I’m a big Pixar fan, and I grew up with Toy Story. After rewatching the magical movies from my childhood, I have developed a theory on how and where all these toys get their personalities from.
At the end of Toy Story 3, Andy introduces all the toys to Bonnie and tells her the personalities of each. Despite not knowing toys are alive, he gets each of their personalities spot on. Woody is a friend who will never give up on you; this one is obvious. Throughout all three films, he shows that he is the best friend any toy could have, and never gives up anybody. Not even Lotso who tried to kill him. Slinky Dog is the most loyal dog you’ll have. Also fits since he is so loyal to Woody in all three films. In the first, he was the one that wanted to believe Woody the most and seemed the most devastated when he thought Woody got Buzz killed. When trying to get Woody on the moving truck and stretched to his absolute limit to the point that in real life he would be ruined forever, his only regret is that he should’ve held on longer. Andy also describes Rex as the most fearsome dinosaur and indeed, that is what he has aspired to be since the first one despite the other toys not really being scared of him.
So, where am I going with all this? The toys from Toy Story get their personalities from what the humans imagine them to be. As stated above, all of Andy’s toys seem to get their personality from what he imagined them to be. While Mr. Potato Head and Hamm are not villains like in Andy’s fantasies, they are the loners of the crowd, and interact with the other toys far less. They are always the first to turn on Woody and trust him the least. Why? Because in Andy’s fantasies, they are Woody’s archnemesis. Also note that Hamm is usually nicer to Woody than Mr. Potato Head, though not by much. Why is this? Because, as seen in the first film’s playtime, sometimes Hamm is treated as just a simple bank, nothing more and nothing less. Compare that to Mr. Potato Head, who seems to always play the villain.
So, what about toys without imagined personalities? Well, let’s go in chronological order. First, there are Sid’s toys. The mutants appear terrifying, but at the end it is revealed they are well meaning toys who don’t seek to harm anybody. This fits with other theories that state that Sid is a nice kid. He doesn’t know toys are alive, so he doesn’t know that he is traumatizing them by mutilating them. The worst thing we witness him doing is terrorizing his sister, which still doesn’t make him the sadist normal toys see him as. Also illegally buying fireworks while underage. He also seems to care for his dog., which further supports him not being a bad person. So if Sid isn’t really a sadist, then he probably imagines all the toys he creates are Frankenstein-esque creations. Frankenstein’s monster was not inherently evil. Since Sid’s toys don’t talk, there is little else to know about their personalities aside from them willing to come to life in front of him and scar a kid for life to save one action figure.
We also have Buzz Lightyear from the first movie who didn’t even realize he was a toy. Unlike Woody’s Roundup, Andy actually watched Buzz’s show. Therefore, when Andy played with Buzz Lightyear, he imagined him as the action figure from the show. At the beginning of Toy Story 3, we see that the toys see playtime from the perspective of the child’s imagination. So every time Andy played with Buzz and imagined him as the real Buzz, his delusions of being a real space ranger were only heightened.
This explanation also explains how Woody forgot about Woody’s Roundup. Andy probably never saw that old show from the 50s, and so just imagined Woody as a generic sheriff. And that’s all Woody thought he was up until Toy Story 2.
Which brings me to the characters introduced in Toy Story 2. Jessie is explained as being played with by a girl, so that fits the theory easily. But what about Stinky Pete? He was never played with, and is still mint in the box when Al buys him. And from Buzz Lightyear, we see license toys seem to go through a phase where they think themselves real. In Woody’s Roundup, Stinky Pete was a redneck old man with bad grammar and easy to excite. The personality we see him have in Toy Story 2 defies all of this; he has good grammar and is calm until his immortality is threatened. However, while he was never played with, he was owned. It is unknown if he had owners before Al, but if he did, they would be fellow collectors like Al who kept him mint in the box to keep the value. Collectors would be teens/adults. He wasn’t played with and put into scenarios like his television personality. He was treated as a high value commodity. This explains his calm demeanor; he was never owned by a child, but by mature minds. So his mind was shaped into something more mature. He was never in adventurous scenarios from a child’s mind, so he has a more calm outlook on life. It is also the reason why, out of all the characters from Woody’s Roundup, he believed in going to the museum the most. All he has ever been was a commodity.
Now, as for Bullseye. He is pretty unique among the toys. He actually acts like the animal he is. Compare to Rex, Hamm, and Slinky Dog who are also animals, but talk and seem to be fully sentient. However, we know Andy gave Hamm a personality at least a couple times as the villain. Rex is a dinosaur, which are seen as magical beings by kids so he probably had speaking parts. And Slinky Dog was a cybernetic dog with a forcefield, so it’s not unreasonable to think that a cybernetic/magical dog would have advanced intelligence. Compare that to Bullseye. Outside of Mr. Ed, when are horses treated as anything other than horses? Almost never. So the kid who owned Bullseye before Al probably only ever played with him as a horse, or as the Bullseye from the show, who was also an unintelligent horse. When Bullseye is adopted by Andy? Again, he only ever seen as a horse and accessory for either Jessie or Woody. Perhaps after going to Bonnie, he started to develop sentience? No way of knowing.
