Toy Story 4 – general release (UK) 21st June.
“So, where we going this time?” asked Action Man. “Loft, car-boot or play school?”
“It says ‘Dump’ on the box,’ said the small knitted Elf as it scrambled back through the lid that was being held open by the ageing soldier. The one-time man of action looked startled (although the Elf was not able to see this as the military mannequin’s head had been reinserted backwards at a party some years ago and he had never been able to turn it back around since) but his voice remained steady.
“Dump?” he said. “Are you sure?”
“Certain,” said the Elf who had started to unfurl slowly as he hauled himself back over the lip of the box and was currently pulling on a severed leg that hovered some six inches below him.
“Nothing else,” the soldier persisted.
“It says ‘Made in China – Do Not Stack’ but I don’t think that’s relevant.”
In the silence that followed, Xylophone began a doleful rendition of The Funeral March, but had to stop when he reached his missing note.
The plastic infantryman stroked the ragged transfer scar on his cheek, popping his arm out of the shoulder joint as he did so, leaving it to hang dejectedly in the sleeve of his combat jacket.
“Would you like me to put that back for you?” said Elf.
“No point,” said the commando, sitting down heavily on a Jack-in-the-box, his reversed face being pressed tight against the cardboard wall.
“It might just be a mistake,” said Elf, tugging hard on a strand of wool in his attempt to retrieve his fast unravelling leg. “It might just be an old box that they’ve used for something else before.”
“Yes, like the last time they took all the old toys to the dump.”
“I suppose it had to come,” said a tag-along duck, whose tag-along ducklings had long since become detached and fledged. “We’re none of us what we were.”
“It’s alright for you,” said the Elf bitterly. “You’ve got rid of your kids, but you’re pretty much sound yourself.”
“And retro,” said the Clitter Clatter Caterpillar. “People don’t mind you having a wheel loose when you’re wood. Can just screw you a new one on. Doesn’t even matter if it leaves you waddling, being a duck and all. Doesn’t even matter if you abandoned your children.”
“They were cut from me,” shrieked the duck. “By that ginger girl from next door. Nothing I could do. She tied ‘em to the back of her Wibbly Wobbly Dog and wheeled them back home with her. I never heard from them again…” Her voice trailed away as only a wooden duck’s voice can…
“Yers, well, just saying,” said the Caterpillar. “It’s alright for you; you’re salvageable. Nail on a new wheel, quick lick of paint, some yummy mummy will pay twice the going rate with delight because you limp. Some of us,” he continued, surprised by his own sourness. “Some of us lose a wheel and it’s the end of the road. Clitter more than clatter and it’s a future full of yoghurt for me.”
“Once upon a t… Once upon a t… Once upon a t…” said the talking book from the bottom of the box.
“His battery leaked,” said Duck, quietly slipping the button to ‘mute’. “He doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going these days. I’m not sure he even knows the stories he’s meant to tell.”
“Well, if you want my opinion,” said a large, green, five-legged spider. “He’s the lucky one. Take his batteries out and he won’t have a clue what’s going on.”
“What does happen down at the dump?” asked Elf, who had by now given up on rescuing his leg and was slowly unpicking the features from his face.
“No-one knows,” said Action Man. “No-one has ever come back to tell the tale.”
In the silence that followed an inflatable frog sighed gently and his back leg deflated.
Caterpillar began a frantic search for his missing wheel, even though he knew that it had been eaten by the dog some months before.
“Looking back…” began Action Man.
“Which is all you can do,” interrupted a voice from the bottom of the box.
“Who said that?” demanded the soldier, leaping to his feet.
“It was me,” hissed a rubber snake from his position wound around Threadbare Ted’s head where he was held in place with a rubber band. “I wouldn’t want you to accuse me of speaking behind your back – although, of course, it is all that you can do…”
In the depths of the box somebody sniggered briefly. If the Taiwanese moulding had allowed, Action Man would have gnawed his lip. “Looking back,” he continued. “We have all had some good times.”
“Speak for yourself,” said the spider, who had found himself hidden in more knicker drawers than he cared to remember.
“Ok,” replied AM. “Maybe we are not, any of us, what we once were. Age has affected us all, but we still have value.” His voice swelled even as his detached arm slid slowly from his battle dress. “We still have much to offer.”
“He’s right,” said Xylophone. “I can still bang out a good tune, providing there are no G’s in it.”
“We all have to adapt,” said Caterpillar, wedging a small Lego wheel in to the space from where his own wheel had disappeared. He smiled triumphantly. The wheel fell off, as did one of his little spring antennae. The silence that followed was profound. All of the toys looked at themselves in quiet contemplation, suddenly aware that they were somehow less than they had once been: less clean, less functional, less complete, less use… Caterpillar stepped back, as only a many-wheeled caterpillar can, catching Talking Book’s switch as he fell. “We’re doomed,” he whispered. “Doomed.”
“… and they all lived happily ever after,” said Talking Book. “… and they all lived happily ever after…”