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Movie Info:

  • Rating: G
  • Genre: Animation, Comedy, Kids & Family
  • Runtime: 92 minutes
  • Studio: Buena Vista Pictures



Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]

From the Cover of Toy Story 2 (1999) by Disney/Pixar:

“Toy Story 2″ is the exciting, all-new sequel to the landmark 1995 computer-animated blockbuster from Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios. This time around, the fun and adventure continue when Andy goes off to summer camp and the toys are left to their own devices. Things shift into high gear when an obsessive toy collector kidnaps Woody — who hasn’t the slightest clue that he is a greatly valued collectible. It’s now up to Buzz Lightyear and the gang from Andy’s room — Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Rex, and Hamm — to spring into action and save their pal from winding up a museum piece. There are plenty of thrills as the toys get into one predicament after another in their daring race to get home before Andy does.”

Transfiguring Adoption’s Overview:

Toy Story 2 is rated G and can be enjoyed by all audiences: children and adults. Anyone could enjoy this fun but emotional sequel to Toy Story (1995). This movie might be relatable to foster and adoptive families due to the themes of reunification, identity with family of origin versus found family, and building attachment.

This movie can be enjoyed just for the sake of enjoyment. However, this movie can also be used as a tool to discuss how children view their identity in terms of their family of origin versus their identity as a foster youth in your family. Children can also respond to how they might feel about going home or moving to another placement, especially if they (like Jessi) have felt displaced before coming to your home.

** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **

How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?

The first Toy Story installment features Buzz’s internal conflict with returning to Space Command and accepting his identity as Andy’s toy. Throughout the film Woody was firm in his identity as not just a toy but Andy’s toy. In this film, though Woody did not choose to be taken from Andy, Woody is confronted with a heart-wrenching choice. Return to Andy, knowing that his love and care may not last forever, or remain with his on-screen companions from Woody’s Roundup to be enjoyed forever by many children for years to come. At first, the choice is obvious for Woody: Return to Andy and the other toys! But, over time and manipulation on a seemingly well-intentioned toy’s part, Woody begins to struggle with knowing where (and with whom) he truly belongs.

Children in foster care always will long for knowledge of and closeness with their family of origin. It makes sense: the family of origin (no matter how short of time spent with them) compose a child’s very first relationships. Families of origin often pass along traits unique to a birth family. Appearance, some degree of temperament, culture, and health history are all things that come from that birth family and will at some point or another be on a foster or adoptive child’s mind. For caregivers, it is important to remember that an interest in family of origin is a chance to celebrate part of who that child is today. Ultimately, Woody did choose to reunify with his “found” family of Andy and the toys and was able to integrate a part of his past (most of which he knew nothing of before the adventure) into his present to develop a wonderful future and tighter bonds with his fellow toys. This is exactly how a foster/adoptive parent can view this exploration without intimidation.

Discussion Points:

  • Reunification
    The number one goal of foster care is often to return a child to a member of the family of origin, whether that be a parent, extended family member, or kinship placement. Woody’s struggle with found family versus family of origin is a real struggle our foster children are challenged with regardless of how their court-ordered permanency plan reads. It’s often hard for foster parents to love and let go after pouring out to our foster children, and though sometimes returning “home” for children is a celebrated step with a child and family team, it can also be hard on children to understand the transition.
  • Family of Origin Culture
    Even if a child does not remember their family of origin, children are naturally curious to learn about their biological family and to hold some connection to this. I have a friend who adopted a child as an infant that is of a different ethnicity from her own. Though her child has no memory of his family of origin, he is constantly looking for information about his ethnic background. My friend does a fantastic job of encouraging the learning journey and taking part, which both helps her child educationally and introspectively by validating his curiosity about his identity. Even if children seem to come from a similar background, their exploration is valid. If adults can be interested in all the trendy DNA tests, why would our children not be drawn to the same mysteries?
  • Foster Care Culture
    Children in foster care very much have their own culture. There is a myriad of terminology, resources, paperwork, relationships, and even memes that make up the unique culture! Our children have challenges unique to their peers that we as caregivers can take for granted if we are not sensitive to our children’s perspectives. For example, when you were young did you have to ask an entire team (sometimes including a therapist) permission to attend a sleepover? While some policies are trying to remedy how intrusive foster care can be to normalcy (such as Tennessee passing Prudent Parenting), there are still nuances that are important to remember and acknowledge when working with children in foster and adoptive contexts.

