The teaser for Toy Story 4 dropped last night, and all your faves are back. Woody! Buzz! Jessie! The Potato Heads! And… a plastic spork with mismatched googly eyes and pipe cleaners for arms. His name is apparently Forky, and he is not OK.
“I don’t belong here!” he shrieks with the sudden panic of someone who just can’t hold it in any longer, interrupting a dreamy slow-mo sequence set to Judy Collins’ cover of ‘Both Sides Now’ and backed by that iconic cloud wallpaper.
“I’m not a toy!”
At first, you could interpret Forky’s cry of despair as a simple case of impostor syndrome – an intensely #relatable story about feeling like you’re a big fake and everyone can tell.
After all, the generation that grew up on the original Toy Story are now terrified adults, making presentations or training 19-year-old new starters or handling fairly large amounts of other people’s money, standing next to people they see as Actual Grownups and feeling – well, a plastic spork with googly eyes and pipe cleaner arms stuck on with blu tac is a fairly decent visual representation.
And there’s also the whole thing about how he’s a spork, not a fork, and yet his name is Forky, and not Sporky.
But actually, it’s worse than that. According to director Josh Cooley, the plot of TS4 is driven at least in part by Forky’s existential crisis.
The world of Toy Story is built upon the idea that everything in the world has a purpose. A toy’s purpose is to be there for its child. But what about toys that are made out of other objects? Forky is a toy that Bonnie made out of a disposable spork, so he’s facing a crisis. He wants to fulfill his purpose as a spork, but now has a new toy purpose thrust upon him.
So the film will actively delve into the metaphysical and ontological implications of the Toy Story mythos. Which are f**king horrifying.
Specifically: what is a toy? If it’s as simple as gluing googly eyes to an inanimate object, bestowing it with not only sentience but the self-awareness to know itself as toy or, indeed, not-toy, then is everything you’ve ever glued googly eyes to now a toy, going through the exact same freakout as Forky? Does the stapler up the back of your desk think it’s a toy and you just don’t like playing with it?
We’ve been wondering this, on some level, since we encountered Sid’s Frankenstein-like toy creations in the first film.
Was the head of the silent Meccano doll-spider part of a sentient being before the pre-teen sociopath popped it off to bolt it to the skittering leg structure? What about the Barbie legs with the fishing rod torso – it has no head, no eyes, but apparently free will and the altruistic impulse to help Buzz and Woody escape?
So yes, this is all pretty intense stuff for a one-minute teaser. But the good news is that the Toy Story franchise has gone mega-bleak before – hello, incinerator scene – and it worked. It broke us, but it was perfect.
So perhaps next year’s new installment will actually find a way to solve the perpetual existential crisis that is millennial life – through Forky’s inevitable journey from philosophical panic to self-acceptance, and also, presumably, through a devastatingly beautiful and kind monologue delivered by a toy cowboy in Tom Hanks’ voice.