In Too Deep Into Pixar #1: A Theological Analysis of Toy Story Part 1: Why Do The Toys Talk?
Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Into Pixar, where I over-analyse the Pixar films for as long as I feel like it.
Now one of the earlier blogs I ever did was a theological analysis of the third Toy Story movie, matching it to Christian mythology. Well, I want to do that again, but in much, much greater detail. So over the course of this series I’m gonna break down the trilogy and really work out what makes this series tick. So without further ado, lets begin.
So, to start with, why do the toys talk? I mean we never get a good reason within the movies, it’s just an accepted fact that toys have some sort of existence outside of humans. Well I have a theory that is as brilliant as it is mad: Toys have the souls of the dead inhabiting them. When certain people die, mostly those with unfinished business, their souls end up going into a toy in order for them to finish their task. Only when they’ve done it they can move on (since even if their body is destroyed, their soul can just find a new body and start the process all over again till they get it right). Now bear in mind, there is literally no evidence in any of the films that support this theory. This is pure speculation. But presuming that it’s true, where can we run with it?
Well then, breaking down some of the major players and the souls they’d be connected with:
Woody: Woody is mostly like Andy’s father’s soul. Now while you could make an argument that Andy’s mum and dad are divorced (hence why they have to move house, why there’s no pictures of him around the place, and why Andy mum compensated by buying him the best toy to try and make him feel better), I prefer to make the argument that he’s dead for almost the exact same reasons. So lets presume Andy’s father died at some point. It makes sense he’d want to be there for his son in some form, so why is it so crazy that he’d inhabit his son’s favourite toy? Ergo, Woody is Andy’s father.
Buzz Lightyear: My guess is that Buzz’s soul is one of the poor astronauts that tragically died during the first Apollo mission. Now on the one hand this doesn’t seem to work because we see a ton of Buzz Lightyears in the second film, but on the other I’d argue that just because we see two crazy Buzz’s doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all like that. So when the tragic accident happened, the soul of the astronaut ended up inhabiting this Buzz Lightyear toy. The story is less of Buzz coming to terms that he’s a toy, but more that he never really went to space. It’s only by coming to peace with this knowledge that he happens to find happiness.
Rex: The soul that inhabits Rex once belonged to a brilliant palaeontologist who never managed to get credit for his outstanding work due to him being too shy, dying before he had a chance to really prove himself right. As such, his goal in this afterlife is to find the courage he needs.
Ham: A banker who fell on hard times at the start of the Great Depression and even harder concrete during it, his goal in the afterlife is to learn not to be so greedy. Which, as we see in the movies, must have been something he learned pretty quickly, but stayed around cos he liked his friends.
Slinky Dog: A former pet shop owner who ended up losing a dog in an accident, feeling guilty ever since. Because of this he swore himself to be loyal to those he deems worthy until he can finally get over the guilt that he feels.
Mr Potato Head: A former artist, his pride and need to impress eventually drove him to drink and despair, with his death following soon afterwards. Now in his afterlife he tries to let go of his pride in order to become a happier man.
So that’s who the main characters were in a previous life and what their main purpose in this new life is. So why are they still around if they accomplished it? Well, because they choose to stay. Since I’m making up the rules as I go along, whose to say that souls can’t choose to stay in the bodies until they think it’s time to move on? Once they feel that their life is over, they can move onto heaven or whatnot. Maybe being a toy is a sort of purgatory, a way of getting a second chance to do what they never could do in life. But speaking of heaven, lets go back to the theological aspects of it.
So if the toys are the lost souls looking for a second chance, what does that make the humans? Well some people are quick to cry that they’re gods, then further go on about how a toy’s only purpose is to serve a child and that their life is meaningless because of it. I disagree with it, but I’ve made my comments about why I don’t think dismissing the toy’s desire of what makes a good life is a valid criticism. But what are human beings? Well I think the closest allegory we’d have for them is angels. After all, they’re not all-powerful beings in the same way we think of God, but they are beings who have a significant amount of power over the toys. Likewise angels would be a hell of a lot stronger than humans in many ways, so we would think of angels what the toys think of humans. Furthermore, some toys believe their purpose in life is to serve humans, much the same way some people believe their purpose in life is to serve angels (well, God, but angels by extension of it). So if humans seem like angels to these toys, which angels do they represent? Well lets look at our two main human characters, Andy and Sid. Andy is seen as a great human to be a toy for, since he treats them well and everyone has fun. Meanwhile Sid is seen as a monster, a being that tortures toys for no other reason than because its fun to do and he doesn’t think that toys really matter. So the conclusion to all this is pretty clear: Sid is Lucifer, and Andy is Michael.
