The Toy Story franchise has been beloved for nearly a generation by people young and old. But one of the many questions people have asked, mostly on the internet, is where is Andy’s dad?
The story of Andy’s dad was never explained to audiences before the man who created the story of Andy and his toys, Joe Ranft, died in a car accident in 2006. But Ranft did explain the story of Andy’s dad and the many questions that the movie leaves open to question to his friend and longtime Disney artist and well-known toy collector, Mike Mozart, over a casual meal before he passed, and the story is amazing in its detail and heartwrenching in explanation.
In a recent interview on the Super Carlin Brothers channel on YouTube, Mozart told Ben Carlin the compelling story Ranft shared with him.
Through Mozart’s retelling, we now know that the house Andy and his sister and mom are living in is actually his dad’s parent’s house. That the pictures on the wall, while seemingly looking like Andy, are photos of his dad — who we learn was also named Andy — as a child.
Ranft told Mozart that Andy Sr.’s parents were poor and couldn’t afford to buy Cowboy Crunchies cereal the boy needed in order to send away for the Woody action figure. Andy Sr. decides to send a letter to the cereal company explaining he can’t afford the cereal but could they please send him Woody anyway.
But between the time the letter is sent and the company reads it, Sputnik was launched and all the kids want space toys. The cereal company cancels the Woody promotion and sends the kids who sent in their box tops a space toy instead. Woody is never mass produced and only the one prototype that was used for the promotion was ever made, subsequently making Woody the rare and valuable toy we later find out he is. And that Woody doll was thrown in the trash.
A secretary in the company felt that this was the wrong approach and retrieved Woody from the bin and decided she would choose from the letters the child she thought most deserved the doll and send it to him.
Now comes the sad part. In 1957, Andy Sr. contracts polio — yes, the vaccine came out in 1955, but wasn’t in widespread until 1961 — and is sent away for treatment. But before he goes, his toys must all be burned in case they are contaminated. Andy Sr. can’t stand this thought and after his toys have all been taken outside in preparation for them to be burned, he drags himself outside without the use of his legs and rescues Woody, Slinky Dog, and Mr. Potato Head. Placing them in a locked box for safe keeping.
Andy Sr. is sent away and recovers. But he’s older and no longer playing with toys. He eventually moves to Seattle where he meets and marries Andy’s mom.
But Andy Sr., shortly after young Andy’s little sister was born, was stricken with a devastating recurrence of the poliovirus, known as post-polio syndrome, which is often worse than the first bout. Andy Sr. and his wife move their family into his parent’s house where he dies shortly before Andy’s birthday, the one we witness at the start of Toy Story.
Many people have often speculated about why young Andy, having ostensibly just lost his father through death or divorce, would be so happy on his birthday.
We now know that his dad did die, but before Andy Sr. left his mortal coil, he gave Andy a key and told him where the box that went with the key was upstairs. He told young Andy that inside the box would be his best friends. During the time that Andy went upstairs to find the box and came back down, his father was gone.
Young Andy forgets about the unopened box until after the funeral, shortly before his birthday. When he remembers it, he’s excited and finds Woody, Slinky Dog, and Mr. Potato Head — his last gifts and mementos from his dad. Therefore, he is happy and excited on his birthday.
One wild twist, the three toys have no idea more than a decade has passed and that young Andy is not the same little boy as the one they played with before.
The 17-minute video is definitely worth watching, and the full interview with even more details is available through the Super Carlin Brothers patreon site.