Home Improvement is a classic 90’s sitcom featuring Tim Allen that is a genuinely funny yet sincere look at family life balanced with work life and seasoned with stereotypical gender roles. The show is generally regarded as a typical cheesey 90’s family sitcom but upon re-watching the show, the viewer can plainly see it’s genuine attempt to relate to the average family and isn’t afraid to address tough, real world issues. If you don’t believe me, perhaps you should check out the Grunt Work Podcast, where co-hosts Landen and Truman watch every episode of Home Improvement and critically review them while bringing new life, comedy and meaning to each installment.
Fan Theory World has worked closely with Grunt Work in the past to discuss various fan theories that inevitably pop up during a thorough rewatch. In the past we have discussed many theories and connections about the show, including the connection to the Pixar universe. Now, upon further investigation, I believe that Home Improvement actually fits into the Pixar Theory timeline.
Tim Allen’s character, Tim Taylor, is under the employment of Binford Tools which created and sponsors the show, Tool Time. Tim Taylor hosts the show with his trusty and seemingly more competent co-host and assistant, Al Borland and teaches their audience how to do various home improvement projects that often lead to disastrous results. The show, Tool Time, is really a meta-program that often relates to much of the “real life” events that occur in Tim Taylor’s life. Just as being a TV personality on Tool Time can become an allegory for Tim Taylor’s life, Tim Taylor’s life can often become an allegory for Tim Allen’s real life. Events in reality will often shape the events of the show. In fact, in season 2 episode 1, “Read My Hips,” we see Tim Taylor looking at fan letters from his “Male Bag” on Tool Time. The letters say things to the effect that Tool Time is being too masculine and male oriented, and as the guys over at Grunt Work have pointed out, seem to be referring to the actual show, Home Improvement. Tim dismisses these letters saying that he will go on to do what he has been doing, sending a subtle message to the viewers of Home Improvement that the show is exactly how he wants it to be, and is not changing.
There are various other examples of this meta-programing happening but moving on to the theory, we know that Tim Allen and Tim Taylor share a passion for acting/showmanship and it is not uncommon for an actor to accept side gigs while working on other projects. In this case, Tool Time star, Tim Taylor, took the job to be a voice for a new line of toys, the Buzz Lightyear action figure.
But how on earth would a local TV star ever become the iconic voice of a top of the line action figure? The key here actually lies with his boss, Mr. John Binford. Season 2 Episode 8, “May the Best Man Win,” Mr. Binford elopes with a model leaving his daughter Maureen in charge of Tool Time. But why the sudden disappearance of Mr. Binford and why is he only now leaving everything behind to pursue his manly passions? Perhaps Mr. Binford has suddenly come into a lot of money and can now afford to escape to a far away place and begin anew. Perhaps, this large amount of money came from selling his company to a larger company. It is not uncommon for a mega corporation to buy smaller companies for the sake of expanding, and there is only one corporation that I can think of to buy Binford Tools, Buy n Large.
BnL is the mega corporation at the center of the Pixar universe and is responsible for the shaping of many events that take place there. We know for a fact that Binford exists in the Pixar universe, as we see a tool box in Toy Story with the Binford logo on it.
We also know that BnL is an established company at the time of Toy Story and we actually see that Buzz Lightyear action figures come equipped with BnL batteries.
At this point we are going to make the assumption that since BnL owns everything from banks, gas stations and even batteries, that they started creating toys a long time ago, including state of the art toys. Being the parent company for Binford Tools, and subsequently Tool Time, BnL eventually develops their most advanced and most powerful toy to date. In order to make the toy appealing to children, they need the voice of a man that can give the toy “more power” to take sales to infinity and beyond. It only takes a single person during the right meeting to suggest Tim Taylor of Tool Time fame (a recently acquired asset) to be the voice of their action astronaut, Buzz Lightyear. In a later episode of Home Improvement, we see Tim Allen, in character as Tim Taylor, recreating the voice of Buzz while also declaring himself as the real Buzz Lightyear.
Along with this pretty conclusive evidence of Toy Story toys being in Home Improvement, we have evidence from the show that toys are capable of coming to life on their own. In season 2, episode 18, “Bye Bye Birdie,” we have definitive proof that toys are capable of achieving sentience. At the end of the episode, in a final attempt to rid his house of a woodpecker, Tim Taylor deploys a toy helicopter to chase the bird away, when suddenly Tim loses control of the helicopter as the toy seemingly gains consciousness and begins to chase down and target him instead. The helicopter even goes so far as to open the doors to the house when Tim takes shelter inside. Though this makes for a cartoonishly funny representation of what can go wrong when Tim modifies a piece of machinery, there could be no other explanation for the complex thinking patterns that the toy exhibits other than a Toy Story-like sentience.
