We all know that Toy Story is as much for adults as it is for children--if not more so. Any good children's story should be enjoyable for adults, as well, but there is something extra to that when it comes to Toy Story. That became evident when Toy Story 3 came out. That movie showed Andy going off to college just as the people who had been children when the first movie came out were doing by this point.
And that was the end of it, right? The going and away and leaving behind childhood theme (that is also addressed in Winnie the Pooh when Christopher Robin explains to Pooh that he is going to school) was covered and they put in Bonnie to show childhood still existing and continuing on even when one particular child is no longer a child. So how do you move on from that without also undoing everything that has already been done?
Well, by going back to the same concept of the audience growing up. The children who were going off to college are now out of college. Many of them are getting married and starting families of their own--or otherwise setting off on new adventures, new stages of life. The past is still important, but it's the past and not the present. (And yes, there are probably spoilers in here.)
That explains the beginning of the movie. I'm not usually one to pick on plot points, but I did find the kindergarten orientation odd (is that a thing now? I guess I wouldn't know; it wasn't when I went to school) and it also didn't make sense for Bonnie to be so hesitant and shy and scared about going to school. She's used to hanging around the daycare where her mom works. Isn't she usually portrayed as a happy and social child for her to suddenly be the shy one alone in the corner? The reason, though, that she is portrayed this way is because it speaks to those early traumas. Trauma may be too strong of a word--or maybe not. Those memories that we hold from when we were very young and we know that we wouldn't act the same way now but we remember how we felt then and it hurt and it was hard and we still carry it with us. A story like this is most certainly created for the adults watching who have memories like this from years ago.
And the return of Bo and her story with Woody is the story of the fantasy that the adults who are now settling down want to live out, too. Woody thinks he has lost his purpose, but what he has really lost is the feeling of being cared for. He and Bo care for each other and that's why he can choose to go on new life adventures with her. It isn't that he stopped caring about the rest of the crew; it's just that their time together had ended. And Woody was Andy's favorite toy, not Bonnie's. So that wasn't his place; he had the freedom to go after that new stage in life. And this time he got to choose the stage. As an owned toy, he was like a child belonging to a parent and doing what the parent asks of them. As an unowned toy, he is like an adult being the one deciding to do what he has learned from his "parent."
Now about the antique store. As someone who shops at antique stores (frankly, you find better quality and better prices than at new stores--and I am a Victorian, too, so there's that), I did nitpick here, too. Toys don't sell? That's not true; they're a market in their own right--that was just what they needed to say for the story. And what's with grandma telling Harmony she can have all the toys from the store? In most cases, antique stores have vendors who sell their items in their section of the store. So those aren't the shopkeepers products; they're the vendors'. I don't think the vendors would be very happy to know that she's just giving away their investments.
Anyway. That aside, antique stores of course have a great symbolic quality. Has anyone else read Hittie: Her First Hundred Years? It's about a doll in an antique store writing down her story. So Bo and Gabby reminded me of her. That concept of either sitting on the shelf or living life played out well, as did Gabby's renewal. We're all broken--which is why it's sometimes our very brokenness that links us to someone else and helps us to start finding some healing.
So Toy Story 4 took on all of these adult themes about brokenness, purpose, personal choices, interconnectivity, and the different stages of life. It did it all in a simple and light way that was fun even while it was deep. Something for the children and for the adults. I don't know if this one will have great re-watchability, but maybe that doesn't matter. It created that stirring portrayal of "Who am I?" and "Who will you be beside me?" Woody finding all he ever wanted with Bo is what we all crave when we look into someone else's eyes. The children have grown up.
And Forkie? He exclaims that he is trash and tries to throw himself into the trash constantly until someone explains to him that no, he is not trash, he was created for more, someone put life and love into him and he is not trash. We are not trash.