Lets take each boy’s room for example. Andy’s room is, to be blunt, heavenly. The clouds on the wall help reinforce this idea. Andy’s room is essentially what a heaven would be for the toys. In contrast, Sid’s room is very definitely Hell. I mean these toys get torn apart and abused and tortured and all the stuff that gets traditionally associated with Hell in Christian mythology. After all, both of our protagonists nearly get destroyed with fire (with Woody getting a hole burned in his head and Buzz almost being blown up by a rocket) and there are all sorts of demons walking through the room, even if the demons are just tortured souls that don’t mean any harm. It is a very hellish place. It even has its own Cerberus, in the image of Sid’s dog. So if this place is Hell, and humans are angels, than by logical deduction Sid must be a metaphor for Lucifer. Likewise Andy is Michael in contrast, since Michael is the one who fought Lucifer (and Andy fights Sid in terms of ideology). But we can get even more specific and say what Hell this place is. Dante’s The Divine Comedy (aka that thing most of Western Christianity bases its images of Hell off of) has nine circles of Hell and, while I doubt I’m gonna get nine versions of Hell in this blog series, we can safely say that Sid’s room is the seventh circle of Violence. Not only is violent desires the main emotion that can be found in this room (mostly coming from Sid), suicides go to this circle as well. Since Woody essentially is ready to commit suicide (by choosing to stay in Sid’s room rather than escape), it fits into this theme of violence. So not only do we have violence against others (in terms of Sid being violent to the toys) and violence against self (Woody’s desire to give up), but we also have blaspheme, aka violence against God. While Sid isn’t a ‘God’, he is an ‘angel’, meaning that the toys are blasphemous towards a higher being in the climax of the film. Violence very much plays a part during the second half of the film, so it wouldn’t be surprising that’s how the place is set up. So we have Heaven and Hell. What other locations are there in the first Toy Story movie?
Well we have the Dinoco gas station, where the two toys end up being abandoned. This may be best described as a sort of limbo. It’s neither Hellish, though it leads to Hell (if for no other reason than being lost out there makes a toy easy pickings for an animal). It is a gateway to many possible destinations, depending where the cars go. The toys could hitch a ride on any car and end up in a situation that could be better or worse for them. I mean the Pizza Planet truck can be seen as a symbol of Charon taking the souls to a new land. So while there’s not a lot to go on, we could argue that Dinoco is some sort of limbo.
So the only other location we haven’t talked about is Pizza Planet, which is… Which is tricky. I mean off the bat it doesn’t seem to fit within Christian mythology at all. But this isn’t a look at the Christian mythology in Toy Story, but theology in general. So using this absurd loophole, I’m gonna say that Pizza Planet is a representation of Scientology. Now I’m probably gonna get a lot of it horribly wrong and paint it in broad strokes (so if any Scientologists wanna correct me, go right ahead in the comments), but the gist of it tends to be aliens exist and have a part to play with humans. Well if that doesn’t explain the Little Green Men and their relation with both humans and The Claw than nothing does. Funnily enough it also examines the views of the afterlife when it comes to Scientology. Some Scientologists believe that after death you get reincarnated to serve some higher purpose. Well, once again, this shows the LGM mindset in a nutshell. They even do the creepy hive-mind thing that Scientology gets mocked for. So on the broadest possible level of someone who can’t be arsed doing the research, we can argue that Pizza Planet represents Scientology in this grand scheme of things.
But before we finish this blog, lets look at one more possible idea. Now I mentioned before how Woody is Jesus, partly in jest, partly in deadly serious. Of course the thing to remember about the Toy Story trilogy is that, when it comes to the character of Woody, he goes through the same story all three times. He ends up being separated from Andy and thrust into a strange and unusual world different from his own. He attempts to escape from this world for selfish reasons, but ends up staying to help his friends. Working together the group manages to get free and the day is saved. This comparison is especially true when it comes to 2 and 3, but the idea works in the first one as well. All three stories tend to involve Woody being separated from Andy and his goal to get back to his master, with him learning a valuable lesson along the way. So does this make him a Christ-like figure? Eh, depends. While the argument for it will be made the best in the third film, we can certainly see the idea flow through here. Let us presume that Woody is here to save the sinner. Now Woody himself is not a flawless figure. After all his biggest flaw is his pride (which connects him with the villain of the third film, but more on that later). But despite this pride he learns to be humble with who he is and his place in the world. He works with Buzz rather than fighting with him. But it’s important to remember that Buzz was delusional in his belief. His beliefs were unconventional when compared to that of the toys around him. He essentially had a different religion to the toys. Now while most of the toys are somewhat accepting of this, Woody resents it and it eventually leads him to ruin. But Buzz finds out that his religion is essentially false, leaving him confused and lost. So there’s Woody, helping to convince Buzz to believe in the ‘correct’ thing. Woody offers a helping hand to Buzz in the latter’s time of need, in his crisis of faith. Woody is essentially the redeemer in this story. So he goes down to Hell with a sinner (insofar that Buzz is a non-believer) and helps Buzz come out and see the light. He also helps free the tortured toys in this Hell as well. Much the same way Jesus went to Hell to free the souls down there during his death, Woody goes to Hell to help the souls that are being abused. While it’s not a clear-cut story, it’s not the last time Woody goes somewhere where the main purpose is to save the toys from an abusive leader.
So there you have it. A broad look at the theological themes found within the first Toy Story movie, and an explanation for some of its mythology. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.