The Truth About Andy’s Dad In “Toy Story” Will Make You Depressed

Fine, here’s what happened to Andy’s dad.

A few months ago, I argued the theory that Andy’s mother is actually Emily, the girl who originally owned Jesse in Toy Story 2. The post quickly went viral, as many people began debating whether or not this is true, intentional, etc.

Since then, literally hundreds (if not thousands) of people have been asking me about Andy’s dad, and I’ve never wanted to address the issue for a few key reasons:

  1. It’s depressing.
  2. It’s depressing.
  3. It’s depressing.

You see, I love talking about theories like Andy’s mom and how all of the Pixar movies are connected because that’s tons of fun to think about. Andy’s dad? That’s just…well, you get it.

andy's dad toy story

But I can see that a lot of you want to know anyway, and it’s really not that complicated. In fact, this is one of the few theories about Toy Story that I can confidently say is totally intentional.

The original theory was first posited by Jess Nevins, an incredibly talented writer who published his take on “Mr. Davis” back in 2010. I’ll elaborate on his theory and build upon it with my own insights.

Nevins claimed that Andy’s parents are going through a divorce during the events of the first Toy Story. Now, many of you probably saw that coming (it’s pretty obvious, after all), but it’s important to point out that this is not an amicable divorce. Andy’s dad left the family, and there’s plenty of evidence to confirm this.

Keep in mind that Andy’s dad is never mentioned or seen throughout the Toy Story movies. If it wasn’t for the rudiments of biology and procreation, then we could just assume that the guy doesn’t even exist. But he does, and all signs point to him walking out on his wife and kids.

The Obvious Clues

He may have left right before the first Toy Story started or months before, but one thing is certain: Andy’s dad did not die. If he had died, then why are there no pictures of him on the wall in the Davis house?

toy story andy's dad

As you can see from this shot of Toy Story, Andy’s dad is not depicted in these family photos. If he had died, you’d think they would at least keep a picture of him up for the sake of honoring his memory.

Of course, you can argue that he died a long time ago, and the family has forgotten about him already. But if that’s the case, then how do you explain the fact that Molly (Andy’s younger sister) is a baby? He would’ve had to have died recently in order for her existence to be possible.

It makes more sense to assume that his pictures were taken down, and it would take something despicable on his part for that to happen.

To strengthen that point, Andy’s mom is spotted without a wedding ring at Andy’s birthday party in the first film. If Mr. Davis had died recently, then she would probably still be wearing it.

toy story andy's dad

Now, I’ll admit that if you really want to, you can come up with a lot of diverting theories to explain all of this by saying Molly was conceived by some other man and that could be why the parents divorced. You could argue that the kids are adopted, or Andy’s mom just “gets around.”

But don’t you think the creators of Toy Story intended for this to be clear? In this case, the simple explanation is the more likely.

After all, the family is moving from a bigger house to a noticeably smaller one in Toy Story, which signals that Andy’s mom is having financial trouble. If she and Mr. Davis were getting a divorce, then he would at least be paying child support, but the family still has to make some sacrifices.

Oh, and the family gets a puppy. That’s pretty much the king of single mother clichés.

Childish Competition

The “deadbeat dad” theory also explains why Andy is so deeply connected with his toys, especially the masculine figureheads depicted by Woody and Buzz (who are both authoritative models as a “sheriff” and a “space ranger”).

What seems like a petty rivalry between two toys vying for Andy’s affection is really an allegory that Andy is playing out in his mind. In the end, their reconciliation and eventual friendship is symbolic of Andy coming to terms with only having his mother around.


toy story andy's dad

Woody is the “old” father figure that represents where Andy really comes from, while Buzz is the “new” future he has to get used to. It’s no wonder Andy is going through emotional whiplash as he has to face the absence of his father and having to move to a totally new house within such a limited amount of time.

Now, if you’re a fan of my theory of Pixar movies and the Pixar Detective novel, then a fun way to interpret this is by noting how Woody and Buzz are essentially “programmed” to make Andy happy.

They may notice that he is torn by his old life and the new one that is being forced upon him, prompting Woody to obsess over making sure Andy still has a connection to his old life, while Buzz is the “oblivious” future that just happens upon Andy without him knowing it.

A Common Theme

Ultimately, this explains why Andy is so deeply immersed with his toys, and it’s a theme that Disney is no stranger to. In many Disney and Pixar films, the main characters are brought up without one or both parents.


toy story andy's dad

Movies like this include Up (Russell’s father left him), Tangled (Rapunzel is raised by an evil fake-mother and Flynn is an orphan), Frozen (both parents pass away), A Bug’s Life (Dot and Atta only have their mother), The Princess and the Frog (her father dies early on), Aladdin (Jasmine’s mother is never mentioned and Aladdin’s father is estranged until the third film) and I could go on and on.

The simple explanation for this is that many people suffer from broken homes during their formative years, and it’s been reflected in both literature and moviemaking for as long as they’ve been around. It should be no surprise that a fun film like Toy Story has an undercurrent of sadness and (dare I say it) reality lingering in the background.

