After four installments, Disney and Pixar's Toy Story franchise has become the most successful film quadrilogy ever.
Toy Story 4 was one of several movies released under the Disney banner this year to cross the $1 billion mark, and it had the critical praise to back it up. Though many questioned the need for another Toy Story movie after seemingly seeing the franchise's conclusion in 2010, the fourth film managed to wow critics and fans alike. The aforementioned box office success means that the franchise's gross total -- not counting 3D re-releases -- is close to $3 billion. More impressively, the four films have Rotten Tomatoes scores between 97 percent and 100 percent. This makes it possibly the most consistently successful movie franchise ever, not only financially, but critically too. Let's look at some of the other contenders to the throne, and what helped put Toy Story above them all.
You've Got An Enemy In Me
Probably the most obvious competitor to Toy Story's success is Shrek, another popular animated quadrilogy. The Shrek series has made over $3.5 billion, with the inclusion of the spinoff movie, Puss In Boots. That would put it in a close box office tie with Toy Story without including Puss In Boots, and even more successful with it. Still, while successful, none of the Shrek films have been as well-received as the Toy Story movies. In fact, the sequential Shrek films have never quite reached the heights of the first two entries.
And while not animated, The Hunger Games is another successful film foursome. That franchise managed to escape the imploding trend of Young Adult novel adaptations relatively unscathed with over $2.96 billion in total at the box office. Those numbers are, of course, comparable to the Toy Story franchise. Still, its reception, though especially positive for the first two entries, was never as acclaimed or as consistent as the Pixar franchise.
Then there's Indiana Jones -- a pop culture icon whose franchise is loved by many. Despite this popularity, the series' box office gross is only around $1.98 billion. This is mostly due to those movies being released primarily in the 1980s, where box office intakes were a lot more modest than today, even for successful movies. It's only entry to rival the critical reception of the Toy Story movies is the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. And then there are the Transformers films. While Michael Bay's Transformers movie series actually eclipses Toy Story with a gross total of $4.3 billion, the series has taken a steep critical dive with each new installment. In fact, the recent spinoff Bumblebee is the only entry in the franchise to receive positive reviews across the board. And that film failed to achieve the box office success of other Transformers installments partially due to their poor reception.
The Magic of Toy Story
The biggest issue that impacts some franchises and their quality is ultimately burnout. Whenever a studio finds something successful, they tend to churn out another one as soon as possible. These entries become more and more soulless, with audiences eventually checking out due to diminishing returns in quality. The biggest way that the Toy Story series has kept this from occurring is to space out the films. For as popular as a franchise as it is, even the four-year gap between Toy Story in 1995 and its sequel in 1999 is out of the ordinary. Even greater was the eleven-year wait for Toy Story 3 in 2010, which didn't receive its sequel until this year, 2019. These gaps allowed fans the time to actually desire sequels, as opposed to being bombarded with them every year or two.
The time also allowed the people behind the scenes to craft the best films possible, taking their time to make movies that were not only fun but heartfelt. The consistent quality is indicative of similar creative teams. John Lasseter directed both of the first two movies, and he and Andrew Stanton have been involved in all of the other films since. The franchise is very much their baby, and though the number of people working on the story has increased more with each entry, their unified vision has kept things from being turned into a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.
The respect for the material also means that they know when to finally let the franchise end (for real this time). Though there will surely be other big franchises, both animated and live-action, to rival and even eclipse the money that it's made, no other franchise has been as universally loved (and paid for) as Toy Story.
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.