The Toy Story franchise is already more melancholy than the average kids’ film series, what with all the near-death experiences and broken-hearted, abandoned cowgirls. But even Pixar’s darker work rarely goes so dark as to cite polio, which is why fans of the films were kind of surprised when someone claiming to have intimate knowledge of their inner workings started saying that a bout of the crippling disease was ultimately the reason Woody and Buzz’s owner, Andy, was being raised by his single mother in the series’ first film.
io9 reported on the claims, which came from Mike Mozart, a toy designer and reviewer who’s said that he once consulted for his friend, late Pixar writer Joe Ranft, on the characters’ backstories. According to an appearance Mozart made on a recent episode of the web series Super Carlin Brothers, Andy’s dad (also named Andy) was Woody’s original owner, a hard-scrabble kid who eventually contracted the deadly disease, and managed to preserve a few of his beloved toys when all of his stuff was burned as a quarantine measure. Years later, he would suffer from a fatal bout of post-polio syndrome, leading to this tragic scene:
Then, you’ve got their final moment, which rivals the first 10 minutes of Up for heartbreaking sadness. Andy’s father calls Andy over to his bedside, giving him a key from his wallet and telling him to go bring down a chest in the attic. Andy heads up there and grabs the chest, but by the time he returns downstairs… his father is dead. Andy forgets about the chest and the key, only to open it after the funeral. Woody, Slinky, and Mr. Potato Head wake up from their slumber, see Andy Jr., and believe he’s the kid they grew up with all those years ago. They don’t know their original owner is dead; Andy lives on in his son.
Heavy stuff! But not, apparently, true stuff, according to Pixar writer and director Andrew Stanton, who declared the whole story “fake news.” (Ugh.) Stanton—who has a screenplay credit on every Toy Story movie—says he was in the room, and that the polio version of Woody’s backstory never came up.
Of course, it’s possible that Ranft, the film’s story supervisor, simply spitballed some ideas with Mozart, which never made their way anywhere close to the actual script. In any case, at least we don’t have to apply this same “He said, he said” decision making to the theory that says every Pixar movie (including the grim dystopia of the Cars films) is connected, since that one’s been demonstrably proven to be true.
[Note: io9, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]