Why I’m a Toy Story Fangirl… and Why Jessie Matters

collage_jessie

I received confirmation a couple days ago that Jessie is in fact slated to be cut from meet and greets at Walt Disney World, and needless to say it hit me like a punch in the gut.  But since Jessie never gives up, and I’m going to continue to fight to keep her as a meetable character in the parks, I thought this would be as good a time as any to write something more personal, and share just why this character and her fictional world mean so much to me.  Although I’ve written before about why Jessie is important as a character in the Toy Story series of films, these are my own reasons why she matters, to me…

Spending time with my best cowgirl at the Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! parade.

I’ve always been a fangirl, even before I knew that word existed.  There has always been something, at any given time, that has captured my imagination.  It all started with the Muppets as a kid, when I desperately wanted to become a Muppeteer (and which makes it extremely ironic that a new attraction featuring them is what’s causing the eviction of Jessie and Woody from Frontierland).   Over the years, though, there’s one quality that most of my favorite fictional characters have had in common, and that’s a sense of being an individual, someone who’s willing to go against the crowd and often doesn’t quite fit in.  My past interests have included Disney Renaissance classics like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, as well as Lilo and Stitch and the musical Wicked.  And I can’t discuss my favorite fictional characters without mentioning Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series.  Anne will forever be my favorite literary character.  When I read those books – and I’ve read them many times – it’s like I’m reading about myself.  And it’s fitting, too, because I see a lot of similarities between Jessie and Anne.

Whether we’re being silly or sharing a fierce hug, there’s nothing that compares to time spent with Jessie.

My current obsession started with Toy Story 3.  For as much of a fan as I am now, it might come as a surprise that I wasn’t all that familiar with the first two Toy Story films before the third one came out.  I remember seeing the original Toy Story in the theater in 1995; I thought the aliens were cute.  But Toy Story 2 was released almost to the day of when my husband and I got engaged, so between planning a wedding and being a full-time college student, we had no time to go see it.  In the months leading up the release of Toy Story 3, we broke out the DVDs of the previous movies, to introduce them to our then-three-year-old son.  I enjoyed getting reacquainted with Andy’s toys alongside my little man, in preparation for him to go see Toy Story 3, which would be his first movie in a theater.

My boy has loved Jessie as long as I have, and has always enjoyed it when she picks him from the crowd to dance with her.

I wasn’t expecting to get hooked.  I was just expecting to take my kid to a fun movie about talking toys.  But Disney movies – especially Pixar ones – can have that effect.  One night, shortly before the film’s release, we were watching Dancing with the Stars when a feature came on about two of the professionals choreographing a routine for Buzz Lightyear and Jessie.  Clips were shown.  The dance (a fiery paso doble) was performed.  Wait a minute… this movie was going to have a romantic storyline?  I didn’t know that before.  That was all it took.  I couldn’t wait to see it.

Delivering a love note from Buzz, one of the most fun experiences ever. THIS Is Disney magic, folks.

Seeing Toy Story 3, at the first theater showing on opening day, is something I’ll never forget.  My son was enthralled.  He sat on the edge of his seat, and at the beginning sang along to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” with all his cute little heart.  He laughed, booed Lotso – in fact, the whole theater reacted enthusiastically to what was happening on screen, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a movie before or since where the audience was so engaged with the story.  We stayed through the credits so I could see the animated paso doble, the “happily ever after” finale to the film.

I just love her. How can I give this up? I shouldn’t have to – none of the fans should have to.

Over the next three months, I saw Toy Story 3 five times in the theater.  (I used to be hesitant to admit that, for fear of the mockery I’d receive; but that doesn’t worry me anymore.)  And with each time I saw it, I became even more captivated with Jessie.  Sure, I thought she was cute, but it was more than that.  I could see so much of my own personality in this little animated cowgirl doll.  That’s the genius of Pixar:  they have the skill to make an animated character more real and relatable than most human characters in live-action films.  And when Toy Story of TERROR! aired on television in 2013, I came to love her even more.