We also have a more subtle clue to the possible sentience of toys in Home Improvement. Throughout the show, we see a toy Godzilla meticulously placed in the background of some episodes. This Godzilla toy, affectionately named Shawnzilla by the guys at Grunt Work (named after Wallace Shawn, the voice of Rex the dinosaur in Toy Story), has been seen in many different poses that appear to be the result of the toy freezing in place when a human approaches.
These seemingly random poses and placement are actually the result of the crew of Home Improvement having some fun with the available props, but could easily be explained away in the show as being left there by one of the three Taylor boys. After seeing a toy helicopter come to life to attack Tim, it seems that the explanation of coming to life periodically could be an equally plausible scenario.
An interesting side note involving Shawnzilla, is that we see the exact same toy appear in Roseanne and, more specifically it, makes an appearance in the rebooted season 10 of the show.
I mention this appearance of the Godzilla toy, because Grunt Work has evidence to suggesy that Roseanne takes place in the same universe Home Improvement and is therefore also a part of the Pixar universe.
The proof is contained in the above GIF, where we see a “Lanford Electric” bowling shirt make an appearance in season 1, episode 13 “Up Your Alley.” of Home Improvement. True Roseanne fans will know that the Conner family resides in Lanford, Illinois.
So at this point it seems pretty definitive that Home Improvement (and by association, Roseanne) takes place in the Pixar universe and that we have exhausted our connections. But wait, it’s time for a few bonus points! Now we can start to analyze some other aspects of Home Improvement from a Pixar theory point of view.
Let’s analyze the legendary Wilson W. Wilson Jr. His proclivity for partially hiding his face behind a wooden fence has led to many speculations on the mysterious nature of the character. The guys over at Grunt Work even have an ongoing theory that the seemingly all-knowing Wilson could be God living in the mortal world and offering sagely advice to Tim Taylor while also hiding his holy visage from humans.
However omniscient Wilson may appear, he only ever offers advice in the form of a historical quote, which originates from other humans. None of his advice seems to be original content (unless we consider that God had given the original authors of the quote their ideas in the first place, and personally, I would prefer to stay out of that rabbit hole). With this, we can assume that he is human that displays unusual powers from time to time. For example, in season 2 episode 13, “Bell Bottom Blues” we actually see Wilson phase his hand through a wooden fence. When we see Tim’s expression, he is very much confused about this event to the point that he stares at the place Wilson’s hand had come through after Wilson withdraw it. If we look carefully at the fence in past episodes, there is no opening in the fence sizable enough to allow Wilson’s hand to come through it.
I believe that Wilson’s power can actually be channeled through the wooden fence. In the Pixar universe, we actually have a character that can do the exact same thing but on a larger scale and is the centerpiece to the Pixar shared universe theory. Boo from Monster’s Inc, according to the Pixar Theory, is really the old Witch from the movie Brave.
The theory states that Boo, in her attempt to find her long lost friend Sully, learns how to channel magic through the wooden doors of Monsters Inc. travels back in time to the movie Brave to become the old witch that has both traveled time and is able to create portals in wooden doorways. I believe that Wilson from Home Improvement has learned how to channel a small amount of magic through the seemingly ordinary wooden fence in his yard. We see that he creates a small portal in the fence to put his hand through to shake Tim’s hand. We also see him time and time again give his sagely advice in the form of historical quotes while standing up against the wooden fence. Wilson has a seemingly endless well of knowledge of these quotes that he can recite word for word with hardly any errors, which appears to be an impressive feat even for a well educated man. But what if Wilson, an aficionado of ancient cultures and traditions, is really channeling a small amount of magic into the fence to pull the quotes that he has “memorized” directly from the exact point in time that they were spoken? “Insane!” I can hear you say, but if Home Improvement is within the Pixar Universe and this universe has a time traveling witch channeling energies into wooden structures, then it would be likely that a man who has thoroughly studied ancient cultures, their beliefs and even magic, would have picked up a trick or two along the way.
So there we have it! Binford was bought out by BnL, Tim Taylor was the voice of the Buzz Lightyear toy, and Wilson is a witch! Also, it is worth mentioning that at about the time that BnL bought Binford, Home Improvement began featuring a living logo in their show that could be seen helping with transitions throughout the season. The Truman and Landen at Grunt Work have affectionately a named this character “The Gruntcreep.” Since we see everything coming alive and sentient in the Pixar universe including, dinosaurs, toys, cars, animals, and even emotions, would it be implausible that a logo could also come to life?
I believe that this theory warrants even further investigation on how Home Improvement perfectly fits into the Pixar universe. I’m sure there are several other connections that will be dug up in the future, but really only time will tell, and until then fellow fans and theorists, keep theorizing!
We would like to extend a special thank you to the Grunt Work Podcast for helping create this theory. They have just finished watching every episode of Home Improvement through season 2. Check out their amazing show at http://gruntworkpodcast.com/ or wherever podcasts are played!
Author: Erik Montgomery