Song of the Day #4,479: “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy’ – Chris Stapleton

Continuing my countdown of every Pixar movie…

#7. Toy Story 4 (2019)
(no change from previous ranking)

One of the biggest shocks on this list (even to me) is the placement of Toy Story 4 above the first and second films in the series. It defies the conventional wisdom that this movie was unnecessary because the third movie tied things up so neatly.

I felt that way myself when this film was first announced. But after watching it (three times now), I strongly disagree. While Toy Story 3 offered perfect closure to the arc of the toys in Andy’s life, it left wide open the question of what was in store for Woody.

What I love about Toy Story 4 is that it digs into the existential crisis Woody faces when he no longer has Andy. We’ve seen him tempted to try another life in the past — both in Toy Story 2 and in the flashback that opens this film — but he has always retreated to the safety of the familiar.

Now Woody is faced with the prospect of being a forgotten toy rather than a favorite. He channels his injured pride into helping Forky, a spork-turned-toy built in kindergarten by his new kid, Bonnie. But then he runs into the long lost Bo Peep, who has built a fulfilling life as a lost toy, and his eyes are opened to a whole new set of possibilities.

The Toy Story movies have always worked as rich metaphors, and I see this one as a poignant take on the empty nest, with Woody standing in for every parent who ever saw a child off to college. It’s about endings, second acts, new beginnings.

In addition to the reintroduction of the liberated Bo Peep (Annie Potts), Toy Story 4 introduces a host of memorable new characters: Forky (Tony Hale), Bunny and Ducky (Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key), Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves). The film finds less room for our usual supporting cast, a mild bummer but one that makes sense given the central focus on Woody.

Finally, Toy Story 4 is a truly spectacular feat of animation — for my money, the second most beautifully animated Pixar film (stay tuned for number one). Some shots in this movie — such as the sunlight reflecting on a room full of colored glass — are truly breathtaking.

So no, I don’t think I’ve ranked this movie too high. If anything, it should probably be higher.

[Verse 1]
I was a lonesome cowboy
Lonesome as I could be
You came along, changed my life
And fixed what was broken in me

[Verse 2]
I was a lonesome cowboy
I didn’t have a friend
Now I got friends comin’ out of my ears
I’ll never be lonesome again

[Bridge]
You can’t be happy when you’re all by yourself
Go on, tell me I’m wrong (You’re wrong)
When someone takes you down from the shelf
And plays with you some, it’s wonderful (Wonderful)

[Verse 3]
I was a lonesome cowboy
But not anymore
I just found out what love is about
I’ve never felt this way before

[Outro]
I was a lonesome cowboy
But not anymore

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,479: “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy’ – Chris Stapleton

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I suppose I owe this film a second viewing. Like you, I went in skeptical and came away pleasantly surprised, but I did not feel 4 surpassed its predecessors.

  2. Maddie says:

    You lost me here!!! Kidding. Kind of. I liked your explanation for this. Maybe viewing it through that empty nester lens would soften my feelings on this one, but I absolutely didn’t feel it earned a high spot on weak story dips and a complete lack of Buzz Lightyear (Spanish or not!!). This felt like fan service to me because I do see Woody’s closure tied in with taking care of his fellow toys and being a comfort to a new child because he recognizes that things change and you have to grow and learn with that. So I truly can never see this film as necessary even if it is gorgeously animated and there are poignant moments. Long live Forky. I thought he would be the stupidest part, and he turned out to be this film’s saving grace in my opinion.

  3. Amy says:

    I’m with Maddie on this one. The film was good, of course, because of all that talent. I’ll never tire of Tom Hanks’ Woody. Still, it didn’t hold a candle to the first films in this empty nester’s humble opinion.

  4. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    This movie was incredibly touching and surprisingly hilarious. I loved it. I agree that I went in with low expectations and so those expectations were greatly exceeded. I felt Toy Story 3 was a fitting ending to the series, so I was very wary when they decided to make this film. That being said they did lots of justice to Woodys character although the rest of the characters took a backseat. This is one that I’d love to rewatch as I saw it once with my family and once with a close friend where we both balled our eyes out and it was a true bonding moment. I agree with this placement and feel this film is definitely top tier Pixar.

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