That doesn’t quite cover all the toys of Toy Story 2. What about all the unused toys in Al’s Toy Barn? They were never played with. True, but they did have imagined personalities. I mean, kids go by these toys every single day. They could’ve absorbed the combined imaginations of the kids roaming past them. I mean, I know I would play with toys when I passed through, surely other kids did. Especially the toys that had exposed buttons with a ‘try me’ sticker on them. And since these aren’t the kids’ toys, they imagined them exactly as advertised. Which also explains why license toys like Buzz think they’re real. All the toys seen at Al’s Toy Barn have the default personalities they should have. Zerg believes he is Buzz’s nesmisi, the Barbies are fun loving girls, and the display Buzz has the Buzz personality. We see a rock ’em sock ’em set in Al’s office who are deep rivals of each other. Since this is in Al’s office and not on the salesfloor, one can presume that Al uses this in his spare time, presumably with a coworker. Assuming these are typical guys having fun, some rivalry is to be expected.
We also have the toys introduced in Toy Story 3. First off, and most damaging to this theory is Lotso. Surely no child in the Butterfly room imagined Lotso as an evil dictator, and it is safe to assume Daisy didn’t imagine that either. Well, wait a minute. Let’s go back to when we first meet him. He has the personality that would match closely with what he should be; a loving, hugging teddy bear. Now, this gets twisted, but throughout the film we see that he still has the friendly demeanor. Not once does he lose his cool. He even states that Sunnyside is a dream come true if you pay your dues. And we know this is at least partly true from the other toys we have seen that entered the Butterfly room; more on them in a second.
Also, while he was loved by a child, he was left at some point. Similar to Woody in the first film, toys defect from the personalities given to them by children sometimes. Surely Andy never plotted for Woody to have a revenge plot against Buzz (or maybe he did, who knows with Andy?)
While speaking on Lotso, this also brings us to Big Baby. His size in comparison to many other toys gives him considerable strength and power. However, he still has the mind of a baby, and can barely speak. It is unlikely that Daisy imagined him as anything other than a baby, and indeed at Sunnyside, he was never imagined as anything else. Just like Bullseye, he will probably never develop sentience. Contrast to the baby from Sid’s house, who was likely imagined as a cyborg and not a baby at all. He developed sentience and seemed to be the leader of Sid’s toys. Though again, since we never see Sid’s toys actually talk, it is difficult to determine their personalities.
As for the other toys in the Butterfly Room. Why are they a bunch of thugs? Well, think about what they are. We have the rock monster, a bug monster, an octopus thing, and Ken. The rock and bug monster likely came from boys who imagined them as being tough. Their tough and survivalist personalities probably saved them from the Caterpillar Room. The purple octopus is, well, he’s anybody’s guess. Ken also came with a house and several sets of clothes. Having real estate probably gained him more leverage to stay in the Butterfly Room. Also, given the way that is in denial about being a girls’ toy, it is likely he was owned by a boy with misguided parents. That’s just a guess though.
Now, there’s Bonnie’s toys. Bonnie’s toys seem to be a mishmash, and they see playtime as drama. Bonnie is the kind of girl who thinks outside the box. In Toy Story That Time Forgot, we see that Trixie has never even been treated as a dinosaur, and Buzz expresses that Bonnie’s mind is strange even for a child. Since she thinks outside the box so often, it is very likely that any toys she owns would have the personality of a drama club since they can literally be anything at any time. Compare that to Andy’s playtime, where he saw distinct personalities in his toys with Woody as the protagonist and Mr. Potato Head as the antagonist.
And now last, but not least, we have the Battlesaurs from Toy Story That Time Forgot. Since it is not one of the movies, it is understandable if you did not see it. To recap, a bunch of dinosaur toys think they’re real and try to kill the main cast. They are saved in the nick of time when their owner plays with them. This probably confirms the theory the most, since kids probably imagined the toys as real whenever they were passed in the toy store. However, this façade is completely shattered after one playtime. And not just any playtime, a playtime with Bonnie, who thinks completely outside the box. Playtime with Mason imagining them as Battlesaurs may have further confirmed their ‘real’ status. However, Bonnie imagining them as random characters on ‘Party Planet’ made all the Battlesaurs realize how not real they were and taught them the ways of peace.
So that’s my theory on Toy Story. Any thoughts you wish to add?
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