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Storylines In The Toy Story Franchise That Disappeared Without Explanation

Pixar's beloved "Toy Story" series is bursting with characters, locations, and storylines that weave their way in and out of four movies and plenty of shorts. For the most part, characters only appear if they serve the main plot. This results in well-crafted movies that reflect the rapid changes of childhood: Toys aren't cherished by the same kids forever, after all. But it also means there isn't any guarantee a beloved face from a previous installment will reappear in the next entry. Moreover, these disappearances aren't always explained — we're left to wonder what yard sale, moment of forgetfulness, or donation box claimed these missing toys. Subplots are handled similarly: Even if a beat or a plot thread is funny, emotional, or otherwise effective, it's not repeated unless it makes ironclad sense to do so.

While the "Toy Story" series is undoubtedly one of the greatest franchises in film history, its dedication to keeping its plot trim and efficient leaves many story elements to the imagination. From vanishing ventriloquist dummies to fascinating familial ties, these are the storylines in the "Toy Story" franchise that disappeared without explanation.

Sid's new circumstances

Sid Phillips isn't your typical '90s animated villain. In the original "Toy Story," he's the bullying kid next door and every toy's worst nightmare. Sid takes pleasure in burning Woody's forehead, replacing toys' limbs, and blowing up Combat Carls in his backyard. Sometimes, he even rips apart toys belonging to his little sister, Hannah. 

After Woody spooks him, Sid seems to turn over a new leaf. He's absolutely terrified of all toys, now that one has spoken to him. It appears Hannah might even have some leverage over her brother, as she freaks him out by thrusting her doll in his face. This twist of dynamics could have been fun to explore further: How long does Sid's fear last? Is he a changed person in other areas of life? Does Hannah and Sid's relationship change because of this? Does Sid believe for the rest of his life that he actually saw Woody come to life, or does he convince himself it was a bad dream? 

We'll never know the answers to these questions: The last the audience sees of Sid is him running away screaming while Hannah chases him with her doll, Sally. Sid does make a cameo as a garbage man in "Toy Story 3," still wearing his signature skull t-shirt. But we never learn how he handles a toy shattering his notions of reality.

Disappearing and reappearing toys

As time goes on, kids get new toys and throw out old ones. This topic is prevalent throughout the "Toy Story" series, and presents itself through the absence of certain characters. Some of these disappearances happen between films: In "Toy Story 3," Woody notes the gang has "lost friends along the way" and names Wheezy the penguin and the Etch-A-Sketch as examples. Bo Peep is an especially prominent example of this, as she's a major part of the first two films and completely absent from the third. Woody mourns her loss, then rejoices when she makes her triumphant return in "Toy Story 4."

But other toys like Andy's RC car, Rocky Gibraltar, and Lenny the wind-up binoculars simply disappear without any explanation. What makes this even more confusing is the fact that some of these vanished toys reappear later on, without any comment made. For example, the Peas-in-a-Pod triplets who debut in "Toy Story 3" are absent from "Toy Story 4," yet they're present in the "Forky Asks A Question" shorts, which take place after the fourth film.

Buzz and Zurg's father-son relationship

All toys in the Buzz Lightyear product line apparently believe their fictional backstories are completely true. This is so ironclad, Buzz has to lose an arm to finally realize he's a toy and not a space ranger in the original "Toy Story." In "Toy Story 2," when Andy's Buzz ventures into a toy store aisle entirely filled with other Buzzes, he encounters an activated Buzz who hasn't yet seen the light. This other Buzz soon faces off against Emperor Zurg, his arch-nemesis. Zurg also believes himself to be a notorious space villain, rather than a small, plastic, rolling toy. During a battle in an elevator shaft they both believe to be the fight of their lives, Zurg reveals himself to be Buzz's father in a reference to Darth Vader's infamous reveal in "The Empire Strikes Back."

While this revelation doesn't lead either character to accept the truth of their toyhood, it does change their in-universe dynamic. Reconciling their hatred for one another, Zurg and Buzz decide to pursue a healthy relationship as father and son. The two play catch outside of Al's apartment as the other toys scurry home ... but we never see what their bond blossoms into after that. If their enthusiasm is any indication (Zurg proudly proclaims "That's my boy!" as Buzz goes long for a catch), they've found true happiness.