It’s not just me. Even my husband loves her. It’s not a Disney trip until she’s tried to steal him from me.

Why Jessie?  Well, for starters, she’s not perfect.  She isn’t the poised, elegant princess ideal that there’s no way I’ll ever live up to (or want to live up to).  She’s her own person – well, toy.  She’s loud and excitable.  She has a temper to match her hair, and she stands up for what she believes in.  She’s ruled by her emotions, and they often get the better of her.  She’s been discarded and betrayed, and as a result she’s plagued by anxiety and panic attacks, but she doesn’t let those struggles destroy her fun-loving spirit.  And she wears jeans, not some frilly ballgown – much more relatable to a girl who buys shirts and shoes based on how well they’ll go with denim.  Even the cowgirl aspect – I’ve been into the whole country thing ever since I lived out west and loved going line dancing, although for years I put that aside in the futile attempt to conform with the trendier crowd where we live (lesson learned: not worth it. Be yourself).  Those who know me as only a casual acquaintance might not understand why I see so much of myself in Jessie, since in unfamiliar or unsure situations, I tend to be more introverted and shy.  But those friends who know the real me, who I feel free to be myself around, and who have seen me get riled up over some injustice or hyper over something exciting, hopefully can see how much I share with the rowdy cowgirl doll.

I caught a glimpse of the two of them – together – at Disney California Adventure. Why they can’t be together at Disney Hollywood Studios makes NO sense.

And then there’s Buzz.  As I was noticing all the ways I related to Jessie, I started to see my husband’s personality in her man, too.  Sure, my husband isn’t a heroic Space Ranger, but he does have a career in corrections/law enforcement.  He’s athletic.  He’s calmer and more reserved than his spazzy wife, and he keeps me sane.  He’s my best friend, the first one I turn to, and always there for me when my own anxiety flares up.  Most importantly, he loves me as I am, even though I can be little crazy.  I have yet to discover a Spanish Mode influence to get him to dance with me – but I’m okay with that, since I figure without Spanish Mode, Buzz wouldn’t dance either.  Round it all out with the fact that our son is a Woody fan (and can sure act like him sometimes), and the main trio of Toy Story represents my little family to me.  Our closets are full of clothes to Disneybound the characters in the Disney parks, and sometimes even at home.  Our house is full of Toy Story toys and collectibles.  We can carry on whole conversations in Toy Story quotes.  We even have a dachshund dog named Slinky.  We have embraced the Toy Story gang, and they have become a part of us.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom, October 2014. My favorite costumes ever.

Jessie’s acceptance speech she gave for the Patsy Montana Entertainer Award, which she received from the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 2000, pretty much sums up the kind of person I try to be, and why she speaks to me as a character…

“Carry yourself with grit and grace. Find your own trail, and follow it with faith and courage.

And always saddle your own horse.”

Jessie never gives up, and neither will I. Please help me fight for her presence in the parks!

Why am I a Toy Story fangirl?  Because it makes me happy.  Because I see reflections of my own life in the lives of these toys.  Because Jessie’s strength, perseverance, and spunk give me something to aspire to.  Because I respect and admire the brilliant filmmakers who created the characters and their world.  And because it brings my family together, through something we all enjoy.  We have cherished the tradition of meeting these beloved characters – Jessie especially – at Walt Disney World for the past six years, and the thought that our tradition may have come to an end truly breaks my heart.  My love for the Toy Story films has given me the freedom to be true to myself, and I’m better for it.  And that’s precisely why Jessie matters, and why she deserves a presence not only on screen, but in the parks as well.  If she can mean this much to me, she can undoubtedly be a positive influence for others, too.

This is only a tiny selection of the memories we’ve shared with Jessie over the years. She deserves a place at Walt Disney World, and a presence worthy of the leading character she is.

Please help me fight the decision to cut Jessie from meet and greets at Walt Disney World!  