Cautionary Points:

  • Woody is Stolen
    It is important to remember that our children have gone through many challenges and experiences unique to a foster or adopted child. Sometimes we know pieces of information upon placement, but other times we find out about trauma triggers and problematic survival behaviors after building a relationship of trust and security with a child. Children who view their arrival into foster care or adoption as being “taken” or “stolen” may react negatively to watching Woody literally be stolen toward the beginning of the movie.
  • Unrealistic Expectations of Reunification
    Woody by the end of the film gets to live with his toy family, and Jessi and Bullseye also are added to the toy family. While it would be wonderful if foster children could hold on to all positive relationships after reunification or adoption, in most cases this is not possible. Seeing Woody getting to have the best of both his family of origin and found family may create an unrealistic expectation of reunification for especially young children.
  • Abandonment
    Let’s face it, even Tom Hanks reported crying watching Jessi’s story set to “When She Loved Me” by the queen of tearjerkers Sarah McLachlan. The scene as a whole is hard on even adults. Be prepared to discuss this scene with children regardless of age or foster/adoptive status. Feeling thrown away or left behind is never a positive feeling and can, again, be highly traumatic to children who have suffered immense loss through their experiences in foster care or adoption.
  • Al In General
    Honestly, Al gives me the creeps. He steals Woody, talks down to people, shoves the sweet elderly man who cleans up Woody, and overall is not a nice guy. Children may not respond well to how Al treats others.
  • Stinky Pete Character is Terrifying
    Stinky Pete is very manipulative and emotionally abusive to his fellow toys. He starts out seeming nice and endearing, but as the film progresses, his anger and insults become more intense. Again, we do not often know up front everything a child has experienced, so Stinky Pete may be a hard character to watch.

It’s Your Turn:

  1. Who was your favorite character in the movie? Why?
    Caregiver Note: This is a nice ice-breaker question to get children talking. Think of how therapy goes for children of most ages… They may be willing to talk about fun things first but it takes time to build rapport to discuss deeper issues. Starting light will help connections form to more easily and organically discuss things that may not be as easy. Ask open-ended questions here to keep conversation flowing. Feel free to share your favorite character and why to help model participation and help make connections.
  2. Who did you most relate to in the movie? Why?
    Caregiver Note: This question may be harder for younger children and may need an explanation of what that means. Work in a character or scene you identify with as an example. If there is more than one character, that’s even better as children very seldom experience just one reaction at a time. Maybe Woody’s longing to return to Andy is relatable after family visits, but Jessi’s hurt and wish for distance from the pain can be relatable after a long day in court.
  3. Why was Woody drawn to the toys from Woody’s Roundup?
    Caregiver Note: Children often long for a connection to their culture of origin. This is a good question to facilitate discussions and connect introspection and communication.
  4. Do you think about your biological family/family of origin and what sorts of traits or stories you share?
    Caregiver Note: This doesn’t have to be necessarily a separate question but an extension of #3. Feel free to word the question in a way that is comfortable to your children. This is a good chance to really listen to your children and let them explain where they are emotionally with interest and exploration. This can be a great way too to discover your child’s budding interests and hobbies. Music, food, celebrations, art, dance, and sports are but a few of many avenues a child can explore culture and history with a dash of fun!
  5. Activity: Write A Stage Play of Your Favorite Holiday.
    Caregiver Note: How a child celebrates a holiday can be a great look at several different pieces of culture. Religion, dance, food, relative relationships, communication, music, and many more facets can be observed through this. By having a child write up a one-scene play, assign roles, and have the family act it out, this can be compared and contrasted to how your family handles a similar holiday and open up a lot of discussion. Make note of pieces that may be especially important for your child as these can help with navigating homesickness during the holidays.
  6. Why was Jessi afraid of the dark and going back into the box?
    Caregiver Note: Children often struggle to connect their feelings to their behaviors. A child may or may not understand that they throw fits every night at bedtime because they are afraid of the dark. The same child may not connect that something that happened in the dark to them has connected darkness to pain or fear. And, of course, if that child is unable to make those connections, they are certainly not going to be able to communicate that fear. This question can help children connect feelings to behaviors. Feel free to explore times where children were afraid like Jessi with mindfulness to the child’s comfort level with the conversation.
  7. Have you ever felt especially happy like Jessi when she was with Emily? Have you felt especially sad like when Jessi saw Emily grow up and leave?
    Caregiver Note: This may be a hard question for children. Let them set the pace for this question set. If they are not comfortable answering this one completely, it’s okay. Let them know that you are there for them and will be available to them if they ever want to talk about times that they felt especially sad or angry. Grief is a multi-faceted experience, and children may experience the stages of grief many times before reaching acceptance. And each new loss could bring about old feelings of grief as well. It is important for foster and adoptive parents to be experts in loss and grief and to help meet children in their grief and pain and help them learn to walk through it. This is very challenging for caregivers as we do not wish to see children in pain, but quietly walking with them through the hard stuff will help them to live more healthy and emotionally balanced lives in the future.
  8. Woody and Jessi both came from Woody’s Roundup but both had very different experiences with belonging to a child. They also trusted children as a whole very differently. How can that be?
    Caregiver Note: While there are a lot of similarities between cultural groups (including the foster care culture), it’s important to always remember that every child is unique and will respond to stress and trauma differently. Woody, through his relationship with Andy and the other toys, has come to believe that his role as being Andy’s toy is more important than Woody’s potential to be displayed for many toys. Jessi has experienced immense pain and loss through her abandonment by Emily and at first believes the best option for her wellbeing is to not develop closeness with any more children, which is why she is drawn to being protected behind a barrier with toys she feels are like her. Through introspection and communicating with one another, both toys are challenged in their initial beliefs and come to understand one another better and move forward emotionally. This is a great lesson for children that it’s okay to think about such things and to see how positive communication can help them learn about themselves as well as those around them.
  9. Activity: Life Book – Make a scrapbook of months or years of the time your child has spent in your home. For children who may reunify with their family of origin, this is a great way to document the times they have spent with your family.
    Caregiver Note: While making the scrapbook, take an opportunity to talk about how your child has grown. This is not just limited to height and weight! Talk about how they handled challenges and fears when you first met them and compare how they address challenges now. Talk about their perspectives and see how much those have changed. Even very small children can compare and contrast some differences.
  10. How can we help make your time in foster care more comfortable? Less like a “foster/adoptive kid” and more like a “kid?”
    Caregiver Note: Again, this wording can change depending on the age group you are working with, but this is a great chance to discuss with your children ways to promote normalcy. Of course, always follow the advice and policies of your therapeutic teams (where applicable) but explore with your team and child events that can promote normalcy in childhood. Familiarize yourself with agency policies that relate to this. Can your caseworkers visit the child at school/clubs less? Can your caseworkers dress in street clothes when they do have to meet with the child in a public space? Are there any areas that do not require a Child & Family Team meeting (i.e. – sleepovers, parties, youth group/club trips, cell phone ownership, jobs such as babysitting, going out with friends, etc.)?
  11. Activity: Andy’s Coming! This is a nice game that is just plain fun for bonding and togetherness!
    Caregiver Note: Play this game similar to Red Light Green Light. Designate a person to be “Andy.” “Andy” will stand at one center side of the playing area facing away from the rest of the players who are “toys.” When “Andy” isn’t looking, players should tiptoe towards the finish line. “Andy” will start to slowly turn. When “Andy” turns any toy can yell “ANDY’S COMING!” so the ”toys” can drop to the floor. When “Andy” turns back away, the toys can resume tiptoeing. The object of the game is to cross the finish line first without being caught by “Andy”.

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Transfiguring Adoption is a nonprofit organization seeking to nurture growth in foster and adoptive families by giving a HOOT about their families. Transfiguring Adoption does not intend for its reviewers nor its review to be professional, medical or legal advice. These reviews and discussion guides are intended to help parents to better be able to connect and understand their children who come from traumatic backgrounds.


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