Stinky Pete's life with Amy

Stinky Pete is part of Al's vintage "Woody's Roundup" collection, alongside Woody, Jessie, Bullseye, and a plethora of non-sentient memorabilia. The group is set to be shipped to Japan to be part of a museum in "Toy Story 2," but when Woody wants them to come live with Andy instead, Stinky Pete shows his true sinister colors. After a runaway chase through the airport, Woody and the gang strap him inside a backpack. When the little girl who owns the bag retrieves it at baggage claim, she exclaims, "Ooh, a big, ugly man doll! He needs a makeover." She then places her own Barbie alongside Stinky Pete. As the girl puts on the backpack and happily trots away, Barbie turns to her new pal. "You'll like Amy," she enthuses. "She's an artist!" Barbie's face is then revealed to be filled with colorful doodles, courtesy of Amy.

While Jessie and Bullseye go on to have wonderful lives as Andy's toys, that's all she wrote when it comes to Stinky Pete. We can imagine the horrors that await him during playtime with Amy, which probably involve permanent markers. But perhaps the rest of Amy's toys help him become a better person. Or maybe he attempts an escape. Regardless, all we see of Stinky Pete's next chapter is Amy's excited plan for his makeover.

The Potato Heads' alien children

When Andy's toys hijack a Pizza Planet truck to save Woody in "Toy Story 2," three squeaky alien toys from the arcade are inside the vehicle. A quick turn sends the trio tumbling out the window, but they're saved from their doom by a quick-thinking Mr. Potato Head. Following this incident, the aliens repeatedly tell the spud, "You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful." As they repeat this sentiment back in Andy's room, Mrs. Potato Head proclaims she and her husband will adopt the aliens as their children.

Despite roughly a decade passing between "Toy Story 2" and "Toy Story 3," the aliens still repeat their "eternally grateful" line at Mr. Potato Head in the third installment. They also return their father figure's foundational favor when they save not only Mr. Potato Head, but all of Andy's toys from a terrifying incinerator.

The aliens make the move to Bonnie's room and are present in "Toy Story 4." But sadly, Bonnie doesn't bring them on the road trip where most of the film's action takes place, meaning they're absent from the main plot.  What has become of their relationship to their adopted parents? Have the Potato Heads had to deal with anything like a rocky adolescence (or the toy equivalent, anyway)? We might never know.

The fate of Al's Toy Barn

Al, the owner and namesake of Al's Toy Barn, moonlights as an avid toy collector and reseller. In "Toy Story 2," he plans to send Woody, along with the entire collection Woody is part of, to a toy museum in Japan. His luggage carrying said goods gets as far as check-in at the airport before Woody and the roundup gang bust out. Evidently, Al's clients aren't happy when he gets to Japan and finds his suitcases completely empty: The toys see him in a TV commercial at the end of the film, crying on camera in his giant chicken suit. We never learn exactly what goes down in Japan, or what becomes of Al following "Toy Story 2." He doesn't appear in any other "Toy Story" movie.

Keen-eyed viewers get a small glimpse of Al's fate in the 2013 television special "Toy Story of Terror," however. When a motel owner swipes Woody from Bonnie and sells him online, we see that the buyer is "Al McWhiggin," whose address is listed as "Al's Toy Barn." Woody escapes and gets back to Bonnie before being shipped, so Al's in for yet another empty box when his package arrives. All those years later, he's still on the hunt for the cowboy that got away.

Andy's college life

Andy is preparing to leave for college by the time "Toy Story 3" rolls around. Most of the conflict of this installment centers around what Andy will do with his childhood toys when he leaves home, and if they'll have any say in determining their future. In the end, Andy gives all his toys to a little girl named Bonnie. He introduces each toy to her, explains why they're special, and joins Bonnie in one last playtime with his beloved companions. Though we see Andy as a kid during a flashback in "Toy Story 4," this moment at the end of "Toy Story 3" is the last point in the "Toy Story" timeline in which he appears.

Let's face it: It wouldn't make sense for Andy and the toys to truly reconnect. A college student just isn't likely to go back to a kid's house for the purpose of seeing his old plastic buddies. But we can't help but wonder why we never get any sort of glimpse of Andy's college career. It's established in "Toy Story 3" that Andy's mom and Bonnie's mom know each other — it's totally plausible that the families might get together sometime during a school break, allowing the toys (and us) to overhear discussion of Andy's circumstances. Sadly, Pixar leaves Andy's whereabouts up to the imagination.

Sunnyside's new regime

"Toy Story 3" concludes with Andy's toys escaping Sunnyside Daycare. But there's one character who stays behind: Barbie, who previously belonged to Andy's sister Molly. Now that the dastardly Lotso no longer calls the shots at Sunnyside, Barbie and her newfound boyfriend Ken take charge and transform the place into one worthy of its name.

