Toy Story 4 came out a few weeks ago. I’ve enjoyed the entire Toy Story franchise and this latest one has stayed pretty true to the original scope and sequence of the franchise. What’s interesting to me is the story behind storytelling.
Allow me to explain. If you look at movies, especially those that have sequels, you can learn a lot about the storytellers behind those stories based on the evolution and involvement of different themes.
One of the things that I’ve found interesting when it comes to the Toy Story movies is how much they seem to focus on the theme of parenting. In fact I think if you look at each movie you can find another look at what parenting feels like, interestingly enough, the shifting perspective in each movie points to the storytellers themselves aging through the different phases of parenting.
Toy Story 1
Toy Story 1 is the perfect example of what it’s like to be a dad of a 4th or 5th grade kid. For so long as dad you’re the hero. Just like Woody in the first film everything seems great until one day you realize you’re not the hero anymore. Your kid thinks some kid at school or on the soccer team is the big shot. And just like when Buzz lands in Andy’s life, it can be an adjustment to realize that being the hero is fun but being there for your kid when they need you is a calling.
Toy Story 2
Come to the sequel of Toy Story 2 and Woody is realizing how fun it is to have a kid. Until all of a sudden his arm tears and he realizes that this gig has an expiration date on it. That’s when the glory days show up and he starts thinking about calling it quits. After all he used to be a genuine TV legend. What if he left his calling and instead went back to being a hot shot? What’s interesting is, during my time in ministry, I’ve seen plenty of dads give up their shot at being dad for something that to them looked like the old glory days. The problem is, just like Woody finds out, it’s not really real and it’ll never beat being a dad to your kid.
Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 is a hard one because just like in the first and second, Woody realizes that his gig as a toy has an expiration date on it. This time though it’s because he’s right on the precipice. The truth is being a dad is an amazing calling but it definitely changes and certain parts of it end, in a way. Much like the toys as they stare down their fate in an incinerator it can seem like childhood dies. But the truth is it doesn’t. The only way childhood dies if you don’t help to pass it on. Being a granddad and even a mentor is a great way to keep your own childhood alive.
Toy Story 4
If you haven’t seen the most recent movie *spoilers* lay ahead.
If you’ve seen the movie you may see the similarities otherwise it might be hard to see what I’m pointing too.
Essentially to me you have the empty nester stage displayed during the movie. Woody gets to a point where he doesn’t feel like he’s useful anymore. That’s a hard place to be, especially for a guy. The calling of being dad, while it never ends, when it changes can leave you feeling useless. Woody has a few moments throughout the movie where he passes on who he is to the next generation. Both Buzz and Forky use Woody as their mentor. The best part though is Woody realizes that he’s not useless but that this is his chance to reconnect with his love, Bo Peep. Essentially there is more to your life than children; the love that began it is worth investing in.
Here’s the bottom line behind all of these movie morals; what’s most interesting isn’t necessarily the parenting parables but the progression is storytelling. I mean when you look at the progression in the stories and the similarities between phases you can see the movie creators aging through the phases of parenting.
So what does that teach me?
Great stories connect because the storyteller feels connected to them.
It may simple but whether it’s in your ability to engage kids on a weekend or even tell your kids stories that will help them; speaking about things you feel connected to helps you connect to your audience too.