quotes, Ranked (ScreenRant)
posted by lesser weasel (58 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was so horrified by the first movie that I didn't watch sequels. The toys love the children. The children can never find out.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 12:29 AM on June 25 [11 favorites]


There's more overthinking of the franchise's metaphysical implications here. "Toy Story 3 is the scripture for the religion these anthropomorphic toys would have created for themselves," the writer concludes.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:34 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


The Summer We Got Two Disney Movies With The Voices Of Key & Peele.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:52 AM on June 25


I read the synopsis of Toy Story 4 and was p blown away by a particular plot point involving Forky (I haven’t seen the movie). It literally says “Forky has an existential crisis, believing himself to be trash”. Epitome of my life thus far 🙄
posted by gucci mane at 1:31 AM on June 25 [9 favorites]


Tim Allen in 2019, huh?
posted by Caduceus at 1:33 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


"As with most metaphysical breakthroughs, Mr. Potato Head was the key to unlocking the mystery."
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:25 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


The toys love the children. The children can never find out.

The children will eventually outgrow and forget the toys. The toys are inmortal.
posted by Omon Ra at 2:41 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


Tortillas have nervous systems in the Toy Story universe? Is that a natural process, or are tortilla makers sadistic bio-researchers?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:06 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


If a toy dies, how will the children know the difference? They could be playing with a toy's corpse!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:22 AM on June 25 [24 favorites]


I don't know abut this, but the 'birth scene' clip creeped me out something bad.
posted by carter at 3:34 AM on June 25


If a toy dies, how will the children know the difference? They could be playing with a toy's corpse!

Toys are immortal as shown by the plush ripped in half by Dragon the cat (shout out to The Secret of NIMH!)
posted by PenDevil at 3:36 AM on June 25 [4 favorites]


Is ... anyone else kind of not impressed by the articles that have appeared after nearly every kid's movie of the past few decades where the author comes to the astonishing realization that if children's toys / pets / video game characters / food animals / furniture / whatever really *did* have human-level intelligence in the manner portrayed, they would be living in a CONSTANT ORWELLIAN HELL?

I mean, uh, yes? These are children's fantasy movies that use anthropomorphism as a means of creating a symbolic metaphor, and therefore will not hold up when examined in a manner that's too in-depth or literal? Welcome to the deep epiphany the rest of us got about this somewhere in early adolescence, I guess?
posted by kyrademon at 3:39 AM on June 25 [47 favorites]


I just listened to the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast where they said, "welcome to the summer of Forky think-pieces" and then opened Metafilter to see this thread.
posted by octothorpe at 4:02 AM on June 25 [21 favorites]



If a toy dies, how will the children know the difference? They could be playing with a toy's corpse!


I floated this idea to my partner and her kids (13 and 16, respectively) a few weeks ago over dinner when talking about the new movie. They were collectively horrified. I forget sometimes my sense of humor runs a lot darker than other people's...
posted by jzb at 4:22 AM on June 25 [10 favorites]


These are children's fantasy movies that use anthropomorphism as a means of creating a symbolic metaphor, and therefore will not hold up when examined in a manner that's too in-depth or literal? Welcome to the deep epiphany the rest of us got about this somewhere in early adolescence, I guess?

yeah, sadly it seems like "the rest of us" is a much smaller pool than your phrasing would imply

to me this is just a symptom of our Cinema-Sins-stained discourse, where everyone treats fictional universes like Literal Things to be examined or discarded for their truth value. we must examine everything as if writing a grim new entry for Lostpedia

there's a Fun, winking version of this (that Air Bud article posted to the Blue a little ways back being a good example) and then there's whatever darkness lives in men's souls that allows them to spawn umpteen worthy-of-David-Brooks ruminations on kid's movies
posted by Kybard at 4:26 AM on June 25 [16 favorites]


Can't find a link, but there's a bit from an episode of Brad Neely's Harg Nallin' Sclopio Peepio where some kids find out their toys are alive, and then the Woody analog says "and that's not all!" and it turns out the bed is alive, and the pillows, and the walls start talking and the rug says "get off of me!" and the floor says "get off of me" and the garbage says "why did you throw me away, Billy" and everything is taking and complaining and arguing and the kids start screaming and screaming and screaming
posted by phooky at 4:27 AM on June 25 [32 favorites]


I mean, uh, yes? These are children's fantasy movies that use anthropomorphism as a means of creating a symbolic metaphor, and therefore will not hold up when examined in a manner that's too in-depth or literal? Welcome to the deep epiphany the rest of us got about this somewhere in early adolescence, I guess?