  • Sign the petition to bring her back at Change.org
  • Like my Facebook page dedicated to bringing back Jessie to Walt Disney World. 
  • Send an email to george.kalogridis@disney.com (WDW President) or wdw.guest.communications@disneyworld.com and tell them Jessie needs to be reinstated!
That means YOU! Please help!!!

Toy Story of TERROR! screen shot © Disney/Pixar.  Photos taken in the Disney Parks are mine.  

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11 thoughts on “Why I’m a Toy Story Fangirl… and Why Jessie Matters

  1. Rebecca K. September 21, 2016 / 2:34 pm

    After reading this, I now understand better why you love Jessie and Buzz so much. I’m praying that she stays in the Disney Parks. If I ever go there someday, I have definitely wanted to meet her. I’ve written my letter to Walt Disney World, and hope it makes a difference!

    Man, if the managers at Disney World read our Toy Story Fanfiction community, they’d see for themselves how much Jessie is loved. I mean, 80 to 90% of the stories in there are centered on Jessie, or at least her and Buzz! I was blown away by that when I got hooked into the archive.

    I keep wondering and I even asked them, is Jessie being eliminated forever, -which does not make sense at all-or is she being temporarily put into storage till the new movie comes out? I hope they can answer that question.

    I pinned this article of yours onto my Toy Story boards on Pinterest, I entitled it with a big “ATTENTION, Toy Story Fans!! We have to save Jessie!!” Let’s hope it gets lots of attention.
    I’d be happy to share with you the letter I wrote, if you want to see it. This is America, where we have freedom of speech and we should stand up for what we believe in. The managers need to hear the fans’ voices! Well, we have spoken!

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Keep swimming, and never give up! Find a way! That’s what I’m praying for, that Jessie can stay-somehow!

    Be glad you’re not alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heidi September 21, 2016 / 6:17 pm

      Thank you so much for this! ❤ Your support, and the fact that you sent a letter too, means so much. You're right, they have NO idea how popular Jessie truly is. She has a huge fan following – and just because other fans don't know what is about to transpire in the parks, and therefore aren't saying anything about it, doesn't mean they won't be affect by her getting cut, too! Thank you also for posting this to Pinterest – any way we can the word out is a big help! 🙂

      You WILL get a very generic and very condescending reply from Disney. Trust me. They'll try to tell you that "magical changes are coming" and "adventures with all her toy friends" will take Jessie out of the parks. Don't take it! Talk back. Reply, and urge them further to reconsider. The only way we can make our voices be heard is if we don't back down.

      If you'd like to show me your letter, I'd be happy to read it. You can send it to heidi@toystoryfangirl.com. 🙂 Thanks again – it's wonderful to know I'm not alone in my fight for Jessie! ❤

      Like

  2. Worldweaver3791 September 26, 2016 / 7:35 am

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve been following the whole meet and greet disaster through your twitter, and didn’t need a blog post to convince me, but I know that others might. I have never had the chance to meet Jessie, as the only time I went to Disney World was years before I got into Toy Story (unlike the rest of my generation, I didn’t grow up on Disney and Pixar films). Ever since I found your tumblr after finally watching the movies, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to meeting all three – hopefully soon four – main characters at the park (someday when I have money, ha ha). I’m willing to bet I was not as devastated as you upon learning of the cut, but I was pretty miffed to say the least. Thank you also for including the email address, as I did not know where to send my protesting, and am notoriously bad at hunting such things down.

    Like

    • Heidi September 26, 2016 / 9:39 am

      Thank you! ❤ And if you want to send an email, too, that would be wonderful! I did confirm with a WDW Cast Member friend that it's the correct email to send our complaints to about Jessie. Thanks for helping me fight this horrible decision! 🙂 I really appreciate it.

      Like

  3. Rebecca K. September 26, 2016 / 11:04 am

    It’s just so absurd, especially with Toy Story4 coming out in 2018. Well, it’s still five days away. Things can happen between now and then, so let’s not give up yet! I’m still holding out hope and praying. Lord willing, I’ll let you know about my reply from WDW when it gets here. I sure hope they answer my question about it being permanent or temporary.

