All the Hidden Parallels You Didn’t Pick Up on Between ‘Barbie’ and ‘Toy Story’

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Stills from 'Barbie' and 'Toy Story.'
Warner Bros/Walt Disney Studios

*Warning: Major spoilers ahead*

There's a toy that's the talk of the town right now, and she's been around for quite some time: Yep, we're talking about Barbie! This weekend, Greta Gerwig's Barbie achieved the highest-grossing opening weekend ever for a movie directed by a woman, and it's no big surprise. The movie was incredibly marketed and it's been getting glowing reviews (including a 5-star review here at PureWow). It's also incredibly nostalgic, giving nods to many other classic films about toys: namely, the beloved Pixar film Toy Story.

We decided to break down all the similarities between the two hit movies (because there are actually more than you might think).

1. The Nostalgia Factor

Just like how Toy Story shows the sentimentality we have for the toys from our childhood, Barbie highlights a similar nostalgia.

One of the major story arcs in Gerwig's film focuses on Gloria (America Ferrera), a Mattel worker who wishes her daughter had the same fondness for the Barbie dolls that defined her own youth. In one emotional flashback, we see Gloria's dolls getting packed in a box, which certainly brings back memories of a few tear-jerking moments relating to Andy from Toy Story.

Both of these flicks are chock-full of allusions to toys that defined the childhoods of millions of kids, and they're a treat for those who maybe haven't picked up a doll in quite some time.

2. Toys and Humans Interact in Unusual Ways

In Toy Story, all of the titular playthings inhabit the same world as the humans, but they just pretend to be lifeless whenever a person plays with them. Meanwhile in Barbie, the toys inhabit their own universe, where they live and look like humans, but they still have access to the human world.

Despite these differences, both of the films explore what happens when the lives of the toys and the lives of the humans collide (and both lead to hilarious results).

barbie hero 1
Warner Bros. Entertainment

3. Toys Forge Special Bonds to Humans

Anyone who's seen Toy Story can't forget the image of Andy's name being written on the bottom of Woody's boot. In the Pixar classic, we see how Woody develops a special fondness for his owner, and he can't seem to cope when Andy doesn't want to play with him anymore.

In Barbie, the connection between Barbieland and Earth is far more mysterious, but there still seems to be an invisible string linking the humans to the dolls. When Gloria starts having feelings of depression, these feelings translate to Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie), indicating that there's some sort of an emotional bond connecting the two worlds.

Still from 'Toy Story.'
Walt Disney Studios/Pixar

4. Some Toys Get Treated Differently Than Others

Anyone who's ever had a kid (or been around a kid) knows that little tikes aren't always going to play nice with their toys. Both Toy Story and Barbie comically explore that truth with their characters.

In one unforgettably creepy scene from Toy Story, Woody is brought to the house of Andy's sinister neighbor, Sid. While there, Woody discovers a bunch of toy “mutants,” aka action figures that have been put together using different parts from various toys.

Meanwhile, in Barbie, Kate McKinnon plays the role of “Weird Barbie,” who has mangled and chopped-up hair and scribbles all over her face, representing the many Barbie dolls who have not *always* been treated with perfect care.

barbie hero2
Warner Bros. Entertainment

5. A Search for Purpose

Last but not least, both Toy Story and Barbie are able to capture a specific sort of melancholy because they give thoughts and feelings to objects that we only know as insentient. These are objects that are meant to be enjoyed when we're children that are left behind when we grow up.

In Toy Story, Woody has to ask himself: What is my purpose if a kid no longer wants to play with me? He ultimately realizes it might be giving joy to many different children, all throughout his life.

Meanwhile, in Barbie, our lead similarly wonders what her purpose is, and she gets some form of an answer when she meets Ruth Handler (played by Rhea Perlman), who is the inventor of Barbie. In the final act of the film, Ruth tells Barbie that she was created to be ever-evolving, and her story has no specific ending—it can end however she wants.

It's a hopeful message, and both these films suggest that while we may grow out of our toys, the toys continue to grow with us.

It's a tale of two toys.

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Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Joel is the former Associate Editor for News & Entertainment and has been reporting on all things pop culture for over 5 years. Before working at PureWow, he served as a...