Toy Story 1
In Toy Story 1 we get a glimpse of hell with Sid’s room and treatment of his toys vs heaven with Andy’s room. The story begins and ends with the notion that a loving family (loosely speaking) is the best place for any toy to be. Meaning and purpose are seen to derive from their owner.
There are various other sub-plots, like Woody’s jealousy of the newcomer Buzz, and those also provide rich parallels with Biblical parables and concepts. But ultimately these plots are only valid with regard to the central existential question of meaning and purpose.
This movie ends with Woody and Buzz reconciling to live in harmony with each other and their owner in a quasi-family.
Toy Story 2
In Toy Story 2 Woody faces a dilemma of whether to stay with Andy or whether to join the collector’s toy set. In the beginning Woody’s arm is ripped causing Woody to face is own finiteness. After being discovered in a yard sale by someone who recognizes his intrinsic value, Woody is given the opportunity to be preserved, in pristine condition, in a museum in Japan.
During the course of the movie we learn that Stinky Pete will do anything, including threaten the lives of other toys, because he does not believe that lasting love is possible.
This movie ends with the quasi toy family being expanded to include two of the toys who were going to be preserved along with Woody.
Toy Story 3
In Toy Story 3 all the toys are confronted with their finiteness of purpose.
Andy is grown up and can seemingly grant them no more purpose (which, for a toy, is to be played with). So the toys speculate as to their fate. Their choices appear to be
- The landfill (nihilism)
- The attic (eternal bliss devoid of purpose)
- Playschool (eternal bliss of fulfilled purpose)
After narrowly dodging option 1, which all consider to be undesirable, the group heads for option 3. However the playschool, as they soon find out, contains both a heaven and a hell and they, being newcomers, are relegated to hell.
In the course of escaping from “hell” the toys decide that they prefer option 4 which is eternal bliss of fulfilled purpose with love.
I think the writers of the Toy Story trilogy displayed amazing insight when it comes to the meaning and purpose of life. We are made for community, specifically we are designed to be part of a family. Our meaning and purpose are derived from our owner.
If we trace the ownership of the toys in Toy Story we can form a rather interesting picture.
Toy Story 1 begins with the toys being owned by Andy. Then Woody and Buzz become the property of Sid1. At the end of the movie they are safely “at home” with Andy.
Toy Story 2 begins with the toys being owned by Andy. Then Andy’s mother mistakenly sells Woody to Al McWiggin (Big Al’s Toy Barn). At the end of the movie the toys are safely “at home” with Andy.
Toy Story 3 begins with the toys being owned by Andy. Then the Toys are donated to the Sunshine Academy (meaning they are effectively owner-less). The toys make their way back to Andy who, at the end of this movie gives them to Bonnie with the stipulation that she love them as he did/does.
I’ve mentioned some of these concepts to my kids. Being 5 years old and under I have my work cut out for me. However the main concept I want them to take away from these movies is this:
It offends many in our culture greatly to think that we, as contingent beings, owe our existence to any other being. Christopher Hitchens considers this notion to be a form of slavery. However the fact remains that just as we had no say with regards to our coming into existence, we will likely have little say with regards to the options of our eternal state.
- From a legal standpoint one could argue that Sid never actually owned, but was merely in custody of the toys for a period of time [↩]