    “On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this decision an F!” -Disgust from Inside Out (I, uh reworded it from day to decision, ha, ha)

    Like

    • Heidi September 26, 2016 / 11:31 am

      It really is! And the most recent answer one of my friends got – on a phone call – was that she’s most likely going away until Toy Story Land opens. Two years from now??? Because, let’s face it, as of right now, it’s slated to open in summer 2018 – and when does Disney open something new on time? Very rarely. So we’re probably looking at fall 2018, in reality. That’s too long, and not fair. What do fans do until then? Go visit some prissy princess? Not happening. 😦

      Keep hoping, keep praying, and when you get your canned reply, talk back! 🙂 And thanks again for all your support. ❤

      Like

  4. Rebecca K. September 29, 2016 / 6:56 pm

    I just read your Tumblr post. That’s so sad. I really wish it wasn’t Jessie! Though my personal number one Toy Story hero is Woody, I do love Jessie and am sad to see her being put into storage! We’ve spoken, we’ve fought, and just because they aren’t listening to us, doesn’t mean that to us that Jessie is out of sight, out of mind! There are gonna be a lot of disappointed children who are big fans. If the fans who find out this decision up close and personal by not getting to interact with our cowgirl once they’re in Disney World, who knows how they will react? They may take up a protest too. It could happen! What if many fans, in the park after Jessie is cut, got so upset at Jessie’s absence that Disney World did eventually bring her back? Wouldn’t that be something? It IS possible.

    I’m very sorry that Disney World, the place where magic comes to life, is hurting you like this taking away someone you love so dearly! I can’t imagine.

    I just want to say, I do have my favorite princesses. And in truth, it isn’t THEIR fault that Jessie is being evicted, it’s the fault of the princess promoters at Disney World. But it is very unfair that Jessie is being outcast just because she’s so different, but that’s what makes her so unique. She IS different and not ashamed to be herself. Budget cutting, a lame excuse, especially when it’s not the real reason!

    Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. And despite what’s going on, we are going to continue to keep Jessie ALIVE, whether it be through Fanfiction, cowgirl Jessie-themed parties, promoting Toy Story of Terror, or other things that come to mind. Things can and may turn around down the road!

    Like

    • Heidi September 30, 2016 / 11:19 am

      I know of at least 20 messages they’ve received about Jessie, and that’s just the ones I KNOW about. I’m sure there are more. And once families go to WDW and can’t find her where they expect her to be, there will be more complaints, guaranteed. WDW won’t be able to ignore the fans forever – although they’ve been doing a fantastic job of trying to make us disappear. I haven’t quit fighting for my cowgirl, though! I’ll keep on tweeting, posting on social media, and writing emails until I can make a difference. It just makes me boil that they CLAIM they can’t afford to keep Jessie out to greet guests and still have the Muppets in Liberty Square – while they have plenty of money to put MORE princesses out at a FREE meet-and-greet in Disney Springs. They find the money if it’s princesses involved, because they see them as a cash-printing machine. That’s what disgusts me. Toy Story is plenty popular, too, and deserves every bit as much to be represented, because the toys appeal to girls AND boys alike.

      I don’t hate the princesses – as they are in their films – I just don’t really relate to them that much. I like most of the princess movies, actually, and will watch them when they’re on TV. Who they are in their stories, though, is entirely different than how they’re represented in the parks. I have liked Belle since Beauty and the Beast came out (she’s even mentioned in this post), and I like Merida, too. But in the parks, they make them so one-dimensional, all of them in fancy ballgowns, posing and acting all dainty and prissy. Look at Mulan, who hates being dressed up – and what does she wear in the parks? A frilly dress that makes her almost unrecognizable. And to me, it just makes me feel that Jessie’s being put in storage because they can’t force her to fit that mold – which is exactly why I love her.

      Thanks again – I appreciate your support and your help in this fight! ❤ Hopefully I'll have something positive to share in the not-too-distant future.

      Like

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