The Mentoring of: Toy Story

There isn’t a millennial alive that doesn’t know Toy Story. Not only did it capture the attention and imagination of millions of children, it provided valuable mentoring lessons that everybody must go through.

A Cowboy and a Spaceman

Woody and Buzz Lightyear played by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.
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The series follows a host of different and unique characters, but it mostly focuses on two of them: Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Woody is introduced as a control freak and leader/mentor of the toys kept by Andy, the boy who plays with them and who Woody is devoted to making happy.

Buzz Lightyear, on the other hand, believes he is a space ranger completely and not a toy. He is also someone who likes to play the hero and quickly makes friends with his fellow toys. This makes Woody jealous because he feels his position as leader and Andy’s favourite is fading away.

Over the course of the films, it is Woody who learns more lessons than Buzz. He becomes more accepting to change and less judgemental, though his loyalty to Andy sometimes gets in the way of his development.

Time to Say Goodbye?

Stinky Pete, Jessie, and Bullseye in Toy Story 2.
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Woody is later stolen and at his kidnapper’s home, Woody meets Jessie, Bullseye and Stinky Pete, all of whom are cowboy toys and have been waiting years for Woody to join them. It is here Woody discovers his origin, being the protagonist of an old black and white television programme called Woody’s Roundup. He also learns that his kidnapper is a collector and that all of the toys, including Woody, will be sold to a Japanese museum. Pete tells Woody that Andy will grow up soon. Isn’t it better to be somewhere where he can last forever and not worry about being forgotten?

Although tempted at first, Woody convinces them to return with him to Andy, though Stinky Pete ultimately tries to ensure they go to Japan. Back home, Woody tells Buzz his is no longer worried about Andy growing up and states that when the time does come, he will have his friends there to keep him company.

It finally happens years later and the toys are forced to say a sad farewell to Andy, though they are passed onto a girl named Bonnie who loves her toys and plays with them like Andy used to.

Left Behind

Lotso and his henchmen in Toy Story 3.
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Pixar is brilliant at inserting adult themes into their movies. Each one has an underlying message and in Toy Story, it’s the fact everybody grows up and gets rid of their toys. This is brought to attention in the second and third films through Jessie and Lotso, the villian in Toy Story 3.

For Jessie, she was purposely abandoned by her owner, unable to come to terms with this fact. However, unlike Jessie, Lotso was accidentally left behind and upon returning to his owner, learns he was replaced. This changed him into an uncaring and tyrannical toy, choosing to make other toys’ lives a misery instead.

These two characters echo similarities that happen to young people throughout the world. Whether on purpose or by accident, they are left behind across various forms, such as education. Whilst many will become like Jessie, some will go down Lotso’s path and will turn to crime, especially if they have nowhere to go and think prison is a better choice.


Woody and Buzz return in Toy Story 4 with friends old and new.
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Toy Story is a film series that rarely happens and is full of great mentoring knowledge and life lessons. It teaches us about how teamwork is vital for success, that leadership must sometimes be shared to create a better place, to accept others no matter their differences, the loyalty between friends, and above all else, how change doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Randy Newman’s famous song You’ve Got a Friend in Me could easily be the theme song for Starting Point, though I think Disney and Pixar would have something to say about it.

Watch the four films and you might pick up advice that could not only help you but others too. So take your mentoring (as Buzz Lightyear would say) to infinity and beyond!

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