In the first “Toy Story” movie, the cowboy toy Woody looks down at the sole of his plastic boot and sees his owner has signed his name there: “Andy.”

The film franchise then repeatedly returns to Woody’s insistence that being “owned” by Andy, having his owner’s signature upon his boot, is proof of Andy’s love and commitment to Woody, a sign of affection that seals their relationship and faithfulness to one another.

Put more elegantly: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor [your owner]. … If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (I Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 14:8).

Scripture (in Isaiah 49:16) also uses the concept of sealing a relationship through the writing of names, though in the reverse, as God writes the names of his beloved on his hands.

As Charitie Bancroft wrote in 1863: “My name is written on his hands / My name is hidden in his heart / I know that while in heaven he stands / No tongue can bid me thence depart.”

The “Toy Story” franchise has mirrored this biblical assurance since its first film, but in “Toy Story 3,” the parallel is pushed to a whole new level.

As the latest – and likely last – “Toy Story” movie opens, Andy has grown up, a 17-year-old about to leave for college.

But what will become of the long-forgotten Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Slinky and other toys from Andy’s childhood?

Woody, assured of Andy’s constancy by the signature on his boot, insists that Andy – though it seems the toys’ owner has forgotten them – will not put the toys in the black trash bag on its way to the curb, but will instead save them up in the attic (I could suggest this is a metaphor for the trash pile of Gehenna, or hell, and the saving of a soul and going “up” to heaven, but that might be stretching it too far).

In a plot twist of coincidence or fate, the toys indeed are put into a trash bag and taken to the curb. Woody, however, is outside the bag and alone sees that Andy meant the bag for the attic, and the trash was a mistake. Andy hasn’t forgotten the toys. Their “owner” still loves them.

For the toys in the trash, however, their feeling of abandonment leads them to doubt Andy’s faithfulness (here, it’s no stretch at all to see the parallel to people in trials doubting God’s faithfulness and love).

Enter another voice into the toys’ ears – not Woody’s assurances of Andy’s constancy, but another, who out of bitterness preaches a different tune.

“No owner means no heartache,” declares the snake (actually, he’s a strawberry-scented teddy bear). “We don’t need owners; we are our own owners, masters of our own fate.”

The Teddy Bear creates his own “heaven” on earth, a place where toys can be free from owners, where toys can enjoy the fruits of playtime without the “constraints” of relationship with some lord (tell me you see the rich parallels in this to the so-called “freedom” of atheism and/or hedonism).

Only … the teddy’s heaven … is a path to hell.

Meanwhile, Woody becomes a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, one who has glimpsed the truth and must battle not only the teddy bear’s slick lies but also his friends’ hearts, which are convinced their owner has abandoned them.

Without any further assurances from Andy, Woody looks again to his boot. He is owned. He is loved. And not even the offer of another owner who would love him shakes him from devotion to his lord.

Evangelist Ray Comfort encourages people to trust in Christ the way a falling man trusts in his parachute – a trust Woody exemplifies toward Andy over and over in the film, even as his toy “family” is sent into sudden freefall.

And like Christ – hence the movie’s metaphor – the parachute proves trustworthy.

Woody experiences the blessing of a steadfast man relying on a faithful God: “Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes” (Psalms 112:6-8).

Content advisory:

  • “Toy Story 3” contains no profanity, and while it has some mild flirtation and romantic storylines, no overt sexuality.
  • The film does have some intensely frightening moments and some violence, including punches to the face, mobster-like tactics and perilous scenes – enough to induce fear in very small children or inspire poor imitative behavior. Almost no children’s movies are made today that don’t require some parental caution, a fact true of this film as well.
  • There are only a few “butt-and-booger” jokes, as the movie keeps up the franchise’s reputation for rising above the dumbed-down scripts of many children’s movies.
  • “Toy Story 3” has no overt religious or occult content.
  • Alert! The preshow cartoon short does include fistfighting, girls in bikinis, lusting, an adoration of Las Vegas that may imply gambling and an odd, quasi-political message condemning those afraid of “new ideas,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

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