Sid Phillips, from Toy Story, may be the greatest benefactor of the creepy way humans were animated back in 1995. He is hands down one of the darkest characters from my childhood and I'm fairly certain they created him out of nightmares.
As an adult however I've had time to reflect on Sid and Toy Story and now must ask the question: Is Sid really a bad kid?
You can watch me discuss this issue in the video above, or if you prefer, just keep reading this article!
Arguing on Sid's behalf is definitely not easy, he certainly has a lot going against him. He is mean to his sister, feeds toys to his dogs, disassembles and reassembles toys as he sees fit, not to mention just BLOWING them up for his amusement.
Heck he's even wearing a black shirt with a SKULL on it! C’mon Sid give me something to work with!
It also doesn’t help that his neighbor is possibly the greatest Toy owner ever and golden child of the Pixar universe: Andy Davis.
It's not just his personality either, he was made that way. By the very design of his creation Sid is meant to be the opposite of Andy. In fact last year when I was allowed a visit to the Pixar Archives (where they keep all the original art, designs and sketches for every Pixar movie) they told us their most valuable piece of art was the color script that contrasted Andy and Sid's rooms.
In a way the difference between Andy and Sid, and how that difference helps Woody and Buzz resolve their own issues, was the launchpad for Pixar to go on and make all of their other classics.
Yes, Sid is the opposite of Andy, Andy is good, and the opposite of good is bad right? WRONG! Well at least not always right. If you will allow me to switch fandoms for a second lets look at Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec. The two are basically polar opposites of each other and yet both good people and friends! (If you are not familiar with Ron and Leslie watch this!)
So just because Andy is good, and Sid is designed to be his opposite doesn’t mean he is bad. In fact in the bonus features of Toy Story the creators even admit Andy is the weird one, most kids don’t play with their toys the way he does:
“Look it, thats how real kids play the odd one is Andy because no kid play like that.. except John Lasseter" - Andrew Stanton - Screenwriter
Ok John, fair enough you get a pass, but with that in mind lets look at some of Sids behavior.
First his younger sister Hannah, the very first interaction we see between her and Sid involves Sid taking her doll, taking its head off and replacing it with a dinosaur head. Admittedly mean, but lets face it, older siblings pick on younger siblings, this is not that unusual.
During that same interaction we see Sid greet his dog Scud. He gives Scud a command (which he obeys) and then, rewards him with a toy. Not great news if you are the toy, but honestly he’s pretty nice to Scud and has obviously trained him fairly well.
In both of these interactions Sid is behaving like a pretty normal 11 year old boy, but in both interactions he also “harms” a toy. Here we arrive at the crux of the situation and why we tend to think of Sid a crazy sociopathic pre-teen.
BECAUSE WE KNOW THE TOYS ARE ALIVE!
Thats what makes all of Sids actions so awful!
HE DOES NOT KNOW THIS!
In his mind he is not ACTUALLY torturing anyone, he is just playing!
“[Sid's] really an artist, he’s more of a sculptor even if he’s a little twisted."
- William Cone (designer/animator)
Cone has a point, Sid is kind of artistic in his own way, he’s coming up with some pretty interesting creations, he’s obviously skilled with tools and has a vivid imagination he's just yea.. a little twisted.
BUT THAT'S ALLOWED! There is nothing wrong with that as long as you are not actually hurting anyone. I'll repeat it: Sid doesn't know the toys are alive AND he is not supposed to!
To that end can we even say he is “breaking” the toys? I mean.. they can still come to life even after being reassembled. In a weird way he is actually CREATING LIFE. Wouldn’t there be some moral implications of taking the new creations back apart?
Do the toys only care because he is creating creepy toys? Would they care if he was reassembling them in a more aesthetically pleasing way? Somehow I doubt it..
I guess its just Sid's fault for not being creative in a normal way right? How dare he!
Actually maybe that is not Sid's fault, perhaps the real culprits here are Sid's parents. We don’t see Sids parents almost at all, (which says a lot by itself) but what we do see is his dad passed out in the middle of the day surrounded by empty cans watching.. uh kids programming (Ok, actually its bowling, but why is there a Buzz Lightyear commercial?) They don’t come right out and say it but I think we can safely conclude that he’s an alcoholic.
Sid's mom makes zero appearance, but its what we don’t see her doing thats upsetting. For instance: letting her 11 year old son play unsupervised with fireworks in the yard, letting him SKATE BOARD to pizza planet alone (which Andy's mom DROVE to, ordering him mail order explosives? I mean I'm not one to judge, but this doesn't look like great parenting.
Sure, Sid might not take great care of his possessions and even blow them up, but I think it's safe to say he is a very creative but also misunderstood victim of bad circumstances.
Well, he's creative until his art literally comes alive and traumatizes him, possibly destroying what may have been his only outlet and escape from a troubled home life.. way to go Woody.
Sids future may not be as bleak as we think though, we see him resurface in Toy Story 3 as a garbage man. It's not a glorious career, but he does seem happy, and many have theorized that this girl in Inside Out, one of the cool kids, is his daughter.
Because she has the same symbol on her shirt.. but its INSIDE OUT GET IT! AAH!