Pixar and Disney are no stranger to fan theories about canonical anomalies found within their films’ universes, but the newest is causing a bit of controversy online.
It all started with a YouTube video. Mike Mozart, an artist and longtime toy reviewer, conducted a two-and-a-half-hour livestream where he spoke about his friend, the late Joe Ranft. Ranft is best known for being one of the writers on Toy Story, earning him an Academy Award. Ranft is also, according to Mozart, the only one who could answer a decades-old fan question: What happened to Andy's dad?
The story, according to Mozart, is pretty sad. Mozart sat down with the Super Carlin Brothers, a YouTube channel dedicated to theories about different movies, and detailed the untold story. The simple explanation Mozart gave, based on what Ranft allegedly told him, was that Andy’s dad had polio when he was a child. As a result, all of his toys had to be burned in order to protect himself and others, but before his family and doctors had a chance to kill Woody, a toy given to him by a cereal company, Andy Sr. managed to save Woody from being destroyed.
Andy Sr. eventually got better, enough to lead a full life and have a beautiful family — introducing us to Andy Jr., the young boy we know from the films. As time wore on, however, Andy Sr. developed post-polio disease. The family had to move into Andy Jr.’s grandparents house so Andy Sr. could be taken care of, according to Mozart.
Throughout all of this hardship, however, Woody never left the family’s side. While on his deathbed, Andy Sr. gives his son a key to a chest being kept in an attic. In the chest are a few of his favorite toys, including Woody, who now continues to live on through Andy Jr. They don’t realize that Andy Jr. isn’t the same boy they grew up with, now dying in the room next door, but they do get to love and cherish the human child they now sit in the arms of.
It’s a heartbreaking story, which is on par for Pixar movies, but there has been some debate as to whether or not this is actually true. After the video was published and the story gained traction online, Andrew Stanton, another writer on Toy Story, called it utter bullshit.
This leads to a couple of important questions: Was Mozart lying? Did Ranft tell Mozart but keep it a secret from the rest of the team? Was this all just a concept that Ranft came up with after the movie was finished?
Unfortunately, none of these questions will be answered. It’s a classic case of he said, she said that we’ve seen time and time again in Hollywood.
What’s even more interesting than the possible answer Ranft has given, however, is just how many other theories seem to fall into place. Why doesn’t Woody remember the “popular” show he was on called Woody’s Roundup? It was cancelled right after he was created. Different handwriting examples on Buzz and Woody’s feet exist because they were written by two different people.
It’s even led to a theory that Up and Toy Story exist in the same universe. As fans have pointed out, what if Emma Jean, the wife from Up, was the secretary who sent Woody to Andy Sr.? The basis for the theory is pretty farfetched, but it does play into the universally understood theory that every movie in the Pixar universe is somehow connected.
The story of Andy’s dad my be an argued mystery — and theory — for the rest of time, but for those looking for a little bit of closure may find some in Mozart’s answer.
Toy Story 4, the next and potentially final installment in the series, will be released on June 21, 2019.