In “Toy Story 3” we learn that Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear belonged to a young girl who accidentally left him and some of her other toys behind after a picnic one day. On the way home, they learn that Lotso has been replaced. Angered by this, he and the others leave the country and find themselves in Sunnyside, where Lotso’s reign of terror begins.
While Lotso might not be worth worrying about, it’s hard not to sympathize with the plush patriarch. Some fans even see Lotso as a dark reflection of what could have become of Woody (Tom Hanks) or Jessie (Joan Cusack), the former being a stern and jealous leader and the latter having a history of abandonment. Not only does Lotso see the world through pain-filled eyes, but he also recognizes the reality that many toys are destined for the trash, something no other character in the Toy Story series had acknowledged so strongly up to that point.
Much of Lotso’s philosophy captures the tone that made the Toy Story films so endearing. The franchise as a whole examines our relationship with our toys, never shying away from portraying the reality that we abandon and even throw away our toys, often as we grow into puberty and later into adulthood. Nothing can ever excuse Lotso’s actions, but those actions are born of universal truths that we can all identify with, whether we like it or not.