8 Creative Toy Story Interpretations You Probably Hadn't Considered
The Internet loves to speculate about hidden meanings in blockbusters, and something about the Toy Story franchise has attracted these types of theories for years. Here are some of the standouts.
1. Andy’s mom previously owned Jessie.
The most recent Toy Story theory to go viral is courtesy of Jon Negroni, known for the “Pixar Theory” that every Pixar film takes place in the same universe. Negroni has recently written an article claiming that Andy’s mom is the Emily that Jessie sings about in “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2. Andy’s mom is never given a name in the films, so she could easily be Emily. Negroni also notes that Andy owns a cowboy hat, but its much more similar to Jessie’s hat than Woody’s. It is also extremely similar to a hat that can be seen on Emily’s bed in a flashback, so it plausibly could have been passed down through the family and ended up as Andy’s hat. Plus, Emily’s face is never shown, but she does have hair that is a similar length and color to the hair of Andy’s mom.
2. Andy’s parents are going through a divorce.
This theory has long persisted, but it seems to date back to a blog post by Jess Nevins. Andy’s father never is mentioned or seen in any of the Toy Story films. Not only is he not around, but he seems to have disappeared without a trace. In Andy’s house, there are family photographs, but only of Molly, Andy, and their mom. Their mom also never wears a wedding ring. Interestingly, in Toy Story, Molly is also only one, so whatever happened between Andy’s parents must have happened shortly before the film begins. The same film shows the family moving into a smaller house, which often happens after a divorce.
3. Or Andy’s father is dead.
There's a popular Reddit thread that explores the possibility that Andy’s father is dead rather than estranged. One user believes, “Andy’s dad was a cop who was killed in the line of duty. Not only is he attached to two male toys, but both represent some form of law enforcement.” Although this theory doesn’t have an answer to why Andy’s mom would have taken down the photographs of her deceased husband, it does better explain the absence of Andy’s father at his son’s birthday party and later departure to college.
Pixar story supervisor Matthew Luhn has responded to the question of Andy’s father. He claims, “If there was a dad in Toy Story, the boy would not have had such a need for a doll who represents a kind of authority figure, like Buzz.” This apparently was so obviously necessary to the story that the actual circumstances were never discussed further by the creators of the film.
4. Toy Story 3 is an analogy for the Holocaust.
Film theorist Jordan Hoffman has noted many parallels between the journey of the toys in the film with the victims of the Holocaust. For example, Buzz Lightyear recommends they hide in the attic, as Anne Frank and her family did. Sunnyside Daycare could represent a work camp. Also, the toys view being thrown away as a constant threat, which would result in them being burned alive. This one has been previously investigated here at mental_floss. We learned that Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich once stated, “The Holocaust was never anything that was discussed in the making of [Toy Story 3].”
5. Toy Story 3 has Marxist undertones.
This theory also comes from Jordan Hoffman. In this interpretation, Andy stands in for the bourgeoisie: He comes from a rich family, he’s moving on to higher education, and he’s obsessed with his belongings. Therefore, his toys are the proletariat. The most compelling argument here is probably that Andy puts literal labels on his toys, which is a symbol of exploitation. Hoffman also claims that Barbie represents Marxist philosopher Rosa Luxemburg. Presumably, he believes this to be the case because of Barbie’s line, “Authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not from threat of force."
See Also: 10 Rejected Titles for Toy Story
6. Toy Story is an analogy for the director’s experience with Disney.
Before creating Toy Story, director John Lasseter was once fired from Disney for pushing a computer-animated method at a time when the company wanted to stick to hand-drawn films. Along with a few colleagues, Lasseter started to work on a computer-animated version of The Brave Little Toaster, so he lost his job. According to this theory, Toy Story is Lasseter’s way of reconciling those differences in beliefs. Woody represents the traditional animation route and Buzz represents a newer, most technologically-advanced method. At the end of the film, the two put aside their differences to make a child happy, just as Disney and Pixar eventually would do for their audiences.
7. Toy Story 3 contains Illuminati messages.
The Internet and Illuminati conspiracy theories go together like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (or else there probably wouldn’t be extensive blogs dedicated to the Illuminati’s connection to Boy Meets World). Conspiracy theorists who write about the Illuminati usually focus on the secret society’s power to influence the United States. In the film, Lotso supposedly represents the Illuminati and their manipulation. For example, he brainwashes Buzz Lightyear into becoming a spy. One line about Lotso in particular stands out to these theorists: “He’s made us into a pyramid and he put himself on top.” This is interpreted as a reference to the pyramid and eye symbol that represents the Illuminati.
8. The Walking Dead is based on the Toy Story trilogy.
The YouTube video “Zombie Story” properly lays out the similarities between the plot of the hit television show and Toy Story. For example, both star a sheriff who’s “the leader of a motley group thrown together by fate, living in a world full of beings that want to chew them up or tear them apart.” Both have cowgirls, barns, jailbreaks ... the list goes on and on. The video also contains some very convincing side-by-side comparisons of frames from Toy Story and frames from The Walking Dead.