Also, it’s been a tradition for movies and even TV to stray from having both parents onscreen in order to prevent alienating single parents who take their kids to go see movies. Ouch, right in the heart.

What the Creators Have to Say About It

Now, if you ask the director of Toy Story, Lee Unkrich, directly, then he’ll give you a mysteriously vague answer. In her article, Toy Story 3 and the Triumph of a Single Mother,” writer Mary Pols spoke with Unkrich himself and gained his thoughts on the matter:

“It’s an oft asked question, but there is no concrete answer, We don’t mean to be mysterious about it; it’s just never been relevant to the story.”

It’s just always been that way. The decision was made really early on in ‘Toy Story’ to have Andy’s dad not be around. We’ve never addressed it directly, nor have we given any explanation for where he is or why he’s absent.”

As for Unkrich himself (pictured below), his parents divorced when he was 10 years old, and he reportedly grew up with just his mother for some time.

toy story andy's dad

On Quora, Craig Good (one of Toy Story‘s animators) claims that the decision to exclude Andy’s dad was made because rendering humans was very difficult and expensive at the time, and he wouldn’t be relevant to the story anyway.

But that definitely doesn’t mean they didn’t pepper in a few clues that hint at Andy’s father being a deadbeat. That most easily explains why he truly isn’t necessary for the Toy Story movies, especially to the characters who moved on without him.

Except for Buzz Lightyear, of course. Even he got a dad in Toy Story 2…

toy story andy's dad


So here it is in a nutshell. Andy’s father most likely walked out on the family, which led to Andy’s mother deciding to relocate to a smaller house to save money and (hopefully) move on from the painful memory. She has removed any pictures she has of him, along with her wedding ring, and the father is never mentioned or seen, even in Andy’s graduation photos.

It’s sad and kind of depressing, but inevitably pointless to the story, which is really about a boy and his toys that somehow come to life and compete for his love and imagination.

Thanks for Reading! You can subscribe to this blog by email via the prompt on the sidebar. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@JonNegroni). I’ll follow you back if you say something witty and awesome.

101 thoughts on “The Truth About Andy’s Dad In “Toy Story” Will Make You Depressed

  1. Syd, Stinky Pete, and Lotso are all actually a metaphors for Andy’s Dad. The dad was either physically or emotionally abusing the family, which is the reason for the divorce. Toys are a method of expression just like a paint brush and they are Andy’s coping mechanism. Note how its Buzz that is going to get blown up and not Andy. One last attempt to destroy the new life. And note the confrontation with Sid where the toys tell him to stop hurting toys. Kind of how a kid would express it. Toy Story 3 is Andy in therapy or Andy’s attempt to reconcile with his dad. The toys (the coping mechanism) think they are done but then the Dad starts messing with them. Also note that Sid is the garbage man who picks up Lotso at the end and exclaims,”cool, i had one of these as a kid.” Toy Story 2 is the dad trying to get the family back and/or the Mom finally breaking free from the abusive ex. Could also be a custody battle.


  2. I think that Toy story happened only slightly after The Incredibles. One thing that suggests this is the fact that Woody’s tv show is black and white. Then Stinky Pete says that after the moon landing everything changed. The fact that Buzz is a new toy suggests he was made only recently after the moon landing, maybe the early 70’s .


  3. When my FIL’s dad died when he was 9 from a tragic accident, it was very traumatic for the family. Even though it happened 50 years ago, they hardly ever talk about him, and there are very no pictures of him displayed. f you want to see a picture of him, you have to go to family albums that are stored away. It is my understanding that the event was so tragic that it fractured their family on such a basic level that even talking about him or seeing pictures of him brought fresh waves of grief. Everyone handles grief in a different way. It is entirely plausible that Andy’s dad died in an accident, and Molly may be a half-sister from a person his mom never married. My FIL’s mom tried remarrying and having relationships after her husband’s death, but none of them ever measured up to her 1st husband.


    • Thanks for your honest reply, Kim. You raise some fair points and I think the bottom line is that there are really countless reasons for why he’s not around. I’m just advocating for the one that seems most likely.


  4. I think that by not making it clearly diffinitave Disney/Pixar can leave it so that just like with everything, each individual can relate in some way to the story.


  5. I just came up with another theory about the toy story trilogy. What if the toys are not alive and it is just andy’s imagination. So he pretends the toy’s come to life when he stops playing with them.


    • Why then would the toys have so many adventures independent from Andy? That would affect things that happen to other people? How could they come alive in front of Sid?

      The idea that “it’s all in Andy’s head” is sort of a cop out theory. Sure, you can’t really disprove it. But there’s also zero evidence for it. This goes with any fan theory that says “it was all just a dream.”


  6. I think that the reason why the father left and is never mentioned again, is because he cheated on Andy’s mom, decided to leave the family for the person he had the affair with, and cut himself from any connection to them. That could be why there are no pictures of Andy’s dad around the house, since what he did was so despicable. The reason I came up with this theory, is because me and my family actually knew someone that did that; He left his wife and 2 year-old daughter for his mistress and he never spoke to or saw them again. Just goes to show that there are some really awful people out there.


