Toy Story is one of the most successful franchises of all time, and is mainly responsible for kickstarting the CGI animation boom back in 1995. The rich mythology of the series has been closely scrutinized and debated upon by fans for decades. One of the most enduring questions regarding the franchise, are the toys immortal or can they die?, was recently answered on Twitter by Lee Unkrich, writer-director of Toy Story 3.
"They live as long as they exist. But if they were to be utterly destroyed? Say, in an incinerator? Game over."
The question of whether a toy can live or die might seem bizarre to outsiders, but it happens to be the founding conceit of the entire Toy Story franchise. The premise of the series is that, at some point between when a toy is first manufactured in a factory, and when the toy becomes part of a child's collection, the toy gets imbued with a form of sentience that allows it to think, feel and talk like a normal human while continuing to look like a toy in all physical ways.
It has also been established that the toys continue to experience sentience even after passing out of a child's care. But unlike the child, who is allowed to evolve and grow into an adult, the toy remains trapped in the same body, with the same thoughts and motivations, sometimes leading to bitterness and downright malevolence, as happened with many of the antagonists of the series, including Stinky Pete the Prospector and Lotso the Bear.
Since Toy Story fans belong to all age groups, more than a few of the older fans have speculated about the nature of the sentience the toys experience, and whether the fact that characters like Woody and Buzz have unaging plastic bodies means they are technically immortal.
Unkrich's answer goes some way towards resolving that debate. The toys are indeed immortal, but not indestructible. As such, the time will come when Woody and his crew do finally meet their demise, even if they never physically age.
Of course, such deep philosophical questions were never the reason behind the creation of Toy Story. While adult fans might wonder about the logic behind the franchise, the main themes of the series were always the celebration of the cherished relationship between children and their toys, the emotional pains of growing up, and the friends we are forced to leave behind along the way. It was a feeling that Tom Hanks also remembered experiencing when he spoke about voicing Woody for the final time for Toy Story 4 last year.
"The last session I thought was just odds and ends. You have to do a little bit of this reel and a little bit of that. But I was in the same studio, with the same microphone, with the same glass. And then they said, 'Okay, great. Thanks!' And just like, twenty or however many years were over.""And I had to say, 'Wait, wait. Guys, there's gotta be...there's gotta be something else you need.' And they said, 'Nope, we pretty much got it all. And the only thing to do was to get in my car and drive away. I heard the music and the sun was going down and the credits were rolling on my life."