The Toy Story rule is a rule used to identify a specific kind of in-universe link, involving characters appearing both as fictional and as alive at the same time. it states:

When a character is fictional within a series, but its depiction appears magically or inexplicably alive, then that depiction is considered an actual incarnation of the character.

This means that in case of a series featuring depictions of fictional characters coming to life for some reason, then they're considered actual, "real" incarnations of the characters, just as the ones actually living the fictional stories.

The name of the rule comes from one of the prime examples of its applications, the Toy Story series, which tells the story of a group of toys. In the series all toys are revealed to actually be alive, without any explanation, but even if they're fictional characters in that universe, since they're alive, they're also considered actual, "real" characters (so for example, Buzz Lightyear is both a fictional space ranger, whose adventures are shown in the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command series, as well as a plastic toy coming to life, and both incarnations are equally actual and official versions of the same character).

The rule is applied to cross series references, since it might happen that thesee fictional, but alive, characters appearing in a series, come from another series.

Note that the requirement for this rule to be applied is that characters have to be "alive". This means that robotic incarnations of characters are usually not considered since robots are considered to simply be programmed to seem alive, not actually being alive (for example the minigames within Nintendo Land feature many characters from other Nintendo series, but since they're supposed to be animatronics of a theme park, no matter how convincing, they're not alive, and these series are still only considered fictional within Nintendo Land).

There might be exceptions, though, such as series considering robots as actual, alive characters, or series considering magic akin to programming, making characters only seem alive not actually being alive.

Examples of Toy Story rule

These are some series that show applications of the Toy Story rule:

  • Toy Story: as stated above, this series features toys being alive.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: this series is about videogame characters being alive and able to jump from a game to another at will.
  • Super Smash Bros.: this series features many characters from various video game series (mostly by Nintendo), and are believed by many to simply be trophies coming to life. Despite this, they're considered actual incarnations of the characters.
  • Scribblenauts: this series is about a boy named Maxwell who can bring anything to life simply by writing it on his magical notepad. This includes people and even if they're created by magic, they're considered actual, alive, characters.
  • Pixels: in this movie aliens attack Earth using video game characters. While these characters are fictional within the movie's universe, they also appear alive through unexplained means, and are therefore considered real incarnations of the characters.