I'm pretty sure this article was written not because the author didn't get the metaphor, but because it's funny.
posted by teraflop at 4:35 AM on June 25 [11 favorites]


Found the clip, in case you think the above comment was just a fever dream
posted by phooky at 4:39 AM on June 25 [13 favorites]


But then we have to deal with the question of what, exactly, Mr. Potato Head is doing when he plunges his limbs and mustache and googly eyes into a tortilla and begins walking it around like a puppet.

Have they done a scene where Mr Potato Head's parts are scattered on a chair and some naked guy sits down and the parts jab into his bum and he jumps up in pain and his bum is temporarily Mr Bum Head?

pracowity
age 7
posted by pracowity at 5:37 AM on June 25 [23 favorites]


pracowity, all you need is a camera, an ass, and a dream
posted by phooky at 5:45 AM on June 25 [25 favorites]


Looking for the youtube exposé where the tech nation is scandalized by forky and clippy doing the [REDACTED]
posted by sammyo at 5:52 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


"Is ... anyone else kind of not impressed by the articles that have appeared after nearly every kid's movie of the past few decades where the author comes to the astonishing realization that if children's toys / pets / video game characters / food animals / furniture / whatever really *did* have human-level intelligence in the manner portrayed, they would be living in a CONSTANT ORWELLIAN HELL?:

I haven't been seeing the articles, but there's Ratatouille-- the scene where he sees the shop for supplies for killing rats. More Nazi than Orwellian.

What should we do if we find out that rats are fully sentient?

And I think immortality (probably just not aging) might not be a good deal in exchange for the toys' lives. And I think of Toy Story 1 as being a metaphor about technological unemployment.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:52 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


all you need is a camera, an ass, and a dream

Thank you. This post really put things into perspective for me. It all seems so clear now.
posted by Sterros at 6:20 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


there's a Fun, winking version of this

I'd argue the Slate piece and the Comics Journal one I linked above are both fun and winking in their approaches. "What are the metaphysical implications of this universe?" is just a little intellectual game it's sometimes enjoyable to play.

Part of the pleasure lies simply in the intentionally absurd process of applying high metaphysical theory to a piece of disposable pop culture and watching the sparks these two incompatible worlds strike off one another. It's perfectly possible to do this while also being fully aware no commercial movie could - or even should - be built to withstand that level of scrutiny.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:22 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


an appreciation of its action sequences, fwiw! :P
With Toy Story 4, the Toy Story Series Is Now Hollywood's Greatest Franchise - "The prologue contains a rainy rescue sequence that is shot and paced with the deftness of Steven Spielberg at his prime, and the rest of the film is structured as a series of electrifying, high-stakes set pieces set in and around a touristy encampment, each one staged with thrilling clarity and precision, as well as a keen sense of danger. In an era where putative action films dominate the box office, Pixar's perfectly executed sequences fly high over the rest. Toy Story 4 is the best action movie this year that doesn't feature Keanu Reeves murdering people in a hallway full of knives."
posted by kliuless at 6:28 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


I recently watched all three Toy Story movies with my toddler, having seen them myself at ages 12, 15 and 27, respectively. I came away with a very different feeling about them at 36.

TS1 is the only actual kids movie. It’s good, not great, and I found myself a lot more bothered by the “lower class” signifiers used to convey that Sid’s house is a Bad Place and imply the reasons why Sid is a Bad Kid.

TS2 is the best movie of the three, and probably the most genuinely moving. It’s fun and funny and exciting and touching without being saccharine or overly manipulative. It’s aged up for teens in ‘99, more action oriented, sharper humor. It’s the one my toddler liked best, too.

