resilience messages in the movie toy story 4

I love the Toy Story series. Our family recently watched Toy Story 4 and I was struck by how many resilience messages there are in the movie – as with so many Hollywood movies these days. Spoiler alert! Only read on if you’ve seen the movie or don’t mind knowing what happens.

In summary, the movie is about Woody and the gang’s efforts to reunite a little girl called Bonnie, Woody’s new child, with Forky, her new favourite toy. The movie shows them going on a road trip and Woody unexpectedly being reunited with his long lost friend Bo Peep.

One of the resilience messages that comes through loud and clear relates to friendship. Friendships change and the movie explores this beautifully. Woody, who was always Andy’s favourite toy, is not Bonnie’s favourite toy and the movie shows how Woody moves on with grace, kindness and purpose. At one point Bonnie gives Jess Woody’s sheriff badge – whilst Woody is clearly sad, he doesn’t respond as if this is the devastating kick in the stomach it could be.

The movie shows Woody helping Bonnie on her first day at preschool even though Woody wouldn’t have been the toy she would have chosen to help her (Woody hopped in Bonnie’s preschool bag unbeknownst to her as he felt so passionately that she would need a friend on her first day!)

To be honest, Woody is lost throughout the movie – he knows it’s time to move on but isn’t sure where to turn. But he handles this with poise and focus – he loves Bonnie and wants to make sure that whatever happens she is OK and is reunited with Forky. And rather than being jealous of Forky, and unkind to Bonnie’s new favourite toy, Woody takes Forky under his wing, trains him up and does everything in his power to make sure it finds its way back to Bonnie.

At Resilience in Kids we talk about connection being your superpower and the movie also explores the children’s and toys’ deep desire for love, belonging and connection. This is something that we all have. Whilst Woody embraces his new role, he is still lost and missing that intimate connection that he used to have with Andy. He knows that Bonnie has a deep connection with Forky and so spends his time trying to reunite them so that at least Bonnie and Forky can enjoy this deep connection.

The doll Gabby Gabby wants nothing more than to have a child love her and a significant part of the movie is taken up showing everyone’s efforts in doing this. When she finally finds a lost child who hugs her and asks if she can keep Gabby Gabby, half the audience cries and the toys say “We did this!”

And of course we can’t forget about Woody being reunited with Bo Peep, one of his closest friends from the Andy era. The two of them rebuild a close connection and Woody ends up leaving Bonnie, Buzz, Forky and his other friends to live with Bo and without a child. Their deep desire for connection is ultimately what drives all the characters throughout the movie.

Fear is also a theme in the movie. Fear of abandonment comes through loud and clear, as do some of those everyday fears that all kids experience, e.g. Bonnie’s fear of starting preschool. Duke Caboom also shows how afraid he is when preparing for his stunt – afraid he won’t be as good as his advert, fuelled by his child who no longer wanted him as he wasn’t able to do what it said he would be able to do on his packaging.

There are also strong references throughout the movie to the power of the inner voice. Buzz regularly tunes into his inner voice – this is effectively his intuition, and he treats it like his own personal compass.

Duke Caboom is plagued by self-doubt and needs others to big him up and instil in him the belief that he can do it and the confidence to have a go. Gabby Gabby is also deeply insecure – she doesn’t believe she is good enough, and thinks the only way she will be able to find a child to love her is if she takes Woody’s voice box. It’s sad that the movie doesn’t show her finding a child in her current state, i.e. without her voice box.

resilience building messages in toy story 4

So what does this mean for us parents, and how we can encourage greater resilience in our kids?

  1. We can encourage our children to understand that friendships change, and that’s OK. We can help guide them through these changes and encourage them to respond like Woody, with poise, grace and kindness

  2. We can also remind our children about the importance of purpose. This doesn’t have to be done through a deep and meaningful conversation it can be done by encouraging them to do what they are passionate about and to pursue their strengths

  3. We can talk to our children about the inner voice and help them identify when this is saying things that aren’t helpful. The inner voice is subtle and automatic – it’s easy to miss what it’s saying and sometimes it can be sneaky and fill our minds with negative thoughts. Once we’ve become adept at identifying these, we can then replace them with more positive thoughts – think Duke Caboom “I can, I can, I Canada!”

  4. We can also remember the importance of connection – if nothing else remember this! For kids it’s about ensuring they have a loving adult who has their back. It’s about nurturing an emotional and a physical connection and letting the awareness that we all have a deep desire for love, belonging and connection guide our parenting approach

  5. We can also become more attuned to our children’s fears. We can learn about the neuroscience of fear and teach this to our kids. We can talk about making friends with our fears, and speak about fear being our internal alarm system. We can also speak openly with our children about what their fears are, and gently encourage them to overcome them, if they are preventing them from living a full life

Suggested activities for blog

Suggested activities:

  1. Watch the movie with your child, and then speak with them afterwards about the resilience building messages that are in the movie

  2. Speak with them about your friendships, and explain how your friendships have changed

  3. Encourage them to become familiar with their inner voice by asking them how they think characters in books and movies might be feeling