The Gospel According to Pixar: Toy Story

For those who haven’t seen the movie (it is 17 years old!), Toy Story is […]

Todd Brewer / 6.8.09

For those who haven’t seen the movie (it is 17 years old!), Toy Story is a tale about the secret lives of Andy’s toys. Whenever Andy leaves, a whole unknown toy world comes to life. This is a world of staff meetings, checker games, friends, and Plastic corrosion awareness meetings. Andy’s favorite toy is Woody, an old pull-string cowboy. Woody enjoys a charmed life of love and personal prestige. Yet in one day he loses all of this as Andy is given a new Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger toy for his birthday. Woody is a character that has lost his place in life. Buzz has supplanted him as Andy’s favorite toy and Woody is discarded to the toy chest. But Buzz is oblivious of the benefits of being Andy’s favorite toy. He thinks that he is a real space ranger who needs to return to the mother ship.

There’s so much to say about this movie: it touches the deep issues of loss, preaching and the nature of evil. But I want to highlight specifically the relationship between Andy and his toys as the pure Gospel message.

As demonstrated so clearly by Woody and Buzz, the toys derive their value externally through the love and attention of Andy. The most important thing in Woody’s world is the place he holds in Andy’s heart as his favorite toy. But as Buzz Lightyear’s delusions demonstrate, Woody and Buzz are just toys. Woody isn’t really a cowboy and Buzz really isn’t a space ranger; Woody can’t round up cattle and Buzz can’t fly.

When Buzz is confronted by the shocking reality that he is a toy, he is thrown into despair. He says, “I’m not a space ranger. I’m just a toy, a stupid little insignificant toy.” Yet Wood (the preacher) urges him saying, “Being a toy is a whole lot better than being a space ranger. . . Look, over in that house is a kid who thinks that you are the greatest. . . you are his toy.” Buzz looks down on the sole of his boot and sees “Andy” written on permanent marker. Immediately, Buzz springs into action. He is saved from his despair through the assurance that he belongs to, and is loved by, Andy.

In the same way, our value is only found through being loved by God. As Luther said in the Heidelberg Disputation, “Rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive… This is the love of the cross, born of the cross which turns in the direction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person.”