TS3 is a movie for adults, which I guess makes sense given the 15 year gap between it and TS1. At the risk of being controversial, I think TS3 is almost beat for beat an animated version of Schindler’s List. The toys are preparing to be shipped off to the attic, but instead are rerouted to a day care where they are tortured and held prisoner by a fascist plush bear and his cruel guards. They try to escape and are almost incinerated but get saved by a literal deus ex machina. It’s a genuinely stressful and enervating movie and I did not enjoy it at all upon rewatching. It’s emotionally manipulative in a really crass way. It also contains probably the biggest false note in the series: Andy giving Woody to Bonnie. This would never happen, certainly not given what we’ve seen in the movies so far. Woody is already an heirloom: he’s getting packed away for Andy’s kids, not given away to a family friend. The only purpose for this decision is that the series needs to continue, a purely commercial decision, not a narratively coherent one. TS3 also charmingly lets us know that while Andy is going off to college, Sid from TS1 has become a garbage man. Quelle horror.

I’ve spoiled myself for TS4, and from what I’ve read it betrays the central conceit of the original films in an even more significant way. It’s the “middle age” movie of the series; in TS1-3, the viewer is supposed to identify with Andy, and imagine their favorite toy in Woody’s place. You’re supposed to feel bad that your favorite toy was jealous of your new toy; that your favorite toy missed you when you went to camp: that your favorite toy experienced pain as you got older and left behind childish things.

But it sounds like in TS4, the adult and middle aged viewers are supposed to identify with Woody’s restlessness and Forky’s ennui. It’s a big shift in perspective and one that I think undermines the series as a whole. Maybe they present it better than it reads, it I’m not super interested in finding out.
posted by mpbx at 6:31 AM on June 25 [16 favorites]


I'd kind of hoped that something like Sausage Party would have either permanently satiated or simply shown up as ridiculous the whole critical subgenre of stoned-college-freshman, whoa-have-you-ever-thought-of-the-implications-of-this musings about cartoons. (Note: I have not seen Sausage Party nor do I plan to.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:45 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


My question: Is this article what they call "beanplating"? I was never sure, but I think that might be it.

There's no limit to the amount of mischief you can cause by running around the cultural landscape trying to make metaphors literal. And unless you're somehow unclear on the difference between metaphorical and literal, there's not much to be learned from it.
posted by Flexagon at 7:11 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I mean, uh, yes? These are children's fantasy movies that use anthropomorphism as a means of creating a symbolic metaphor, and therefore will not hold up when examined in a manner that's too in-depth or literal? Welcome to the deep epiphany the rest of us got about this somewhere in early adolescence, I guess?

Yeah, but it's still kind of fucked up that in the Cars universe there was a car Hitler who oversaw a car Holocaust and sentient planes nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki (possibly with sentient nukes).
posted by Sangermaine at 7:33 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


Those who contemplate the nature of Toy Story sentience are hereby condemned to contemplate the functionality of the Star Trek transporter -- consciousness transmitter or suicide booth?
posted by zaixfeep at 7:35 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Beanplating about the literal interpretations of Pixar movies is much more fun than engaging with their metaphorical content, which is always some combination of believe in yourself / the value of hard work and friendship / life is all about change so prepare yourself for puberty. There's simply nothing interesting at all to say about the Cars franchise, for example, except to talk about how bizarre the world is on a literal level.
posted by Pyry at 8:22 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


A Camera, An Ass, and A Dream is the working title for my Brett Ratner biopic.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 8:28 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


I felt so manipulated by TS3, and the breaking point was when all the characters were about to be incinerated and they all passed looks back and forth that they were accepting and ready for their impending doom, only to be rescued at the last moment.
I truly hated that.
Of course I then bawled like a child at the end when Andy passed on his toys.
But that was it, that was the closure, the catharsis the movies provided.
We were done. We are done.

There is no compelling need to re-enter that world.
posted by exparrot at 8:34 AM on June 25 [4 favorites]


If a toy dies, how will the children know the difference?

Have you ever rediscovered a beloved childhood toy, only to find that it's not fun at all now?

It's not that you've grown up, or otherwise changed. It's because the toy has died.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:39 AM on June 25 [32 favorites]


brb off to write a zombie toy blockbuster
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:45 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


felt so manipulated by TS3, and the breaking point was when all the characters were about to be incinerated and they all passed looks back and forth that they were accepting and ready for their impending doom, only to be rescued at the last moment.
I truly hated that.


