Despite being marketed as family films, Pixar’s movies are known for exploring deeper complex themes, and Toy Story 3 is no exception – its story has a dark hidden meaning that explains why it makes for such emotional viewing. After the massive success of Toy Story put Pixar on the road to dominating the world of animation, the studio’s other efforts further proved the depth and power of their storytelling ability. Though Pixar have delivered consistently brilliant movies for decades, one stands out above the others as perhaps the studio’s most emotional title: Toy Story 3.

Continuing the story of Andy’s toys as their owner becomes too old to give them the attention they once enjoyed, Toy Story 3 was written to hit a few raw emotional nerves. However, the true extent of the film’s emotional power was unexpected even by Pixar standards, with the toys narrowly escaping incineration to return to Andy only to find he’s outgrown them. In a memorable and deeply poignant scene, Andy says goodbye to his toys, playing with them one last time as he gives them to a new owner, Bonnie. It’s a powerful and appropriately happy ending to a touching narrative arc, and it carries a message for the film’s audience regardless of age.

Not only does Toy Story 3 touch on themes of growing up and the impact that has on those we outgrow, but it also has a much dark hidden theme. Much of the film’s story can be reinterpreted as an allegory for the Holocaust during World War II. There are a striking number of parallels between certain scenes and the genocide of European Jews under the Third Reich, and the film’s ending itself could also be interpreted in line with the idea. It’s a bizarre link, but the layers to the metaphor speak for themselves, making it seem as though Toy Story 3 is an animated retelling of the Holocaust.

Toy Story 3’s Hidden Holocaust Metaphor Explained

Woody in the incinerator in Toy Story 3

There are two glaringly obvious parallels between Toy Story 3 and the Holocaust that make use of imagery very specific to that particular period of history. The first is the toys’ imprisonment at Sunnyside Daycare, a preschool where the franchise’s protagonists are barbarically mistreated. The fact that the toys can’t escape Sunnyside, and are kept there by an uncaring overseer (Lotso), is the first of Toy Story 3‘s major Holocaust parallels. The second is the toys’ trip to the incinerator – it’s a morbid and deeply disturbing image, but it creates another parallel there between the plot of Toy Story 3 and the horrific real-life events of one of history’s darkest periods.

There are also a few other ways the idea can be read into: the toys are rescued by the aliens, who may represent the Allied forces that liberated concentration camps during and after the final stages of World War II. There’s also the idea that the toys couldn’t return home, because their homes didn’t exist as they had before, and they are forced to adapt to a new world. It’s a bleak metaphor, but it fits Toy Story 3 surprisingly well.

The real question is why this parallel exists at all. If it was done deliberately, there’s no discernible benefit for it: outside of a history lesson entirely inappropriate for Toy Story 3‘s target audience, there’s seemingly no upside. However, the many parallels between the story and ending of Toy Story 3 and the Holocaust make for a very strange subtext to the Pixar movie that’s difficult to unsee once noticed.