Can The Toys In Toy Story Die? Director Lee Unkrich Clarifies

Woody in Toy Story 3

The best movies tend to raise some of the most controversial debates, such as: is Harrison Ford’s Deckard a replicant in Blade Runner? Sometimes, though, great movies can also spawn weird questions. In this case, can the toys of the Toy Story franchise die? Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich hopped into this little debate to clarify. Check it out:

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Well, there you have it, folks. The toys from Toy Story aren’t immortal after all. Though based on Lee Unkrich's Twitter post, it sounds like it takes a lot to kill them off.

Most Toy Story fans will remember the dreaded incinerator scene from Lee Unkrich’s Toy Story 3. This heavily emotional scene, which took over a year to animate, showed Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the rest of the gang all sinking to their fiery doom, hand in hand, believing that was the end. At the time, it seemed like Pixar would actually go for it and kill off the toys, ending the trilogy for good.

That, of course, was never going to happen, but can you imagine such a dark ending for a kids' movie? Theaters around the world would be flooded with tears, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Who knows how much trauma that would have caused. Fortunately, Woody and the others made it out alive.

The first time we see a toy’s brush with death is in the first Toy Story. Woody and the gang watch as Sid straps an M80 to the back of a Combat Carl. Carl explodes, with his pieces scattering everywhere. Did he die? The assumption could be yes. Though later, Woody finds severed Combat Carl heads in Sid’s room and zombie Combat Carl’s rise up from the sandbox as well. Wow, sometimes it’s easy to forget Toy Story can be morbid.

What’s interesting is that even though toys have an incredible resilience to death, the toys themselves seem to think they could die from falling at great heights. In the original Toy Story, the toys in Andy’s room believe Woody tried to kill Buzz when he falls out of the window. But perhaps they’re unaware of their own resistance to death?

While the Toy Story saga touches on themes of loneliness, love, family, loyalty, and identity, it doesn’t deal with death too often. This is likely why the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3 is so shocking and emotional. Initially, the toys just wanted to escape a daycare prison but were instead suddenly faced with their own mortality.

After all, as Lee Unkrich made clear, there’s seemingly no logical way a toy could be resurrected after being totally annihilated in a burning furnace. They can survive having their limbs removed and being turned into mutated toys, like in Sid’s room but, once they face incineration, it’s game over. With that said, I think I’m going to go get some tissues now.

All four Toy Story films are currently available to stream on Disney+.

Jason Ingolfsland