What ‘Toy Story’ taught us about growing up

It may be two and a half years away, but I already have plans for June 16, 2017. You’ll find me in a dark, crowded theater, wide-eyed and chowing down on popcorn, surrounded by others who are just as excited to experience the fourth installment in the Toy Story saga.

This week, Disney CEO Bob Iger broke the news of the new film in a conference call to investors, and that news subsequently broke the internet. I didn’t think Woody and Buzz had any more adventures left in them, but I was dead wrong. The brand new PIXAR movie will be directed by John Lassetter, who has already directed awesome animated flicks like Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, and all the Cars movies. It’s also very important to point out that beautiful angelfish Rashida Jones is co-writing the movie, along with Will McCormack (they wrote Celeste & Jesse Forever and A to Z together!). Are you excited? Because I’m seriously excited.

Toy Story is one of those movies that you can love at any age. I was fortunate enough to have Buzz and Woody in my life very early on, and they’ve stayed with me ever since. (Would you believe me if I said I have a Buzz Lightyear stuffed animal on my bed right now? Because I do). I know plenty of adults who didn’t see Toy Story until they were older, but seeing the movie then still yields the same special heartwarming experience it does as watching it at age 6. The movies capture the magic of being a kid, and how special it is that your favorite toys can come to life with just a sprinkling of imagination. The movies also teach us some verrrrry important lessons about growing up. Here are some of the biggies the Toy Story series has already taught us. We’ll be looking forward to whatever the gang cooks up next.

Change is OK

Toy Story is about change. As kids, if we’re lucky, we understand change as toys replacing toys. You know, one toy gets old, maybe it breaks, the batteries aren’t replaceable, our we just outgrow it. Toy Story shows us change as experienced by Woody and Buzz (and later, Jessie, too). We see kids lose interest in playing cowboys, and then even lose interest in playing space rangers. It might feel a little sad but it’s just growing up. This change is inevitable, and it’s not a bad thing. The movie might make it look like that passing of time is the end all be all, especially for Jessie; at first the change completely breaks her. But even Jesse is able to find a new home. She embraces the change and she ends up loving it. Growing up might feel scary at first, but the changes we go through are worth giving an openminded shot.

Friends can be forever

Out of all the Toy Story movies I definitely cry the most when watching Toy Story 3, but it’s had not to get a little misty eyed at the end of Toy Story 2. The toys have just been to the edge and back, but they were together through all of it. No toy got left behind and that’s true friendship. The toys struggled and even almost got sent off to Japan, but they made it out of the jam together. When after all that drama Buzz asks Woody if he’s OK with the fact that one day their Andy will grow out of playing with them, Woody isn’t worried. “When it all ends, I’ll have old Buzz Lightyear to keep me company, for infinity and beyond,” he says. That’s true friendship: sticking together no matter where the road up ahead may lead.

It’s OK to be different

All the toys in the movies come in different shapes, sizes, and plastics. But even so we don’t see any divide between them even though some come from Mattel and others from Playskool. Each toy is accepted for who they are, even if all they’ve got is a little light bulb that blinks. When Buzz ends up in evil Sid’s clutches, he meets a crew of modified toys, who are missing arms and eyes. At first they’re scary, but they only want to help Buzz. Though these toys aren’t shiny and new like Buzz, he relies on Sid’s creation to get him back to Andy, and he’s forever grateful for it. We are, too.

Making mistakes is a part of life

There are a lot of “whoopsy daisy” moments in the Toy Story movies. In fact, mistakes can be what makes life interesting. When Woody “accidentally” knocks Buzz out of the window, his move sets off the entire plot of Toy Story. When the other toys, remembering what Woody did, later throw him out of the back of a moving truck more mistakes are made. Neither of these things should be tried at home, and later the toys realize that they were mistakes. But these toys don’t live in the past — they continue to move forward, and forgive each other. None of them hold a forever grudge. Clearly they’ve messed up in the past, but that’s not stopping them from leading their toy lives. The lesson here? Learn from your mistakes, don’t dwell on them.

Teamwork is important

The toys wouldn’t be anywhere if they didn’t rely on each other. The green army men are perfect examples of this fact: they stick together no matter what, and no army man gets left behind. No toy can get through any of their quests alone — even if that quest is sending them into the flaming inferno of doom like at the end of Toy Story 3. Even in the worst situations, the toys are together. When it feels like nothing else can be done, they’ve still got each other.

Always, always believe in yourself

Rex is one very timid and scared dinosaur. He doesn’t think he can do anything, and he’s constantly worrying about doing something wrong. But Rex is the one to ultimately defeat Evil Emperor Zurg. All it took was a little confidence.

[Images via herehere, here, here, and here]

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