  7. Nice theory, but I’m not sure its true. In the new toy story 4 script you posted, Andy has a notebook full of pictures of his father. He is shown to be kind, caring and pretty much your perfect dad. However, what is important is the last picture, which is of his dad in a hospital bed and the caption ‘I love playing with woody, but I really miss my dad’. This would imply that his dad died before even the events of toy story 1, as woody said he his the notebook a long time ago and it cannot be seen in any of the first 3 movies. His family maybe don’t have photos of him because the memories hurt too much – woody says that Andy always cried when he looked at the pictures in the notebook.

    This is actually more depressing than the original theory…


    • I was thinking the same thing after reading the TS4 synopsis. If Lasseter and the others tried to pull this theory back around and: have the mother and father get divorced, then have the father become ill and regretful, and later have him ask to see Andy one more time before he “goes” it might work.
      Andy, for the sake of the story, might be oblivious to the details of the divorce being just a child and only know that dad left at some point. He would still be able to use the toys to fill a sort of void. It’s still fuzzy and confusing, though.

      I certainly agree that it would an even more depressing alternative than the original!


  8. I would like to point out something with Buzz Lightyear having Emperor Zurg as his father. We al know that the “I am your father” thing is obviously a Star Wars reference. Anyone familiar with Star Wars who has seen Toy Story 2 would notice it. Being the Star Wars and Disney fan I am, I remembered when reading this article that The Phantom Menace, or Episode I, came out May 19, 1999. I also remembered Toy Story 2 came out the same year. Thanks to the Internet, I searched the release date, which is November 25, 1999. Coincidence? I think not. I have the feeling maybe that little reference was put in last minute as an advertisement for the new Star Wars movie. Or maybe they just felt like it. I don’t know, but whatever the reason, doesn’t seem a little odd now that Disney owns Lucasfilms? Almost like a forewarning Disney will one day own the Star Wars franchise.


    • You have to remember that it takes years to develop Pixar films. This is likely coincidence because the Star Wars reference was probably animated and screen boarded long before the release date was scheduled. Also, a Pixar movie doesn’t need to advertise for Star Wars because Star Wars is Star Wars. If anything, it would be more interesting if Star Wars did an advertisement for a Pixar movie. And of course, no one in 1999 could have predicted that George Lucas would one day sell Star Wars to Disney, especially since this all occurred before the prequels ended up earning the vitriol of Lucas’s huge fanbase.


  9. I’m a newer father (18-month old son.) As I was rocking my son to sleep tonight, I did what I always do: I sing a medly of slow Disney songs to him, always ending with “You’ve Got A Friend In Me.” However, tonight I got about halfway through the song before it hit me like a punch in the gut:

    Toy Story is a metaphor for divorce and accepting a second father figure for your son.

    Woody represents Andy’s father. Him and Andy’s mom are in the final stages of their divorce, which started after Molly was conceived. This is why they have sold the house and are moving into a smaller place. While Andy’s parents don’t get along anymore, Andy and his father are the best of friends and nothing can come between them.

    That is, until Andy’s mom fell in love again, and finally introduced him to the family during Andy’s birthday party. This new guy (who we’ll call Buzz) has a flashy job, a flashy car in the shop, and (much to Woody’s horrror) instantly connects with Andy. All of the parents’ mutual friends accept Buzz, but Woody is skeptical. He feels that Buzz thinks of himself as superior to everyone else (which he does) but mainly he is jealous that Andy has been chosing to spend time with Buzz instead of him. Nonetheless, Woody is still around because of his love for Andy.

    One day, Woody’s jealousy against Buzz hits a breaking point, and he gets in a physical confrontation with Buzz, causing Buzz to leave, and Woody to be hated by all of the mutual friends. Once Woody sees the look on Andy’s face when he finds out about Buzz, he realizes that Andy is better off with both himself and Buzz. So he goes off and finds Buzz and convinces him that while he has a whole different flashy look, in the end they are both dads who will do whatever it takes to be there for Andy.


  10. Steven Spielberg said that ET was really a movie about divorce and how a child deals with it. And in ET, it’s very plain the father left the family, probably to be with a new girlfriend. Remember when Elliott says that he can’t talk to his dad because he is in Mexico. And mom starts crying and says, “He doesn’t even like Mexico!”
    I’m not creative enough to connect that to Toy Story, but that’s what popped in my head when I read this article.


  11. Had to comment. My father left when I was 2 and my brother was 4. My mom went so far as to cut/rip him out of pictures showing him next to me or my brother. She only kept three photos of him, two being of the two at their wedding. When I discovered them in the 5th grade she or my step-father took them and I never discovered them again. I think this theory is very well written and it is most likely that Andy’s father left, and his mother tried everything she could to banish any memory of him. There are a million reasons for his leaving, of course. Another woman, or even drugs. Any of these will change the way a child feels and I have always felt connected to the Toy Story franchise. This may be depressing, but for me, I feel like I had a friend who understood me all along, and I just didn’t realize it. I may be married and grown but some things will always stick with me! I love Toy Story!


What do you think? Comment here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s