A Friendship to Infinity and Beyond

Friendship is a recurring theme in films by Walt Disney Studios, especially their animated productions. As I continue the subset of examples of animated friendships in my series, New Year; New Types of Friends, the friendship of Woody and Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies, shows us how moving a friendship beyond its comfort zone can provide opportunities to grow in character.  

About Disney’s Pixar

Pixar Animated Studios is a computer animation studio known for its critically and commercially successful feature films. Based in Emeryville, California, Pixar was purchased by The Walt Disney Company in 2006 from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, its majority shareholder after its spin-off from Lucasfilm Ltd in 1986. Pixar’s mascot Luxo Jr. is a desk lamp from the studio’s 1986 short film of the same name. The studio uses RenderMan Interface Specification a technology that turns three-dimensional scenes into digital photorealistic images. 

Pixar has produced 26 feature films, starting with Toy Story (1995). It also produced a sequel, titled Toy Story 2 (released in 1999), Toy Story 3 (2010) Toy Story 4 (2019), and a spin-off film, Lightyear, released in 2022. As of July 2019, Pixar films have earned approximately $14 billion at the worldwide box office, with an average worldwide gross of $680 million per film. Pixar has 15 films in the 50 highest-grossing animated films of all time. They have earned 23 Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, 10 Golden Globe Awards, and 11 Grammy Awards, along with numerous other awards and acknowledgments.

Friendship Messages in Pixar Films

This post describes several examples of friendships in Pixar films. 

  • WALL-E (2008), is a garbage-compacting robot who befriends Hal, an indestructible cockroach who is his a perfect wingman. 
  • Ratatouille (2007) is about a friendship between Remy, a rat, and Alfredo Linguini, a human, who always manage to work through their differences. 
  • Up (2009) shows how a disillusioned old man, Carl learns to be a friend to an eager boy, Russell, who he learns to love like his own son. 
  • Finding Nemo (2003) shows that Marlin and Dory understand how much they need each other and refuse to leave each other’s side. Dory helps Marlin remember to enjoy life rather than live in constant fear, while Marlin gives Dory a sense of belonging despite her short-term memory loss. 
  • The Incredibles (2004) is about the relationship of Bob Parr and Lucius Best, two true blue buddies who always have each other’s backs.  The two can always count on each other. They’re best pals.
  • Cars (2006) shows that Piston Cup race car Lightning McQueen lives life in the fast lane only to win races, not to cultivate friendships until he meets Mater, the slightly dim-witted but extremely good-natured tow truck, who teaches him humility, 
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001) is about two best friends, James P. Sullivan (“Sulley”) and Mike Wazowski who are two everyday blue-collar workers who show how you can count on friends when you are in desperate need of help, no questions asked.

Of all the Pixar movies, my favorite friendship though comes Toy Story, the movie set in a world where toys come alive when humans are not present. The films revolve around a friendship between a pull-string cowboy doll Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear, an action figure (voiced by Tim Allen) who believes he is a real space ranger. Other toys owned by a young boy named Andy include Sarge and his green army men, Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hamm the piggy bank, and Bo Peep, the porcelain doll.  

“You’ve Got A Friend In Me.” 

Randy Newman composed three original songs for the initial Toy Story film, including “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” The film’s signature song works as a common theme for all four entries of the franchise. Its also the driving force is the friendship between Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

When we first met Buzz and Woody, they were not quite friends. Buzz was a brand-new toy that Andy recently received for his birthday and Woody becomes suspicious of the new addition. At first, he was very accepting and welcoming to the toy box. However, this new toy started to get more of Andy’s attention. Woody felt a little neglected and a little jealous. 

As we know from the movies, Woody tries to get rid of Buzz but ultimately fails and must then rescue him. The long-lasting friendship grows throughout each of the Toy Story films. 

Going Beyond Comfort Zones Helps Grow Character 

In all four Toy Story movies, Woody and Buzz are philosophically opposed in some way. They will also do anything for each other.

During the first film, Buzz and Woody both end up in the clutches of Sid, Andy’s toy-torturing next-door neighbor. Sid likes to mutilate toys. He rips them apart, melts them, and straps them to rockets. Sid gets his biggest rocket ever in the mail and plans to use it on Buzz, who is depressed after realizing he wasn’t a real space ranger. In this case, Woody could have left Buzz at Sid’s mercy. Buzz was ready to give up. Woody could just go back home and be Andy’s favorite toy again. But Woody helps Buzz snap out of his funk by reminding him that Andy thinks he’s special. Woody even speaks to Sid, which is something toys never do with humans. With the help of some of Sid’s old experimental toys, the two scare the bratty kid off.

Later in Toy Story 4, Buzz supports Woody in giving up his single-owner lifestyle. Buzz encouraged Woody to leave all of his pals behind to join Bo Peep and the Lost Toys. He stretched Woody outside his comfort zone. It was the ultimate sign of a true friendship. 

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The friendship between Woody and Buzz also influenced the relationship between Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. In an interview ahead of Toy Story 4, the two actors spoke about their friendship. “Tim came into my life just like Buzz came into Woody’s. We seek each other all the time,” said Hanks. Allen continued, “I adore Hanks’ friendship and I thank these two characters for this friendship.”

Calling Hanks and Allen “best friends” might be a stretch. But they likely pushed each other beyond their comfort zones in Toy Story and many other movies. But Hanks and Allen remain friends more than 25 years later. 

Moving a friendship beyond its comfort zone can provide opportunities to grow your character.  Likewise, GodBudddies provide opportunities to grow their knowledge of the only friendship that will never end: the relationship in which God befriended us through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Your relationship with Jesus is forever. It’s a friendship that will never die if you nurture it since it will last into eternity. Or as Buzz Lightyear would say, it’s a friendship “to infinity and beyond!” 

My next post will include some examples of friendships in music.  


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