We see the tiniest glimpse of life in the new Sunnyside in the epilogue of "Toy Story 3." A banner proclaims the daycare's toy community to be under new "cool and groovy" management. They welcome new arrivals, including Andy's old Green Army Men and a stray Emperor Zurg. Later, in the short film "Hawaiian Vacation," Barbie and Ken reappear, having stowed away in Bonnie's backpack — but none of the other Sunnyside characters return.

Barbie, Ken, and the whole Sunnyside gang don't return in "Toy Story 4." The location itself is absent as well. We're left to wonder how things are going under Barbie and Ken's regime, which seems to be as stylish as it is optimistic. Do those big dreams pan out? How do Barbie's political smarts come into play? We might never know.

Spanish Buzz

After a factory reset in "Toy Story 3," Buzz speaks Spanish and behaves like a romantic (and flamenco dancing) soap opera character. He switches back to his usual self when a TV falls on him, and retains no memory of his Spanish mode. When music triggers his body into dancing out some of his Spanish mode moves in the film's epilogue, Buzz admits, "I don't know what came over me." The toys have no such memory loss, and occasionally revert Buzz back to this version of himself: Spanish Buzz reappears in the short film "Hawaiian Vacation" as part of an elaborate pretend resort the toys set up in Bonnie's room.

Spanish mode doesn't reappear in any other shorts or in "Toy Story 4." Instead, in the fourth installment, Buzz's schtick is treating his programmed catchphrases as his "inner voice." Did Pixar like the idea of giving Buzz a self-contained gag category for each film, leaving Spanish Buzz in the past? Perhaps. But we'll never forget those moves.

Lotso's life on the truck

It's hard not to hate Lotso after he abandons Woody and the gang in the incinerator at the end of "Toy Story 3." The toys agree: When they escape this fiery end, they express a desire to seek revenge. "Forget it, guys," Woody tells them. "He's not worth it." This is true — but also, karma is coming for Lotso, and fast. A trucker sees the purple bear on the side of the road, picks him up, and straps him to the front of his vehicle alongside three other toys who have clearly been there a while. One toy, whose plush fur is scattered with dead bugs, warns Lotso, "Hey, buddy! You might wanna keep your mouth shut!"

While we can assume Lotso's life on the road is absolutely miserable, we never know for sure, as he doesn't appear in the series beyond "Toy Story 3." Where does he wind up? Do any other toys join the truck collection? Does he visit any exciting pit stops? Does he ever try to escape? These remain mysteries.

Bonnie and Woody

Bonnie grows attached to Woody in "Toy Story 3." He has a starring role in the adventures she imagines, and is even referred to by the eager little girl as "my cowboy." She clearly loves Woody, and is thrilled when Andy passes him along to her. But by "Toy Story 4," Bonnie has had a complete charge of heart: She leaves Woody in her closet while she plays with other toys. This sentiment grows to the point that Woody is okay with leaving Bonnie to be with Bo Peep, as he knows Bonnie will be fine without him. That's quite the reversal from what's expressed in "Toy Story 3."

This change of heart appears to happen very quickly. Bonnie loves Woody at the end of "Toy Story 3" ... and has all but forgotten about him by the beginning of "Toy Story 4." The short films and television specials that take place between the events of those two film imply time has passed, which makes Bonnie's treatment of Woody a bit less jarring. Still, "Toy Story 3" implies that Woody will be Bonnie's favorite toy, just as he was Andy's. In "Toy Story 4," that's not the case. What happened?

Gabby Gabby's henchmen

In "Toy Story 4," Gabby Gabby rules the antique store with an iron fist, assisted by four terrifying ventriloquist dummies. As it turns out, all Gabby Gabby really wants is to be loved by a kid: Her damaged voice box has kept her on the shelf for decades. After an attempt to replace her broken tech with Woody's voice box doesn't go the way she wants, Gabby Gabby agrees to venture outside the store with Woody and Bo Peep to find her happiness.

Gabby Gabby finally finds a kid to love at a busy fair. Her ventriloquist dummy henchmen, however, are left behind in the antique store. Gabby Gabby leaves them without a thought, and the characters are never addressed again. Are the dummies in charge now? Do they yield their power with Gabby Gabby out of the picture? Do the other toys come out of hiding? We have no idea — once Gabby Gabby leaves the antique store, so does the audience, and the location isn't revisited for the sake of resolution.