If you pay close attention to Pixar movies, you may notice that filmmakers are intentional about what goes on in the background of their stories. They seem to be dropping hints that imply a backstory to the main story that you are watching. Speculating on the backstory has become somewhat of a parlor game for some. Jon Negroni has devoted a whole website to it. But the fascinating thing is that some of the observations he’s made are not wholly fanciful but are quite compelling.
Recently, I happened upon Negroni’s theory about what happened to Andy’s dad in the Toy Story movies. We see Andy’s mother but never his father. Not even when Andy is leaving for college does his father make an appearance. Why isn’t he ever there? Apparently, he didn’t die because his picture is not among the family photos framed on the stairwell. A missing picture does not imply death but abandonment. Andy’s mother is also seen without a wedding ring, which also suggests a recent divorce but not a recent death. That would explain why Andy’s mother was moving the family to a smaller house and buying a puppy. Negroni lays out the entire case on his website, and I think it’s compelling.
If it is true, it clarifies another layer of meaning to the Toy Story saga. Andy’s close relationship to his toys is framed by the absence of his father. This dynamic plays out in the struggle between Woody (representing his fathered past) and Buzz Lightyear (representing his fatherless future). It explains why there is such a struggle for a connection to the past and a trepidation about the future.
I think the theory is compelling and fits the Pixar motif in which one or both parents is missing. Read Negroni’s theory, and see if you find it compelling too.