By their nature, animated movies are impossible. As kids, we watch them in awe, never doubting for a second that a candlestick could make out with a feather duster. Why wouldn't they? But after the onset of adulthood grinds that wonder into a fine gruel, that magic disappears. Without the benefit of imagination, adults turn to cynicism to fill the new plot holes they've found in their childhood favorites. New theories arise to recontextualize chipper Disney landscapes into the bitter world adults recognize. When reading the depressing fan theories we've collected, you might find yourself saying "These are kids movies!" but it's best to keep an open mind when it comes to movies with living toys.
Because Pixar is sustained by the emotional turmoil of its audience, one heartbreaking subplot of Toy Story 2 was never resolved. Jessie is introduced in the movie as a jaded cowgirl with a fear of abandonment -- her old owner, Emily, had neglected her for years before tossing her into a donation bin. Though Jessie learns to trust again and is happy to become Andy's toy, she never gets any real closure. Emily is still out there somewhere, and Jessie probably has all sorts of questions for her. Does she still remember her old cowgirl doll? Did she regret giving Jessie away? Are all the toys in Toy Story manufactured with souls, or are they possessed by ghosts, or what is the deal there?
The answers for the first two are explained the movies, but they won't exactly make you feel better.
There's a compelling theory that claims Emily is actually Andy's mom, all grown up. It's bolstered by the short glimpse we get of Emily -- the hair is a bit lighter, but otherwise they definitely look similar. Maybe more convincing is Andy's old red hat. It really does look like a larger version of Jessie's, and it just so happens that we know that Emily had a hat just like it. So maybe the hat is a hand-me-down from Andy's mom, who had it back "when she loved me," and Jessie doesn't recognize an aged-up Emily.
So why does this matter? Well, we know that Andy's mom has seen Jesse at one point or another, but we never see her react with nostalgia or even recognition. This is as opposed to Andy, who still has a lot of affection for Woody and Buzz as he goes off for college. The point being, Emily doesn't remember Jessie like Jessie remembers Emily. She was a beloved toy for a brief period, but then she was forgotten and left to die like a Tomagatchi entombed in its own digital poop. Whereas Jessie had a terrible time trying to let go, Emily never gave it a second thought. Imagine you had one incredible evening with the most wonderful person you'd ever met, and you thought about them for years -- only to discover that they couldn't recall that night at all. That's Emily's relationship with her discarded plaything. It's probably better that Jessie didn't realize who Andy's mom was -- the truth would break her in half.
I'd like to say it doesn't get more depressing from here on out. I'd like to say that.