WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Toy Story 4, in theaters now.
Pixar films have never leaned into celebrity cameos as much as mainline Disney films have. While many of the animated Disney features boast major stars in the lead roles, Pixar has always been more comfortable using character actors for their more story-focused movies.
But sometimes, you just want to meet your heroes and give them a nice sendoff. That was probably the reasoning behind Pixar including four legendary comedy cameos in Toy Story 4. Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner and Betty White appear in the film for a short but sweet scene in which they gently introduce Woody to the idea of retirement.
STUCK IN THE CLOSET
Early in Toy Story 4, Woody is relegated to the closet with the older playthings, as Bonnie has connected with other toys she inherited from Andy. Jessie has even taken on his former role as a sheriff in the fantasies of their new owner. Trying to adjust to his new existence, he meets Melephant Brooks (Mel Brooks), Chairol Burnett (Carol Burnett), Bitey White (Betty White) and Carl Reineroceros (Carl Reiner) in the closet.
All four were used by Bonnie when she was younger, and she clearly had a close connection to the stuffed animals, Melephant and Carl, in particular. Meanwhile, Chairol reminisces about the days when Bonnie learned how to sit on her; Bitey was her teething toy.
They aren't bitter about this development, however. They're resigned to their current places, watching Bonnie from afar with the affection of grandparents. They even happily welcome Woody to the old people's club, despite his protests that he isn't as out of the game as they are.
The four actors have enjoyed some of the most distinguished careers in comedy history: Brooks, an EGOT winner, is the mind behind such classics as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers; Burnett is renowned for her groundbreaking variety show, The Carol Burnett Show; Reiner, already famed for Your Show of Shows, created The Dick Van Dyke Show and directed such comedies as The Jerk, The Man With Two Brains and All of Me; and White has performed virtually nonstop since the 1950s, although she's probably best remembered for her television roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, Hot in Cleveland, and as a staple of game shows.
It's nice to see all four making an appearance in the animated film, even if it's only brief. All of them have long been held up as inspirations for entire generations of filmmakers, actors and writers. Toy Story 4 is built up so much as a loving epilogue to an animation institution, so it's fitting for Pixar to collaborate with that these four comedy institutions for the closing chapter.
Directed by Josh Cooley, Toy Story 4 stars Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Keanu Reeves, Annie Potts, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Jeff Pidgeon, Blake Clark, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and Tony Hale.