In a brightly colored, unfamiliar room, Andy’s toys debate their future. They have just experienced a remarkable reversal. They thought they had been thrown away, but they commandeered their fate and found their way to Sunnyside Daycare, a place where “you’ll never be outgrown or neglected, never abandoned or forgotten.”

What good news!

But one toy, Woody, dissents. This is not good news, he argues. It’s selfish and ignores the basic responsibility of all toys everywhere: to be there for their child. See Woody’s opening speech in Toy Story. “What matters is that we’re here for Andy, when he needs us. That’s what we’re made for, right?” See further David A. Price, The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, 121; Paik, To Infinity and Beyond!, 84-85. Throughout this mini-series on the Toy Story trilogy, I have compared my handwritten notes from watching the movies with manuscript copies accessed via Unfortunately they only have accurate dialogue for Toy Story 1 and 3; they used the first draft of Toy Story 2, which was overhauled nine months before the release date. See Paik, 145-49. Jessie the Cowgirl tries to persuade Woody to stay. “We can have a whole new life here, Woody. A chance to make kids happy again.” The others agree, pleading for Woody to stay with them. Mr. Potato Head adds, “You’ll get played with!” But Woody responds:

“I have a kid. You have a kid—Andy! And if he wants us at college or in the attic, well, then our job is to be there for him! Now I’m going home. Anyone who wants to join me is welcome. C’mon, Buzz! . . . Buzz?”

“Our mission,” Buzz begins, “with Andy is complete, Woody.”


“And what’s important now is that we stay together,” Buzz continues.

“We wouldn’t even be together if it weren’t for Andy! Look under your boot, Buzz. You too, Jessie. Whose name is written there?”

All people—at sometime or another—struggle with their identity. Who am I? Am I good enough? Am I valuable? There are probably as many answers to these questions as there are people. Still they can be grouped roughly into three categories: (1) identity rooted in stuff—what I have, (2) identity rooted in action—what I do, and (3) identity rooted in existence—who I am. The first and second types of identity lead to mere utility. I’m only valuable for the specific task(s) I can do. Andy’s toys in the above scene have accepted this definition—they’re identity is to make others happy, to be played with. While this is part of their identity, it is not all of it.

And the third category? Well, that depends on how you understand existence. Christian faith has a unique understanding of existence identity. To know who I am, Christians assert, I must first know whose I am. This is Woody’s argument. And this is the core theme of the Toy Story trilogy. Who I am is defined by who I belong to.

Image-Bearing in Toy Story: a five-part series

In this five-part series I will examine the Toy Story trilogy theme of image-bearing (that is, who I am is defined by who I belong to) and the related sub-themes of mere utility. By “mere utility” I mean those first two general categories of identity: I’m only good for what I have to offer.This is unadulterated objectification. See C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves: “One does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes” (94).

Being defined by mere utility robs us of any identity at all. If I’m only good for what I have to offer, why not use someone else with the same abilities or possessions? I’m not what is wanted, rather it’s the thing that I carry. The identity that’s worth having demands going beyond mere utility. This is exactly what image-bearing does.See Andy Crouch, “The Gospel: How Is Art a Gift, a Calling and an Obedience?” in For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, ed. W. David O. Taylor, 29-43; see further, Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling.

To understand Toy Story’s assertion that who I am is defined by who I belong to, I will first establish the importance and use of the name-on-your-boot motif, then I will consider the toys’ doubts and struggles with this name motif, and then I will depict what correct orientation to the name looks like. Finally, I will reflect on the image-bearing theme through the story of Cain and Abel.