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The One Thing Toy Story Never Explains About Andy's Family

There are a lot of questions that go unanswered in the Toy Story universe. For starters, why does Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) act like an inanimate object when Andy's around if he doesn't believe he's a toy? Since toys are clearly capable of free will, then why do they resign themselves to a life of subjugation? Do the toys come with preordained personalities and belief systems, or do they still have to develop all of that on their own?

It's easy to go down a Toy Story rabbit hole where you end up succumbing to existential ennui about the entire nature of the universe. That's a route you don't want to go down, especially since it's ultimately a children's franchise, but the series almost goes out of its way to court introspective reflection, like the existence of Forky in Toy Story 4. If someone can turn a bunch of trash into a plaything, then would that mean a child playing with their food would momentarily turn it sentient before it goes into their stomach? 

Pixar likely never intended such grand questions to factor into the movies, but there's one question that remains in fans' minds all these years later. Where is Andy's father throughout the films?

Andy's father is never even referenced in the Toy Story movies

For the first three Toy Story films, we follow a kid named Andy, who owns Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz, and the rest of the toy gang. We know he has a sister, dog, and mother who seemingly does everything for him from throwing birthday parties to seeing him off to college. At no point does a father come into the picture. No one even talks about him, like "Too bad dad had to go on that business trip and missed Andy's birthday." You won't even find photographs of someone who could conceivably be Andy's dad around the house. 

There are some potential reasons that would explain the father's absence, namely he either died or the two parents divorced. Toy Story 4 director and producer Josh Cooley and Mark Nielsen, respectively, even talked about these ideas in an interview with Variety. They explored various Toy Story fan theories, including one about how Andy's dad is dead, and that's why Andy is drawn to toys like Woody and Buzz that represent masculine ideals. Their idea about what transpired also happens to be the simplest: "In terms of his dad, though being dead? That's taking it pretty far. I'd like to think that maybe [Andy's parents] split up, maybe he's still alive and living somewhere in another town."

Nothing's ever been made canon, and since Andy's gone from the franchise, this is one question that's probably not going to get an official answer any time soon. And ultimately, the absence that launched a thousand fan theories all came down to cutting down costs.

Humans were too difficult to animate, so Andy's father was left out

Toy Story was a groundbreaking film when it first came out in 1995. It presented a bold, new future for animation. Without Toy Story, there would be no Finding NemoSoul, or Luca, but back in the day, Pixar was just a fledgling animation studio trying to get a single feature-length movie off the ground, and that meant cutting corners where possible. 

Someone asked about Andy's father in a Quora forum, and their question received a response from none other than Craig Good, who worked as the supervising layout artist on Toy Story. He took time to explain the process behind the decision: "The story did not require a dad. And he would have been too expensive. We had to make as many toys as we could manage, though, to fill out that world. Because the story was about toys."

Going back to watch the original Toy Story, it's pretty noticeable. Andy's face was necessary because the movie is all about him losing his toys, and the audience needs to be able to empathize with him. But Andy's mother remains faceless the entire film; she's really just there to move the story along when needed, like encouraging Andy to come down from his bedroom to the party. It sounds as though there was never anything really in mind to explain away the father, but maybe if Toy Story 5 ever comes to fruition, the writers will finally provide some answers.