Raise your eyebrows all you want, but the truth is that Toy Story is the perfect Thanksgiving movie. Granted, it has absolutely nothing to do with the holiday (even though some Toy Story characters have been featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade). Regardless, Toy Story low-key reflects some of the most important values of Thanksgiving, like learning to find common ground with difficult members of your extended family, or figuring out that you're actually thankful for your little brother — even though he always eats the final drumstick. Like a thick slab of homemade pumpkin pie, this movie has depth. And it's one generous helping of Thanksgiving movie goodness that you may not have even considered until now.
Before delving into the movie's holiday spirit, it's worth noting that Toy Story is an exceptional Thanksgiving movie on a fun, superficial level. Not only is it one of the greatest family movies ever made — one that's capable of uniting even the most contrary of families, it's also the perfect movie to watch after eating a gigantic meal. Toy Story is the sort of cozy, familiar film that makes for the ideal post-dinner nap experience. It's easy viewing and it'll keep your whole family happy, sure, but it's also a movie that you've so many times you can confidently nap without missing any serious plot points.
If you're looking for a movie that can reawaken the true spirit of Thanksgiving within you, then Toy Story is it. And that's because for plenty of us, the holiday can often mean dealing with some difficult family members or strained relationships. It can mean having to be polite while your great uncle Milton goes on yet another political speech, or bitterly laughing off yet another jibe concerning your perpetual single status (thanks, Grandma). Thanksgiving can be a minefield of family faux pas, feuds, and furies, but you need only look to Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy's toys in order to take a breath and remind yourself about how to deal with it all.
After all, Toy Story is about one of the most eclectic extended families in cinematic history — Andy's toys. With Hamm, Rex, Mr. Potato Head, Bo Peep, Slinky Dog, and Woody, they're a diverse bunch with seemingly little else in common, other than being owned by the same little boy. This leads to Mr. Potato Head calling Hamm an "uncultured swine" when he doesn't get his Picasso reference, and Rex feeling dejected by Woody not finding his attempt at a roar "fearsome." These characters have little in common to the point that they sometimes quarrel. But they always figure out a way to make it work. They keep the peace in Andy's bedroom, even if they don't particularly get along. That's something that all of us can take strength from when the respective Miltons of our families go on yet another rant.
For further inspiration in dealing with unnecessary Thanksgiving drama, Buzz Lightyear and Woody's relationship in Toy Story is probably the perfect example. Judging the characters from how they interact at the start of the movie (Buzz is cocky and showboating, Woody is bitter and jealous), to the end, they become a perfect example of clashing personalities learning to get along. Hell, by the end, Buzz basically even forgives Woody for attempted murder (he did push him out of the window after all,) and Woody has learned to take strength from Buzz's power, rather than feel threatened by it. When it comes to Thanksgiving familial conflicts, you're either a Woody or a Buzz, forced with forgiving a jerk, or reckoning with your own potentially terrible behavior in order to keep the peace.
In fact, by the end of the movie, Woody and Buzz don't just manage to find common ground and save each other from being lost forever, they also realize they should be thankful for one another, too. Together, they make a great team — Buzz might have the body and gadgetry, but Woody has wit and intelligence. Neither one could've made it back to Andy without the other. Even after the most bristling of scenarios, when it seems obvious that the two couldn't be more different, they still come together as friends. And that's a powerful thing to keep in mind when you're fighting with your brother over who gets the final scoop of sweet potato mash.
Whatever it is you're looking for from a Thanksgiving movie, Toy Story has it. As a movie, it's capable of keeping the peace in your family living room (for its 80-minute running time, at least), or providing the ultimate post-feast-drowsiness viewing experience you could hope for. But look a little deeper, and Toy Story also delivers heartwarming reminders about figuring out ways to get along with people that you might not share much in common with, or being thankful for individuals in unexpected and loving ways — even if they don't get your Picasso jokes, fail to appreciate your roar, or get insanely jealous about your bomb-ass spacesuit. That's the spirit of Thanksgiving right there, folks.