Season 1: Deconstructing Disney (for Adults) Or… Rationalizing Disney Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – Alternative Themes Found in Disney Films That Provide Lessons and Parallels for Adults.
Episode 1: Toy Story
Just about everyone over the age of Ten has seen Disney Pixar’s staple film, Toy Story. We’re familiar with the lovable characters. Additionally, overt themes of friendship that have made it the resonating piece of cinema it has aged into today. However, when one revisits the film with some years under the belt and a somewhat tangible amount of peer to peer interaction, it seems to have naturally developed alternative themes. An apparent subtext sticks out in Toy Story: Woody, one of the lovable main characters, realistically descends into a scorned, petty lover over the course of the film. Even more striking is how he develops an abusively remorseful persona in the second half of the film. Though it is hard to believe that Toy Story, of all things, contains parables of relationship woes, the evidence is quite compelling.
The first 45 minutes or so in the film arguably satirizes an entire relationship arc using Andy, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and the other toys as sentient characters playing “life”. To begin, the film opens with an elaborate adventure with the other toys, everyone knows and loves, which leading to a cute montage of Andy and Woody playing. Common similarities can also be drawn to those fun relationships where everyone gets along and the friends are the extended family. We know that feeling. The infatuation phase, so to speak. We can also feel what may be on the horizon. Things take an unforeseen turn in Andy and Woody’s relationship. Both are equally surprised. Enter, Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger. Andy’s new toy, courtesy of dear old Mom for his birthday. Andy is wowed, his friends are wowed, even the noisy toys and their fearless Sheriff, Woody are wowed. Before the situation is digested, Buzz bursts on the scene. Andy thrusts Buzz at the top of his bed. Woody, knocked to the floor, essentially dethroned. As the Toys stir to life, a new normal is sensed.
When applied to interpersonal relationships, we can see this entire ordeal mirrors particular behaviors. Let’s revisit the fun relationship mentioned earlier. Time passes, things happen, people change. Now that fun relationship evolves into toxicity as both parties being to snoop with seeds of infidelity planted and pearls of suspicion from mutual friends. One thing leads to another and that beautiful relationship is now a dumpster fire. It happens.
It has happened to Woody. Andy chose up over him. Andy got the upgraded, shiny new toy and instantly forgot about Woody. Who knows how many years their bond lasted before this moment. Long enough for Andy to brand him, we know that much.
How does Woody react? Pettiness. Pettiness to levels we all can identify with akin to that powerful sermon on a Sunday morning. From the first time they meet, Woody and Buzz constantly clash and flaunt their egos. Once Woody feels the other toys leaning toward Buzz, he tries to call the bluff and challenges Buzz to fly. Buzz does his thing and Woody fully loses it all, his best friend and his other Toy friends. All the best one up moments are in the Strange Things montage scene. Woody’s realest moment of pettiness was soon followed, setting up Buzz to, quite literally, knock him out for good. This petty act shows us ourselves on the screen. That is how people act. Their actions are justified through their own flawed logic. Just like Woody.
It’s happened in relationships too. Everyone has a story. There are elaborate TV shows and films dedicated to the theatrical elements of life. We know this as drama. Drama is relatable. Drama is provocative, it gets the people going.
When one revisits Toy Story with a subtext like this in mind, the application to the self is apparent in a way that, at the very least, could inspire some personal reflection. Woody and Buzz are beloved characters because they are so relatable to us. Relatable for the good and for the bad. Buzz Lightyear represents that light that seldom shines in our life, that new one that sweeps us off our feet and into the Heavens for a love story only depicted in our own favorite classic romance tales. Buzz is better than than the relationships we may choose to settle for. The true irony with Buzz Lightyear being, everyone wanting a Buzz yet no one is aware of it advertised in their faces for purchase. Which makes Woody such a classic staple in our behavior. Fact is, humans are petty. They like getting off through passive aggressive expression and heave-ho enthusiasm, as long as it pisses off the intended targets appropriately. Woody spends how much of this film antagonizing Buzz until the eventual crescendo. How many of us will admit to similar questionable play? It is truly a thought to ponder.
Woody becomes even more human as all his wrong doings eventually lead to both he and Buzz being captured by Sid. Woody and Buzz at Sid’s house is a true dark point in the film but we only get there from the depths of Woody’s childish behavior. In a case that may have eventually benefited both parties, Woody has conjured up a shitstorm to the effect of them being removed from the only safe space they have ever known, Andy’s House. How many of us have blown up a situation to the point where we end up in new territory completely foreign for us and those involved?
All these years since its release and Toy Story turns out to be deeper than originally thought out. Whether it’s been three months or three years since your last viewing, Toy Story is worth revisiting to spot this arc on your own. The act on screen will either generate feelings of correlation or fall flat on deaf ears. It is worth the attempt regardless as it is one of the best films of its time.
**Arguably the best scene in the film as it highlights that maybe we aren’t as unique as we insist ourselves to be.