Alert: Do not read if you have not seen Toy Story 4 and care about spoilers.
Woody and Bo disagree on the topic of loyalty. She calls it clinging; he says it is the main purpose of a toy—to “be there” for a child whenever the child needs it. Throughout the film we see Woody suffering. He often says “Andy” when he means “Bonnie” because his heart is still tied to his first child, even though Andy is in college and doesn’t need Woody any more. In a scene I found very funny, Woody has picked up a dust bunny from being left in the closet so long. Even Bonnie is starting to have no use for Woody. Out of loyalty, though, Woody is prepared to remain where he is indefinitely, just in case Bonnie needs him. As many wisdom teachers say, clinging causes suffering.
We can see Woody’s awakening in his willingness to let go of his voice box for the sake of Gabby Gabby’s happiness. This kind of self-sacrifice marks saints and saviors. Caring more for another than for self-preservation shows Woody is starting to unclench his iron grip on the status quo. He is willing to love people beyond his own “kids,” Andy and Bonnie.
At the end, Woody lets go entirely of his clinging to Bonnie/Andy. Buzz assures him that Bonnie will be fine without Woody, and Woody goes with Bo. At first, this seems selfish of Woody—choosing his own personal romantic relationship over loving Bonnie. But immediately we are assured that Woody’s love has not shrunk but has expanded. He and Bo, along with their toy crew, spend their lives putting carnival toys in the hands of children by helping the kids hit the target in the shooting gallery.
Bo is right to call Woody’s loyalty “clinging,” and her message hits the hearts of the parents in the audience. Sometimes family loyalty becomes unhealthy when it holds people back from growth and spiritual development. Parents know they must let go of their children, but they often delay the process by clinging. Children can be stifled by misguided loyalty to parents. A narrow child-parent love is not the be-all and the end-all. Our love needs to expand beyond the family, beyond the neighborhood, to a wider world. Woody and Bo, we assume, are traveling with the carnival around the country, spreading love to children without restriction. I see this as a vision of heaven, God’s Kingdom, Nirvana, or whatever you want to call it. God wants love to flow everywhere. Toy Story 4 says so, too.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog about the Inner Voice in Toy Story 4. Try to see the film before then, if you haven’t already.