In the span of a month, two highly anticipated finales have arrived. They are in different mediums, and have different target audiences. However, they are finales for two of the biggest franchises of our era, with two of the most passionate fanbases in pop culture. As such, each finale had insanely high expectations, a lot of fear that they would harm their franchise’s legacy, and made fans wonder if they could handle a last goodbye.
Of course, the Toy Story franchise and Lost series inspired very different reactions with their endings. But that, and the unsolved Lost mysteries, are the only differences between these two grand finales. Even though one end is about animated toys, and another is about live action people on a mystical island, their last messages are the same – as are the tears they wring to deliver them.
Warning: Major Toy Story 3 and Lost spoilers ahead
Last month, Lost divided its edgy fanbase with how it wrapped things up. Instead of giving any big answers, it chose to focus on its characters, and not the island. That alone made many people mad, to say nothing of how it literally sent the survivors to Heaven, after a stint in flash-sideways purgatory. But for those who weren’t upset, they were moved to tears at how these different people finally got to move on and let go together. On the island, and in their lives after death, they had to come together to overcome their demons, and finally did after six seasons.
Even those who hated the last 10 minutes might have cried over the various reunions, and last gatherings of the characters. Although the execution may have had some problems, the intent was clear. For all of the bells and whistles around it, Lost was really about strangers becoming a family – one that couldn’t survive without each other. And for Jack Shephard, who sacrificed all to save everyone, he couldn’t move on without them, just as everyone else couldn’t move on without each other.
One month later, the gang of Toy Story also faced their last adventures. These toys were also a family, but they were being abandoned by their father figure – college bound Andy. Like a wooden Jack Shephard, Woody is determined to keep everyone together, so they won’t die alone. But inevitably, Woody goes against his own beliefs and leaves the gang behind, once they find a new home away from Andy.
Like Jack, Woody pushes away those who love him, because of his inability to let go and come to terms with loss. But when they are needed, the two leaders come through to save their friends from the ultimate evil – the toys from Lotso the Bear, and the survivors from the Man in Black/smoke monster. Coincidentally, these villains each turned evil due to their own loss and betrayal, serving as the cautionary tale for the two series’.
The prison like daycare center of Toy Story 3 is almost like the Lost flash-sideways. Both destinations provide supposed paradise for the main characters, after their old lives are over. Of course, the Lost flash sideways was created after death, while the Toy Story gang is still alive – but their old lives are still as good as over. Yet the flash-sideways and Sunnyside Daycare are traps, for the characters are still running from the past, instead of getting to come to terms with it.
It takes the Lost survivors getting woken up to realize who they are, what they lost, and who they need to be with. Likewise, it takes an escape from Sunnyside, and the ultimate brush with death, for Woody and the toys to realize their importance to each other. When these objectives are completed, it is time for them to achieve a final closure with the past, before they can move on.
Once he realizes the truth, Jack Shephard gets to finally settle things with his distant, deceased father Christian. Despite their awful relationship while they were alive, they achieve peace and reconciliation at the last moment, which allows them to let go at last. For Woody, despite a neglected final few years with Andy, he also gets to realize how much his distant owner/parent really loved him, which allows much needed closure for each of them.
Once they have this closure, Woody and Jack can finally focus on what’s really important – going to the next stage of life with a group of friends who love them, and whose love they finally learned how to treasure. Although this brings an end to the life they knew, it isn’t a goodbye – it’s just moving on to whatever comes next. And together, the Lost survivors and the Toy Story toys will be able to make it through, after their last adventures reunited them for good.
Both the Lost and Toy Story finales have the same message, the same kind of closure, and the same reunions before the unknown future. Both finales end in exactly the same way that they began, and with the same kind of imagery. Both are veiled messages for their fans to move on and let go of their beloved characters, just as the characters learned to do. And both of the climaxes drove their fans to non-stop tears in the final 10 minutes.
Of course, the Lost ending was extremely divisive, while the Toy Story ending was loved by all but two critics. That is because Toy Story merely had to deliver a good ending, while Lost had to do that and answer a million questions all at once. Lost ultimately couldn’t do all the things fans hoped for, which some forgave and some were furious over. Since Toy Story 3 didn’t have to answer mysteries, or do anything other than keep Pixar’s perfection alive, there will be no arguing about its quality for the next several years.
Pixar and Lost don’t technically have much in common, except Lost, Up and Ratatouille composer Michael Giacchino. But somehow, they stumbled onto almost the exact same way to end beloved franchises. While one has toys and a crazy daycare center, and another has a crazy island and made up afterlives, these two series’ had exactly the same ideas at heart.
For the two biggest finales in recent times, they put their iconic characters – along with their fans – on a long, hard road towards closure and coming full circle. When they succeeded, dozens of tears were shed for the final moments, as two families were at last united in their next adventure – which no one will see but them.