TOY STORY 3: Theme, Structure and Your Character’s Desire

TOY STORY 3: Theme, Structure and Your Character’s Desire

By Jacob Krueger

If you’ve read the reviews, seen the movie, or talked to a friend, you know by now that just about everybody loves Toy Story 3.  Audiences cheer.  Critics gush.  Grown adults laugh and weep like children.  So what makes this movie work so well?  And how can you use its secrets to improve your own screenwriting?

Throughout the week, I’ll be exploring some answers to these questions, through a series of articles about the elements that make Toy Story 3 so successful. Spoiler Alert: For those who have not yet seen the movie, please be aware that this series may reveal details of the story beyond what you’ve seen in the previews.

The Structural Engine of Your Character’s Desire

For all its emotional complexity, the engine of Toy Story 3‘s structure is remarkably simple: a single want, shared by each and every one of its characters (just like it’s shared by each and every child): the desire to be loved and played with. And the big problem which each and every character (just like each and every child and adult) must face is that kids get older, move on, and stop playing with their toys.  

How does a good toy stay loyal in a world like this?  And how does a boy stay loyal to the toys of his childhood? These questions become the basis of the theme of Toy Story 3, and the glue that holds the emotional structure together.

Characters Who Shape Their Own Destinies

Like any good protagonists, these beloved toys aren’t just carried along by their fate.  Instead, they take action to control their own destinies.  Losing faith in Andy’s love, and believing they’ve been abandoned by the only owner they’ve ever had, they seek out a new life at a day care center, where their desperate desire to be loved and played with can be fulfilled by other children. Of course, it can’t be that easy.

To learn more about structure and theme check out our upcoming classes at Jacob Krueger Studio.  



  1. […] discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, the structure of Toy Story 3 is built around a simple desire shared by […]

  2. […] I discussed in Part 1 of this series, Toy Story 3 does a wonderful job of building its structure around the greatest wish […]

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