For nearly two decades, the anthropomorphic stars of the Toy Story series of movies, books, and other merchandise have enthralled children and parents alike. Led by cowboy Woody and space ranger Buzz Lightyear, the ensemble of toys have provided hours of entertainment for children of all ages.
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More than that, though, they have taught valuable life lessons. Four of the lessons that permeate throughout the Toy Story franchise are:
1. True friends are always loyal.
The main theme of the entire Toy Story series is friendship, focusing primarily on the relationship between Woody and Buzz. At first, the two toys saw each other as adversaries as they both craved the honor of being the favorite toy of their owner, Andy. Through the course of the first movie, though, their animosity transformed into a rich friendship with continued to grow with each successive movie.
Because of the strength of this friendship, Buzz and Woody repeatedly risked their lives for each other. Despite the occasional spat, the two were always loyal and quick to reconcile. They would defend each other against the greatest of foes.
2. Everyone has something of value to offer.
The ragtag group of toys in Andy’s collection included a piggy bank, toy soldiers, an Etch A Sketch, a slinky dog, and more. When called upon, each one rose to the occasion and contributed in ways that helped the entire group. Each had a unique ability, even if that ability were sometimes overlooked or taken for granted.
3. Fears are often unwarranted and lead to poor decisions.
Originally, Woody was afraid Buzz would supplant him as Andy’s favorite toy. That fear resulted in both of them almost falling victim to Sid, the destructive boy next door. When all the toys became afraid of Andy outgrowing their usefulness, their fear took them to a daycare where they were almost destroyed by the children and by the tyrannical teddy bear, Lotso.
Fear does not solve problems; it only complicates them by introducing new problems. And often, it turns out that our fears are based on false assumptions and expectations that never become reality.
4. Everyone needs to experience love and a sense of belonging.
The thing that all the toys valued the most was the love of their owner. Woody even had Andy’s name scrawled on his foot and he looked at it often to regain his perspective and as a reminder that he was loved. The love that all the toys received from Andy is what kept them going.
That love from Andy—and the sense of belonging they each toy experienced as a result—was the greatest gift that Andy could have given them. Likewise, it is the best gift any person can give to another.
These lessons make Toy Story much more than just a series of good movies. They make the series a valuable tool to teach life principles to children. And parents can pick up a few ideas in the process, too.