Less of a kid’s educational corner than a recess with everyone’s favorite breakout character from “Toy Story 4,” Disney Plus’s “Forky Asks a Question” is a short burst of sweetness for all ages. This animated short series from the newly launched streaming service offers a reprieve from life’s inundating nature. It reduces worries and concerns to simple questions that offer heartwarming answers. The first episodes, “What Is Money?” and “What Is A Friend?,” spend their two minutes wisely, knowing full well children could care less about etymology and existential crises.
Part of the joy is watching Forky — voiced once more by the priceless Tony Hale — excitedly pose his questions but then become instantly distracted by his irreverent self. As a viewer, it’s impossible not to laugh when Forky loses focus, but you’ll also get a hint of adrenaline anxiously awaiting the spork’s return to subject. This tension makes for the most compelling two minutes since the last “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” trailer. An entire show devoted to the strongest aspect of the latest “Toy Story” sequel is fan service done right.
The pilot, “What Is Money?,” happens to be the superior episode, with Forky essentially sharing hosting duties with John Ratzenberger’s Hamm. Forky uses a “Bloody Mary” folklore tactic of saying aloud Hamm’s name seven times so it will stick to memory. Honestly, that’s not a bad idea for many of us who interact with too many people and walk away only recalling faces. The duo are a perfect pairing, Hamm serving as the frustrated teacher trying to get his pupil back in line. With Hamm professorially breaking down the meaning of “money,” Forky fixates on George Washington’s wig, which when dawned upon is rather ridiculous and worth chuckling about.
The short concludes with a cherished message concerning the illusory value of currency when compared to more important matters. Furthermore, it demonstrates just how unexpectedly insightful Forky can be when he puts his forming mind to topics.
“What Is A Friend” is less successful than the first episode, but it nonetheless packs a relatable punch. Here we see that Forky can make friends with pretty much every thing in sight, alive or not. In this instance, his newest pal is Bonnie’s mom’s coffee mug with a smiley face. Its name is “WHAT? NO!,” Bonnie’s mom’s repeated exclamation while on the phone holding her morning brew. Forky’s clueless personality must never change.
The spry spork makes the argument that a friend is someone whose company you enjoy without the pressure of conversation. This message is a tad controversial given that social interaction is key to leading a fulfilling existence — at some point your friends have to grow past inanimate objects. But I digress; now isn’t the time for such evolution. The stronger meaning derived is how friendships can go through seismic shifts, broken at times but not beyond repair.
Bob Peterson, who writes and directs “Forky Asks a Question,” never dilutes the whimsical nature of his protagonist nor the franchise that spawned him. For instructional purposes, the series might benefit from running a tad longer to balance out comedy with invaluable lessons. Also, every episode should contain some major toy cameo besides just Hamm. The most loyal voice actor in Disney’s roster shouldn’t be expected to always carry the “Toy Story” celebrity banner. However, for a spin-off series, Disney and Pixar couldn’t have picked a better character to take their adored partnership into the streaming future.