Some part of me really thought at that moment that they'd really go through with it and incinerate the entire cast but Disney would have never allowed that.
posted by octothorpe at 8:48 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Whenever I see an article on taking a metaphor literally wrung out to it’s “logical” conclusion, I assume it was an assigned piece explicitly looking for clicks piggybacking off popularity and skip right past it.

I thought we were done mashing the Nostalgia button with Toy Story 3? My friend asked me to come with him to see this new one, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone. It’s weirdly incongruous with the previous three movies: the first two I grew up with and don’t remember much, the third was an emotional bait and switch that I didn’t fully buy into, and this new one was too grown up for kids based on the reactions they had in the theater (squirming, not watching the screen, talking to each other). Having that many people credited as writers (and releasing two years late) tells me there was a lot of internal struggle to decide what the movie even was. And great job making sure Lasseter is front and center in the credits 🙄

Key and Peele’s half-baked fantasizing scenes were the best parts of this very unnecessary movie.
posted by Snacks at 8:51 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I saw TS4 last week, and enjoyed it, but come on now. Like any other story, the goal is not to be completely consistent, but to be entertaining, and at the same time make inconsistencies either funny or subtle enough to not break your immersion. These worlds are ad hoc, and they'll change the rules in a second if it's funny or advances the story.

The Mr Potato Head thing is a good example of the first (funny) case: Common sense says his mind must be in the potato part, so the self-disassembly and re-assembly strategy is funny, it violates expectation, and it makes just enough sense.

The remote control cars are an example of the second (subliminal) case: There's one car in the flash-back in the beginning that's clearly sentient... and later there's the badger car that is clearly not: It's steered from the inside using the remote, and if nobody's driving it it, it's just sitting there. So: Are remote control cars toys? Are they sentient? If there are two kinds, what's the difference between them? And who cares?
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 8:56 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


scenes I would like to see in a Toy Story movie:

1. collectible action figures owned by adult men clawing at the inside of their blister packs and gasping for air because they have been kept in their original packaging to preserve their value

2. the Toys plotting to destroy their greatest nemesis, Marie Kondo

do either of these things happen in Toy Story IV because that will go a long way toward determining if these chuckleheads get my box office dollars a fourth time
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:00 AM on June 25 [14 favorites]


pracowity, all you need is a camera, an ass, and a dream

Be right back.
posted by pracowity at 9:26 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


mpbx: "the best movie of the three"

is "Death by Monkeys", the mini movie at the start of TS3, the nostalgic looking back via handheld video paean to the enhanced exhilaration of childish play
posted by chavenet at 9:42 AM on June 25


Those who contemplate the nature of Toy Story sentience are hereby condemned to contemplate the functionality of the Star Trek transporter -- consciousness transmitter or suicide booth?

The person who just arrived on the surface feels fine, and the person who was just deconstructed on the transporter pad isn't complaining, so who cares?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:55 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


scenes I would like to see in a Toy Story movie:

1. collectible action figures owned by adult men clawing at the inside of their blister packs and gasping for air because they have been kept in their original packaging to preserve their value


Toy Story 2 did have the new-in-the-box Prospector owned by an adult man as a collectible.

The original Toy Story 2 plot had more of that conflict between toys as collectibles vs toys as play companions. The turning point was where Woody realises that the collector's other toys only appreciate him for his cash value : they turn their backs on him because his hat gets damaged and he's not worth as much.
Pixar didn't like how that movie turned out on screen, so they rewrote and remade it completely before release.
posted by w0mbat at 10:01 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Are remote control cars toys? Are they sentient? If there are two kinds, what's the difference between them?

Yeah, the old Goofy and Pluto problem.
posted by sjswitzer at 10:22 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


AKA the "Eek A Mouse!" problem.
posted by w0mbat at 10:39 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Toys vs Marie Kondo: The Final Purge

Totally writes itself.

TS3 is almost beat for beat an animated version of Schindler’s List. .... It’s emotionally manipulative in a really crass way.

Now I've gotta download that one.... 'cause.... Team Sid
posted by sammyo at 11:10 AM on June 25


Metafilter: a camera, an ass, and a dream
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:37 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


I recently watched all three Toy Story movies with my toddler, having seen them myself at ages 12, 15 and 27, respectively. I came away with a very different feeling about them at 36.

