Written by Lili la Scala

Arts

Toy Story comes of age

As we all shake our heads at the knowledge that Toy Story hit the big screen 21 bloody years ago, Lili la Scala says it’s lost not one bit of its appeal, no matter how old you are.

To infinity and beyond: this heartwarming family classic packs a bleak existential punch. Images: Disney/Pixar.

To infinity and beyond: this heartwarming family classic packs a bleak existential punch. Images: Disney/Pixar.

My son is nearly four and he adores Toy Story. He loves Buzz Lightyear; I’m more of a Woody girl myself.

Twenty-one years since its cinema release, the first Disney Pixar movie still has the ability to enchant us with the timeless tale of some toys and their boy.

As with the Pixar films that have followed it, Toy Story is multi-layered enough to appeal to both our child and adult selves. For my son, it is the childlike wonder of toys that come alive when you leave the room, inanimate objects that have a secret life. The imagination of a small human is a joyous thing.

I remember being about six and writing a letter to the Tooth Fairy asking if she could make my toys come alive. Alas, they never did but I’ve never been able to send a teddy to a charity shop without feeling ever so slightly guilty.

“Buzz’s sudden realisation of how small he really is within the universe – and how pointless – offers a perfect, if a little depressing, allegory for life.”

For the adults, Toy Story is awash with an emotional depth, which is easily recognisable for those of us beyond our teenage years. Jealousy, disillusionment, rivalries, acceptance, friendship and the inevitability of growing up and moving on are all beautifully covered. As well as these themes, it is also thoroughly chuckle-worthy.

The grown-up humour and the snippy asides were groundbreaking for an animated feature; its screenplay was co-written by Joss Whedon, the mastermind of another 90s epic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

But for me, it is the bleak message that makes the story so mature. This is no Disney film of fairies and princesses and happily ever after. Woody is mostly consumed with jealousy and feelings of inadequacy. Who among us can honestly say that they have never felt like they weren’t as good as somebody else? I for one, can totally get on board with that emotion, although I’ve never plotted the disposal of those I feel a wee bit envious of.*
*OK, I may have plotted it, but it’s never resulted in them falling out of windows into the yard of the demonic child next door.

And let’s not forget poor Buzz, brutally finding out that he is not unique, or indeed a Space Ranger; he is simply a mass-produced children’s toy. Buzz’s sudden realisation of how small he really is within the universe – and how pointless – offers a perfect, if a little depressing, allegory for life.

toy-story3
We (and Buzz) realise at that moment, that although we are small in the grand scheme of things, actually it is those we care about who make it a life worth living.

The power of friendship in the face of adversity is a perfect lesson that we can take from Toy Story. We should never judge someone because we allow them to make us feel small; it is our choice to underestimate ourselves and our worth.

The main and somewhat pessimistic message, however, seems to be that no matter how important you consider yourself, you are ultimately replaceable and none of us should rest on our laurels as, indeed, none of us are flying, but ‘falling with style’.

Could there be a more perfect message for our self(ie) obsessed generation?

@lili_la_scala

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Written by Lili la Scala

Lili la Scala sings a bit, writes a bit and spends more time than is probably necessary discussing the toilet habits of her son. Bona fide vintage addict, though she is sure she sounds less tragic when described as a 'collector'.