ByKarly Rayner, writer at
Movie Pilot's celebrity savant
Karly Rayner

Toy Story 3 is drenched in the bitter-sweet melancholy of abandoning the comforts of childhood for your turbulent teenage years. But could the whole technicolor masterpiece really be a meditation on death?

According to some of the internet's many Pixar theorists, the innocence of our favorite band of toys is actually a front for a deep exploration into the nature of the afterlife and the difficulties of accepting death itself.

It might sound totally insane, but if you dissect the different locations that the movie centers around it totally makes sense in terms of the biblical hierarchy of the afterlife, and more secular view points.

Don't believe me? I've digested the theory into bite sized chunks below so you can decide for yourself.

Acceptance of the Inevitability of Death

In the first few minutes of Toy Story 3 we are presented with the cold, hard idea of death in an abstract fashion.

Our faithful band of toys know that Andy is going to college, and after a desperate last ditch attempt to get their beloved 'child' to play with them, they resign themselves to the fact that their life as Andy's playthings is over.

This is death.

There is no question about whether the toys will 'die'. The question is what fate will await them in the afterlife.

Total Annihilation

The worst fate imaginable for woody and co according to Pixar is total annihilation.

At the horrifying climax of the movie the toys are desperately scrambling for their lives in a hellish fiery furnace.

At one point, they are so close to being reduced to flaming cloth and molten plastic that audiences are almost convinced Disney will allow children to watch their favorite characters burn into oblivion.

From the dramatic presentation, this is clearly the worst option for the band of toys.

Beyond the furnace there is nothing.

The fire represents a cinematic full stop and a terrifyingly memorable visual representation of total annihilation.


Although it looks peachy compared to being reduced to a pile of smoldering ash, Toy Story 3's representation of Hell is no picnic.

The daycare/forced labor camp run by Lotso represents Hell in this Pixar epic.

The toys are robbed of their freedom, tortured, and, in the case of Buzz Lightyear, even have their identities transformed to mirror the evil that surrounds them.

Hell isn't without its options though. The destiny of most of the kind-hearted toys is eventual annihilation when they are too broken to function, but those willing to sell their souls and become jailers can live on.

Becoming a part of the callous routines of Hell and staying there means becoming Satan.


Before going to daycare, the toys were going to be stashed in the attic awaiting an uncertain future. This is purgatory.

There is some hope that Jessie, Rex and company could regain a purpose if Andy has his own children one day, but there is also the possibility thing's could go downhill.

For example, an attic clean out could lead to them being sent to hell (donated to Sunnyside) or being annihilated in the garbage trucks crusher.

Purgatory is essentially a waiting room you are forced to sit in until you reach heaven or hell. It's not terrible, but it's not as good as life.

Even Woody, who gets sent to the good Purgatory (essentially being a nostalgic ornament at college), knows there is a better fate out there for him.

Sure, purgatory seems appealing once the toys have faced annihilation and hell, but only because their hopes have been crushed and they can't imagine better.


After Lotso's evil reign of terror comes to an end, there is a profound change in Sunnyside Daycare.

The rainbow nursery becomes Toy Story 3's Heaven.

This is a place that toys go to when they 'die', but instead of being a nightmarish gulag with a callous dictator, it's a place where they are loved and made whole again.

The depiction of Heaven as a wondrous place in Toy Story 3 lifts the soul, but in Woody's eyes, there is an even better fate...


The toys end up being re-gifted to a sensitive young girl named Bonnie who Andy trusts implicitly. Andy hands over the baton of ownership by telling her the story of each of his old companions and continuing their folklore for a new generation.

The difference between resurrection and Heaven is that this is not an escape from the world the toys were created to inhabit. Woody, Buzz and company fulfill their original purpose once more by being owned and loved by a kid.

Unlike heaven, which is a total change of scenario, this is a rebirth.

The best of all possibilities for life after death, according to Pixar, is to rise again and be gifted a brand new 'first' day, after our 'last'.


Do you believe Toy Story 3 is really a meditation on death and the afterlife?

(Source: Two Friars and a Fool)


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