Movie sequels are rarely as good as the original. The likelihood of a good sequel decreases exponentially with each year that passes between it and its predecessor. As such, I walked into the movie theater with my “Toy Story 4” ticket in hand, hopeful but with low expectations.

I was pleasantly surprised. With nine years between the third installment of the “Toy Story” film franchise and this current release, my expectations were incredibly low, but I hoped to be surprised, given the success of the rest of the series. While it may not be quite as enjoyable as the first three, I truly loved “Toy Story 4,” and found it to be a pleasant conclusion to a part of my childhood.

The first thing I noticed as the movie began was the amazing animation. When I reflect on the first three films in the “Toy Story” franchise, I think of how much I loved the appearance and overall aesthetic. Whenever I see screenshots from those movies or side-by-side comparisons with “Toy Story 4,” it is really easy to see how much animation has grown. The animation in this newest release is leaps and bounds above the movies I grew up watching.The colors are brighter, the details are finer, and the overall images are oh-so-aesthetically pleasing. Even if you don’t enjoy the plot, the graphics and animation are great enough to stand on their own.

This movie is truly a roller coaster from start to finish. It made me laugh, it made me cry … a lot ... and it warmed my heart. The plot featured many members of the classic gang, but one of the most memorable characters is Forky, a spork that little Bonnie makes during her kindergarten orientation. One of the most humorous aspects of the film is this spork who cannot understand why he is being treated like a toy when all he wants to be is trash. The musical choice of “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” by Randy Newman perfectly accompanies a montage of cowboy Woody working nonstop to keep Forky out of the garbage and in Bonnie’s arms.

These comedic moments are balanced with a plot line that includes a malfunctioning doll named Gabby Gabby, and her dummy minions, who are downright creepy as they seek to steal Woody’s voice box. The dummies are probably the scariest part of the film, but even Gabby Gabby is given a happy ending.

While the villains are clear from the moment they enter the screen, unlike in the three “Toy Story” movies leading up to this one, the plot isn’t too predictable. It makes you laugh until you cry, bawl your eyes out, and feel legitimate fear for a cartoon character — sometimes all at once during its 100 minutes from start to finish.

As I write this shortly after turning 18, I feel that this film was a wonderful conclusion to my childhood. We watch Woody go through a sort of “coming of age” story of his own as he realizes that his kid doesn’t need him anymore. I cried the most during the movie’s resolution to this situation. This story has many similarities with the process of entering into adulthood, which is part of the reason I loved it so much. Situations like the one Woody has to address are hard for everyone, and I think they made this movie especially relatable to people around my age.

Did this series necessarily need another film? No. Did I love it anyway? Absolutely.Perhaps it is simply because of the parallels between Woody’s journey and my own that I feel so attached to “Toy Story 4,” but it was a welcome conclusion to the films I grew up loving.

Meirabelle Brown is a 2019 graduate of Naches Valley High School.