Good old Andy (John Morris) is really going through some hard times in Toy Story (1995). Though it’s probably not something you thought of when you first watched the magical computer-animated film for the first time back in ‘95, Andy has two distinct and major issues going on in his life: he’s about to move, and he doesn’t seem to have a dad.
In the 20 years since Toy Story was released, endless theories have been developed about nearly every facet of the narrative. As sequels were released, the theories only grew in number and in the ways the tales are connected. But across all three films, the absence of Andy’s father remains constant.
Not only is Andy’s dad not present in the film, he’s not even mentioned. In the family photographs seen around the house, there’s no dad - just Andy, Molly, and the mother. The mother, it should be noted, never wears a ring at any point in Toy Story or the sequels. But in Toy Story, Andy’s baby sister Molly is only one year old, so whatever happened to him in regards to his absence must have happened recently. Add to that the fact the family is downsizing their residence, and you’ve got a classic case of daddy disappearance resulting in a family unit with less income.
Evidence supports the notion that Andy’s dad isn’t dead, but that he left the family for one reason or another. A deceased father’s pictures would still be on the wall. His widow would almost certainly still be wearing her ring, especially if it happened recently as the age of the infant child would suggest. The absolute lack of Andy’s father’s presence anywhere in the Toy Story universe suggests the marriage ended poorly, and he checked out.
One Pixar analyst suggests Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) symbolize Andy’s past and future lives, represented through male authority figures. Both characters are some sort of lawman. Woody is the “old” past and Buzz is the “new” future. The toys are designed to make him happy, and his emotional attachment to his toy collection at large is a natural path for a child dealing with a lack of emotional support. This is the kind of stuff Disney loves -- more often than not, their films showcase children with single-parent (or no-parent, Sorry Elsa!) households.
Lee Unkrich, the editor of Toy Story, was questioned about Andy’s dad and provided a vague answer, saying, “It’s just always been that way. The decision was made really early on in Toy Story to have Andy’s dad not be around. We’ve never addressed it directly, nor have we given any explanation for where he is or why he’s absent.”
On Quora, Craig Good (one of Toy Story‘s animators) claims that "the decision to exclude Andy’s dad was made because rendering humans was very difficult and expensive at the time, and he wouldn’t be relevant to the story anyway."
With all that, the general consensus is that Andy’s dad, for one reason or another, abandoned the family. Andy’s mom has done the best to wipe him out of the picture, literally, and move on to greener pastures with her two small children. It’s a sadly realistic and relatable tale for many of today’s children, and a likely intentional representation of much of modern culture.