Amazingly, the newly released fourth film from the Pixar Toy Story franchise maintains and even exceeds the quality of the first three.

My personal favourite in the series remains the third feature, which develops the need to adapt to the passing of time. Toy Story 4, though, returns to the need to find purpose, as shown in the first two films. Woody (brilliantly voiced once again by Tom Hanks) proves to be the hero, with considerable aid from other familiar characters, including Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Slinky Dog (Blake Clark). Bo Peep (Annie Potts) is brought back, having virtually disappeared after the second film.

They are joined by a new character, Forky (Tony Hale), manufactured on the first day in kindergarten by a stressed-out Bonnie from a plastic spork, pipe cleaner, and tongue depressor. The gang of toys conspires to ensure that Forky stays with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), who has developed a love for Forky despite the latter’s determination to seek the nearest trash bin. As usual, this leads to a series of escapades, near disasters, and ingenious solutions to an ever more involved complex of problems.

Through the new character Duke Caboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves), the film also pays tribute to the fact that Canada can do, especially when it comes to the really big challenge.

Toy Story 4 clearly aims to please audiences of all ages. Children will delight in the lively action as directed by Josh Cooley, and the plentiful laughs, courtesy of several scriptwriters. The brilliant animation reaches new heights of creativity: one often wishes one could stop the film’s marvellously realized action just to inspect the richly detailed background.

This installment investigates loss and love, purpose and fulfillment. These toys experience fulfillment only when loved by an owner. With the aid of adults to discuss themes such as the need to belong, young viewers might well be encouraged to explore their own destinies and how to approach the challenges of life.

Without sacrificing any of charm and joy that have been familiar since the franchise’s first launch 24 years ago, the writers have made it more modern and relevant. In a more complex further development of the themes of the first two films, Bo Peep, unlike Woody, breaks away from the need to feel owned and instead becomes an action heroine: courageous, daring, and independent.

How this difference in the central characters’ approach to “life” is resolved not only offers a challenge to the youngsters viewing the film but clearly sets up the narrative for yet another sequel. I just hope that we do not have to wait another ten years after Toy Story 4 for that instalment – I’d like to be around to see another film with the same thematic complexity, beautiful artistry, and joyous entertainment value.