UPDATE: Although the following story fills in a lot of gaps in the Toy Story series, and is certainly compelling, Andrew Stanton – the director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E – now claims via Twitter that it is not the “real” story of what happened to Andy’s father, calling it “complete and utter fake news.”
Of course, it’s possible that Joe Ranft had his own ideas about the character, but unless concrete evidence is uncovered that Ranft had written this particular tale, Andrew Stanton’s account seems to be the only “official” report we have from Pixar.
The original report was as follows…
If you’ve watched the Toy Story movies, and if you’ve paid attention, you may have noticed a lot of subtle details that hint at a deeper drama taking place. The story is told from the perspective of Andy’s toys, and for most the films, Andy is just a little kid. So we don’t see a lot of his parents, and you may have noticed that Andy’s dad is only recently out of the picture, since Andy has a baby sister at the beginning of the first film.
Many Pixar fans have speculated that Andy’s parents had just got divorced. Others has suggested that his father died, but if that’s the case why wasn’t Andy still in mourning? These were reasonably storytelling questions to ask, and people have been asking them for years. But we never had a clear explanation of what really happened to Andy’s father from a reputable source… until Mike Mozart.
Mike Mozart was a consultant on the original Toy Story, and a friend of the late Pixar luminary Joe Ranft. Before Joe Ranft’s tragic death in 2005, Ranft allegedly told Mike Mozart what really happened to Andy’s dad.
And it’s the saddest thing ever.
Like, this is arguably even more depressing and beautiful than that opening sequence of Up that wrecked the hearts of a whole generation. You’ve been warned.
Mike Mozart (via Super Carlin Brothers) explains that Andy’s father – who was also named Andy – was the original owner of the Woody doll. It turns out that the doll was part of a short-lived promotion, and that young Andy was unable to buy enough cereal to send away for the doll because his family was very poor. So he wrote a letter asking the company to please send him the doll anyway… and since he was the only child who was interested in Woody after the launching of Sputnik made outer space stories more popular than cowboys, they sent him the one-of-a-kind prototype. (This is why, as revealed in Toy Story 2, the Woody doll is considered one of the rarest toys in the world.)
But then… get your tissues ready… Andy contracted polio.
Although the child eventually recovered from the illness, his toys had to be burned to prevent the spread of the disease. Andy couldn’t bear to part with Woody so he crawled out of bed – unable to use his own legs – and hid Woody, Slinky Dog and Mr. Potato Head in the attic.
Andy grew up and had a family of his own, and had two children, one of whom is also named Andy, who looks a lot like his father. But when Andy’s father is afflicted post-polio syndrome, they move back into his childhood home. On his deathbed, Andy’s father gives his son a key to the trunk where he hid the toys, and says “inside is going to be your best friend in the world.”
Andy gets the trunk, but by the time he returns to his father’s beside… Andy, the young boy who hit Woody away all those decades ago, has died.
After the funeral, Andy opens the trunk and discovers Woody, Slinky and Mr. Potato Head, but the toys don’t know that the new Andy – who, again, looks just like the old Andy – is a different child. That’s why Woody thinks that this new Andy is the same little boy who wrote his name on his boot.
Now, to be clear, we’re getting this information secondhand. It’s possible that somewhere down the line, Pixar will explain the backstory of Andy’s father and that it won’t match up exactly – or at all – with the tale that Joe Ranft allegedly told Mike Mozart.
But this story fills in every single one of the blanks that Pixar fans have been curious about for years, and… in true Pixar fashion… it tugs at the heartstrings in a deep and powerful way.
Now go ahead, and have yourself a good cry. *sniff*
Top Photo: Pixar
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.