‘Toy Story’ Creators Are Arguing Over the Tragic Backstory Surrounding Andy’s Father

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Disney/Pixar)

Ever since the original Toy Story debuted, fans have been wondering about one big question: where is Andy’s dad in all this?

After all, in the original movie, the family is moving to a new house, so Andy’s dad should be around somewhere to help, right? Logically, this must suggest that Andy’s mom is a single parent, so what happened to leave the family sans one parental figure?

Most fans have assumed that the lack of a dad is because Andy’s parents are recently divorced at the time of the movie – this explains why there aren’t, for example, any photos of Andy’s dad in the house, and could even be the reason why the family has to move in the first place.

According to a toy consultant for the movie, though, the former head writer for Pixar, Joe Ranft, had a different story for why Andy’s dad isn’t around. As detailed in a recent video by the Super Carlin Brothers, the original backstory behind Andy’s family is pretty depressing, featuring a fatal case of polio and even some toy burning.

As explained by io9:

“Andy’s father was also named Andy, and he was the one who grew up with the Woody doll (it was his name on the boot). He was the only kid in the world who had one because he’d received a one-of-a-kind prototype from the cereal company. The toy didn’t get mass-produced because the show had just gotten canceled. Sadly, around 1959, Andy Sr. contracted polio and most of his toys were destroyed for his safety. That is, except for Woody, Slinky, and Mr. Potato Head, because Andy Sr. crawled out of his bed (without the use of his legs) to save them from being burned, and hid them in a box.

“Andy Sr. later recovered and went on to get married and father Andy Jr., the Andy we grew up with in the Toy Story series. But his recovery didn’t last forever, as he was later stricken with Post-Polio Syndrome. They moved into Andy’s grandparents’ house to survive, which means the child pictures on the walls were actually of Andy’s dad (makes sense, since he’s wearing glasses).

“Then, you’ve got their final moment, which rivals the first 10 minutes of Up for heartbreaking sadness. Andy’s father calls Andy over to his bedside, giving him a key from his wallet and telling him to go bring down a chest in the attic. Andy heads up there and grabs the chest, but by the time he returns downstairs… his father is dead. Andy forgets about the chest and the key, only to open it after the funeral. Woody, Slinky, and Mr. Potato Head wake up from their slumber, see Andy Jr., and believe he’s the kid they grew up with all those years ago. They don’t know their original owner is dead; Andy lives on in his son.”

Yeesh, that’s dark. Far too dark for even a Pixar movie, which is probably why this isn’t a commonly told story among Disney employees.

Or, alternatively, it’s all false. Andrew Stanton, early Pixar writer and director of such movies as Finding Nemo and WALL-E, claims that the entire sad tale is nothing more that “fake news”.

Either way, the story bears more than a passing resemblance to the classic children’s tale The Velveteen Rabbit, which deals with many of the same themes as Toy Story.

In The Velveteen Rabbit, the titular character is a small stuffed animal that is loved by a young child. The child contracts scarlet fever, and all of his toys are burnt – except for the Velveteen Rabbit, who escapes thanks to the power of a magical fairy that also turns the rabbit into a real, living, breathing animal.

It’s hard to ignore the similarities between these two stories, and considering that The Velveteen Rabbit is one of the seminal stories about toys coming to life, it’s logical that some of the writers at Pixar might have read the book as part of research for Toy Story.

This being the case, Joe Ranft may have come up with his own personal explanation for why Andy’s dad is missing from the movie. As Ranft has since died himself, there’s no way of knowing for certain, but it does seem likely that The Velveteen Rabbit is connected to the development of Toy Story.

Either way, there’s one significant way that The Velveteen Rabbit surpasses Toy Story. While the cartoon series shows that toys are automatically alive without any outside force, The Velveteen Rabbit states that life comes from the love of a child, over time.

“Real isn’t how you are made”, claims the book, “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

This slight twist on the formula of living toys makes all the difference – we’ve all got toys that we loved as children, and it’s nice to think that it’s because of our love that maybe, just maybe, these toys are alive in their own special way.

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