HOW do you improve on the perfection of Toy Story 3, which bade a moving farewell to Woody the cowboy, Buzz Lightyear and the other denizens of Andy’s childhood?

Oscar-winning computer animation studio Disney Pixar comes tantalisingly close with a belated rip-roaring fourth instalment that will have parents dabbing at their eyes with almost as many sodden handkerchiefs as its predecessors.

What this glorious episode might surrender in originality it compensates for with visual artistry, uproarious verbal sparring and deep sentiment.

The fractious central relationship between Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen), which stretches back almost 25 cinema-going years, reaches a gorgeous, heart-rending crescendo that closes this toy box of wonders with a soft and satisfying emotional thud.

Woody, Buzz and the gang are now the property of a little girl called Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), who is nervously preparing for kindergarten orientation.

The tearful tyke overcomes her nerves by creating Forky (Tony Hale) from discarded arts and crafts supplies.

The repurposed spork becomes Bonnie’s security blanket during a family road trip to Grand Basin. But when Forky falls into the clutches of sinister doll Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and her army of ventriloquist dummies, Woody co-ordinates a daring rescue.

He is reunited with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) and her three-headed porcelain sheep Billy, Goat and Gruff, and makes a new ally in self-doubting motorcycle stuntman Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves).

Meanwhile, Buzz stalls for time by delaying the departure of Bonnie and her parents (Lori Alan, Jay Hernandez) from Grand Basin. Toy Story 4 opens with a lustrous flashback set during a torrential downpour that epitomises the immaculate attention to detail in every frame of animation. Vocal performances complement the technical excellence while the script quietly preaches the beauty of imperfection between breathlessly staged action set-pieces and a barrage of visual gags, which demand a second viewing.

“You can’t teach this old toy new tricks,” sagely observes Woody.

True, but when the old tricks work beautifully, the wizards at Disney Pixar can still cast an irresistible spell.

RATING: 9/10