Disney made box office history in April with “Avengers: Endgame,” and the studio is going after another record this weekend. With critical acclaim behind it, Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” will take aim at the all-time animated film opening weekend record set last year by “Incredibles 2,” continuing a 2019 defined by Disney domination.
Since the review embargo dropped, critics have praised director Josh Cooley’s addition to Pixar’s flagship franchise, saying that while it doesn’t reach the poignant heights of the Best Picture-nominated “Toy Story 3,” it is a hilarious and worthy addition to the series. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 98% “Fresh” score, matching its predecessor’s critical performance.
Disney is keeping its projections relatively conservative at $140 million, which would still rank as the third-highest opening weekend of the year so far behind fellow studio releases “Avengers: Endgame” and “Captain Marvel.” But analysts who spoke to TheWrap said that they expect the sequel to open closer to the $182 million launch earned by “Incredibles 2,” and that “TS4” has a puncher’s chance to become the first animated film to open to more than $200 million.
If it does, Disney will have five $200 million-plus openings in less than two years, dating back to the $220 million opening of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” in December 2017. Since then, “Black Panther” ($201 million), “Avengers: Infinity War” ($257 million) and “Avengers: Endgame” ($357 million) have also passed the rare milestone.
“This is the Disney film I think, weirdly, some people in the industry may be forgetting about,” said comScore’s Paul Dergarabedian. “I’ve heard a lot about how ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Avengers’ were going to make a lot this summer, but don’t forget ‘Toy Story 4’! It’s a film with just as much four quadrant appeal as any of the other Disney films coming out this year and I think it’s going to end the slow streak we’ve been having in the last few weeks.”
If “Toy Story 4” reaches analysts’ sky-high expectations, it will be because of a trend that pushed “Incredibles 2” to a $608 million domestic run and $1.24 billion worldwide. That sequel was pushed not just by the usual family audiences, but also by single millennials who grew up watching the first “Incredibles” back in 2004. In a similar way, millennials grew up watching the first “Toy Story” as kids and “Toy Story 3” at the cusp of adulthood. The nostalgia of seeing Woody and Buzz again will certainly drive that demographic to theaters this weekend.
“Toy Story 4” follows Woody (Tom Hanks) as he strives to take care of his new child Bonnie even as she begins to lose interest in him. He finds a new purpose in taking care of Forky (Tony Hale), a new toy made from trash by Bonnie who doesn’t understand his new identity. But along the way, Woody’s conviction in taking care of his kid is challenged when he’s reunited with Little Bo Peep (Annie Potts), whom he was separated from years ago and who has found a new life as a lost toy.
Tim Allen, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves also star in the film, with Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton writing the script. Original screenwriters Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, who stepped down from the project on 2017, share story credits on the film, as does Pixar founder John Lasseter, who left Pixar in 2018 following sexual misconduct accusations.
Also releasing this weekend is MGM/United Artists’ “Child’s Play,” a remake of the 1988 cult horror film of the same name with Mark Hamill replacing Brad Dourif as the killer doll Chucky. A remake of the film had originally been planned by series creator Don Mancini a decade ago, but was canceled after the poor performance of reboots of ’80s slasher films like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th.”
This new version, which is directed by Lars Klevberg, will be the first Chucky film without Mancini’s involvement. It is projected for an opening of around $18 million, with United Artists projecting an opening in the high teens. Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, and Brian Tyree Henry also star in the film.