My children grew up as part of the Toy Story generation. We watched Toy Story 1 and 2 on our VCR over and over. They were favorites, but they weren’t the only animated Disney show we watched. We had a large collection of VHS tapes. They’re still stored in our basement. I’m not sure there’s even a market for that on eBay.

While my children were technically the ones watching the movies, I was aware of them as well. And somewhere along the way, probably during our 364th viewing of Toy Story or Winnie the Pooh, I realized the storylines not only entertained, but taught life lessons along the way for children and parents alike.

Some of what I learned includes, from Dumbo, sometimes your biggest deficit can turn into your biggest asset, don’t be afraid to be different; Pinocchio, don’t lie; The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, love isn’t something you spell, it’s something you feel; Peter Pan, growing older is inevitable, growing up is a choice; The Incredibles, we’ve all got our own superpower; Wall-E, one tiny being can change the world; Finding Nemo, just keep swimming; Monsters Inc., don’t be afraid of the dark, monsters are what you make of them; Aristocats, the butler did it; A Bug’s Life, never underestimate the little guy;

Cars, life is the best ride you will ever have so enjoy it; Bambi, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all; Beauty and the Beast, beauty is only skin deep; Lady and the Tramp, an Italian restaurant is a great place to go on a first date; Alice in Wonderland, sometimes you have to fall down a rabbit hole to get to where you need to be; Ratatouille, dream big, the sky’s the limit; Tangled, be fearless, step out of your comfort zone; Pocahontas, if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew; Brave, friends come and go, but family is forever; Cinderella, never give up on dreaming big and mice make good friends;

Snow White, don’t accept candy or apples from strangers; The Jungle Book, the bare necessities of life will come to you; Frozen, let it go and some people are worth melting for; Up, never stop seeking adventure, squirrel; 101 Dalmatians, family is important and puppies are cute; Lion King, hakuna matata (Don’t worry, be happy.); Toy Story 1, you can fly if you believe you can, to infinity and beyond; and Toy Story 2, friendship is powerful and valuable, and don’t trust a toy that’s never been played with.

Toy Story 3 was released 11 years after No. 2. My children were no longer itty-bittys and neither was the original Toy Story character, Andy. He was moving off to college, as was my daughter at the time. The movie hit this mom in the gut and probably taught me as much as all of the above combined.

Walt Disney was a storyteller and entertainer, and while he died more than 50 years ago, his legacy continues. Toy Story 4 is set to be released soon, Friday, June 21. You can be assured my family and I will be first in line for tickets. 

You’ve got a friend in me.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. More columns are available at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.