The analysis from mpbx made me realize that Toy Story is the Up series for a later generation.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:38 AM on June 25


all you need is a camera, an ass, and a dream

In fairness, Werner Herzog has given many inspirational rants which are basically this
posted by oulipian at 11:59 AM on June 25 [4 favorites]



But it sounds like in TS4, the adult and middle aged viewers are supposed to identify with Woody’s restlessness and Forky’s ennui. It’s a big shift in perspective


I actually disagree with this part of your excellent comment. Toy Story as a franchise, to me, typifies the pixar approach of making kids movies that appeal to parents, with parental themes.

Nearly all pixar films have themes of fostering or looking after, but toy story in particular has always been about abandonment.

This... Is not really a kid theme (contrast with a lot of Disney movies, where themes are more around self actualisation and breaking free of boundaries etc).

Also good god damn pixar still can't even get close to a 50-50 gender ratio. I watched the first toy story again on the weekend and like ninety five percent of the lines were male. It wasn't that long ago.
posted by smoke at 2:13 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]


That whole clapping your hands and thanking your items as you Kondo your home has a lot of meaning, now.

As an aside, we use the Toy Story movies as a shorthand about being kind to all things, "Sam, don't be THAT kid!"
posted by jadepearl at 3:11 PM on June 25


I’m going to be honest: I have no idea what metaphor people are talking about.

The first Toy Story film is already science fiction in nature: taking a “what if” to the extreme. The main cast are literal talking and sentient toys. TS2 takes that concept, turns philosophical, and asks, “What makes a toy?” TS4 then expands on the internal logic shown in TS3 and outright wonders: “What makes a toy?”

It’s a silly thing to write thinkpieces on, but to be fair, the movies are already laying the groundwork.
posted by lesser weasel at 3:58 PM on June 25


Anyway, to comment on the second article which I don’t think I’ve seen happen yet, I really enjoyed that in the journey to buck commercialism the author spent $40 in bulk materials to build a homemade Forky. And by enjoyed, I mean that that is something I can see myself doing. And by living vicariously through the author, I now don’t have to, and I’ve saved myself $40. Take that, commercialism and my internal sense of a good idea.
posted by lesser weasel at 4:01 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


What should we do if we find out that rats are fully sentient?

They are. Science has known this for quite some time. “Sentient” just means something is capable of sensation. Friggin’ trees are sentient. Whether they’re sufficiently aware of certain human conflicts of the twentieth century to draw parallels to their own predicament has, to my knowledge, yet to be demonstrated in a laboratory setting, but, hey.

There's no limit to the amount of mischief you can cause by running around the cultural landscape trying to make metaphors literal. And unless you're somehow unclear on the difference between metaphorical and literal, there's not much to be learned from it.

And this, children, is how the ghost of Jacques Derrida came to haunt us for eternity.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:34 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


I take issue with the whole Mr. Potato-head of Theseus argument. Mr Potato-head’s consciousness is always in the potato, but he psychically controls the pieces when they’re not attached to him. No swarm or zombie takeover needed. The tortilla and cucumber do not themselves gain sentience; the sentience is back in the potato, who is using the other stuff to get his parts back to him. Come on. Everybody knows that.
posted by Weeping_angel at 12:38 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


well if the Potato Heads are actually vegetable-based consciousnesses and not sentient toys the whole goddamn series is ruined for me.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:48 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Those who contemplate the nature of Toy Story sentience are hereby condemned to contemplate the functionality of the Star Trek transporter -- consciousness transmitter or suicide booth?

The person who just arrived on the surface feels fine, and the person who was just deconstructed on the transporter pad isn't complaining, so who cares?


They didn't really get into it on the show but "transporter" is actually short for "The New Transported Man", from The Prestige. The warp nacelles of the Starship Enterprise are filled with the drowned corpses of countless Kirks, Spocks and Doctors McCoy.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:14 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


ok now you got me thinking

if you lacquered a corpse, reassembled its arms and legs with pins, and turned it into a marionette, would it -- per the internal logic of the Toy Story universe -- be reawakened to a second life as a toy?
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:20 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


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