Toy Story

Inciting Event: Andy’s birthday guests arrive, and his toys freak out—fearing they will be replaced by newer and shinier upgrades. Notice how cleverly the filmmakers have protagonist Woody “rejecting” the conflict here. Inside, he’s just as worried as the other toys, but he shrugs it off and pretends he’s the only one exempt from the possibility of being replaced.

First Plot Point: One of Andy’s presents turns out to be a fancy new Buzz Lightyear toy—who is immediately given Woody’s place of honor on the bed. Even though this is part of the same seamless scene that began the movie, we’re still given a visual clue that Woody has been forced out of his First Act Normal World: when Buzz arrives, Andy and the kids knock Woody under the bed, which symbolizes his “new” world. He climbs out from under the bed and enters the adventure world of the Second Act: where Buzz is the top toy.

First Pinch Point: In trying to knock Buzz behind the desk so he’ll be temporarily lost (allowing Woody to go with Andy to Pizza Palace in his place), Woody accidentally throws Buzz out the window. At this stage, we see the face of the true antagonist in this story: Woody’s anger and bitterness toward Buzz. This—and not Buzz himself or even Andy’s preference for Buzz—is what causes the turning point here.

Also note, however, how minor antagonist (“minor” in the sense that he’s not driving the main conflict) Sid is also introduced right around this moment, which keeps all the “pinches” grouped together. Ideally, Sid should have been introduced in the First Act along with all the other important characters, but since the short timeline left literally no room for him earlier, this was an excellent second choice for his introduction.

Midpoint: After accidentally marooning themselves at a gas station and then stealing a ride to Pizza Planet, Woody and Buzz are “won” by Sid in a claw machine. Sid takes them home. Although Woody’s attitude toward Buzz has been subtly shifting ever since knocking him out of the window, this is where we see a true change. Now, thanks to their outer circumstances, Woody and Buzz literally have no one but each other. They must work together and behave as friends, even if they aren’t yet friends.

Second Pinch Point: While trying to escape, Buzz sees a TV commercial advertising Buzz Lightyear toys—and he realizes for the first time that he’s not the real Buzz Lightyear. He attempts to fly out a window, breaks off his arm, and falls into deep depression. This is the first time Buzz has been the primary actor in a turning point, but it still affects Woody and the main plot because Buzz’s new dysphoria endangers Woody’s plans to escape. Woody almost secures a string of Christmas lights between Sid’s window and Andy’s—but Andy’s toys see Buzz’s dismembered arm and, believing Woody murdered him, refuse to help rescue them.

Third Plot Point: Sid straps a catatonic Buzz to a rocket, which he plans to ignite the next morning. With the threat of Buzz’s death—and Andy’s imminent move—hanging over their heads (and with the atmospheric rain pounding the window), Woody is brought to his all-time low. He must face the facts not just about their current physical predicament, but also the truth about his relationships with Andy and Buzz. In doing so, he unknowingly encourages Buzz into fighting back.

Climax: Woody enacts a plan to free Buzz—but then the true Climax begins, as Andy’s moving van pulls away from his house. Woody and Buzz race to catch up before they lose Andy forever.

Climactic Moment: Woody and Buzz fly into Andy’s car and land safely.

Resolution: During the first Christmas at Andy’s new house, Buzz waits nervously to hear about Andy’s new toys—only to discover he’s received a dog instead.

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