Toy Story 4 lowers the stakes and ramps up the whimsy

Forky is the most prominent of the new characters in Toy Story 4, the latest in the flagship franchise that launched Pixar Animation Studios and eventually won it a Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. Forky is the name of a spork that a kindergartener rescues from the garbage and adorns with pipe-cleaner arms, googly eyes, and popsicle-stick feet. It takes a long time for this dim, flimsy thingamabob to accept his own sentience. He believes he belongs in the trash.

Forky is also a symbol of a company that’s struggling to give its audience something new. Pixar was once associated with original animation, expanding the limits not only of computer renderings (those clouds of dust in Toy Story 2, the animal fur in Monsters Inc., the…

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