Spoilers ahead for Toy Story 4.
The new 4K Blu-ray for Toy Story 4 has a solid collection of deleted scenes. Most of these deleted scenes showcase the film’s top-notch sense of humor, and what was left on the cutting room floor was a heavier emphasis on all the misfit toys Woody and Buzz encounter on their trip. But a deleted scene that really leapt out at me was an alternate ending for the movie that shows how Pixar’s pinpoint precision in hitting your emotions, but how they don’t simply go for the tear ducts at the expense of solid storytelling.
The arc of the finished film is that Woody feels out of place among Bonnie’s toys. He’s no longer the favorite and is kind of forgotten, but he takes it on the chin and makes it his responsibility to make sure Forky sticks around. When Forky splits off from the rest of the gang, Woody goes after him only to encounter his old flame, Bo, who’s now living a carefree life as a lost toy. The story concludes with Woody realizing he doesn’t really have a place with Bonnie and her toys, but that he can now enter a new phase of life where he and Bo work to pair lost toys with kids.
Animated movies, especially ones at studios like Pixar, go through countless iterations, so it would be a stretch to call this deleted scene the “original ending” since it goes to a different story where Bo isn’t really happy being a lost toy. She’s learned to accept it, but there’s a kid that comes in and out of her life who’s special to her. In this alternate ending, Bo sees this kid again and realizes that they have a special bond and that Bo doesn’t want to be lost anymore. This means saying a heartfelt goodbye to Woody and splitting ways again when she goes with the kid. Bo gets to be with her child, Woody meets up with Bonnie again who happily accepts him even though he no longer has his voice box, and all is well.
As director Josh Cooley points out in the intro to this scene, it’s really emotional, but it doesn’t fit. Granted, the arc comes from a different movie where Bo has different motives, but it doesn’t fit for Woody. You can see from this alternate ending that Pixar still knows how to hit the emotional beats. You’ve got Bo wanting to be adopted by a kid, so there’s longing. You’ve got Bo needing to say goodbye to Woody, so there’s tearful farewells. You’ve got Bonnie happily picking up Woody even though he’s “broken”, so there’s acceptance. But the story doesn’t go anywhere because Woody is the same at the end.
We can argue over the relative strengths of the four Toy Story movies, but each one manages to change Woody in some way. Toy Story has him accepting that Andy can have other beloved toys. Toy Story 2 shows Woody accepting that someday Andy will grow up and leave, and they should enjoy the time they have together. Toy Story 3 is Woody’s goodbye to Andy and the world he knows to live with Bonnie. And Toy Story 4 is about accepting that he can’t be Bonnie’s toy anymore because he will be happier if he accepts a new phase in his life where he helps other toys find kids.
Yes, we all know that Pixar is famous for the emotional power they have over their audience, but this deleted scene shows that it’s not the endgame. If Pixar had gone with this alternate ending, they would have still gotten a big emotional response, but the narrative would ring hollow because there would be no change for their protagonist. Instead they went back to the drawing board, the unification with a kid goes from Bo to Gabby Gabby; the tearful goodbye moves from Bo and Woody to Woody and Buzz; and the acceptance comes with Woody embracing a new phase of his life. You still get the emotional impact and now the story works. That’s what makes Pixar special when they’re firing on all cylinders.
Toy Story 4 is now on 4K Blu-ray and the transfer is phenomenal. If you’re looking to pick up Toy Story 4 on physical media, that’s the edition to go with. If you don’t have a 4K player, Toy Story 4 is also available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.