Toy Stories for Humanists?
The original Toy Story, released in 1995 by Disney/Pixar, has impressed critic Leonard Maltin as a "grown-up grown-up
1. Of, characteristic of, or intended for adults: grown-up movies; a grown-up discussion.
2. story masquerading 1. (networking) masquerading - "NAT" (Linux kernel name).
2. (messaging) masquerading - Hiding the names of internal e-mail client and gateway machines from the outside world by rewriting the "From" address and other headers as the message leaves the as a kid's film," while Toy Story 2, released this past holiday season, contains a philosophy that is "kind of profound," according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Roger Ebert. As the sequel is now the second-highest-grossing film in Disney history (after The Lion King), this seems a good time to take a close look at both films to see if we can discover just what these critics might be talking about. What sort of philosophy has been so cleverly hidden beneath what appears to be the straightforward buddy picture of the first movie and the simple rescue mission of the second?
I believe that within both films there is a depiction of a deep and moving humanism. Not just within the simple plots; certainly there are the obvious humanist virtues of loyalty, friendship, courage, cooperation, and honor aplenty a·plen·ty
In plentiful supply; abundant: "There were warning signs aplenty for their candidates as well" Michael Gelb. . No, I believe that within each movie can be found what appears to be a carefully thought-out and detailed humanist message. I would be dishonest if I claimed that this interpretation is what the writers actually intended. But not only do I think this interpretation works, after having come up with it I find it hard to see the stories in any other way.
Toy Story 1: As It Appears to Be
Woody the cowboy doll, Andy's favorite toy, finds himself usurped from that position by the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger For other uses, please see Space Rangers
Space Ranger is a science fiction hero who was published by DC Comics in several of their 1950s and 1960s anthology titles. . Buzz's whooshing space helmet, micro-chip voice, "aluminum carbide carbide, any one of a group of compounds that contain carbon and one other element that is either a metal, boron, or silicon. Generally, a carbide is prepared by heating a metal, metal oxide, or metal hydride with carbon or a carbon compound. " wings, "laser" light, communicator, and "karate-chop action" make Woody's pullstring and tired "There's a snake in my boot!" seem decidedly low-tech and low-quality. An intense rivalry develops between the two--rivalry that turns into frank mockery on Woody's part when he realizes that Buzz believes he is the actual Buzz Lightyear from Star Command and not a toy at all.
The depth of Buzz's delusion delusion, false belief based upon a misinterpretation of reality. It is not, like a hallucination, a false sensory perception, or like an illusion, a distorted perception. is clearly shown when he closes his eyes and "flies" around the room in a series of plausible accidents that Woody correctly interprets as "falling with style." And the depth of Woody's frustration is shown when, in an attempt to prevent Andy from choosing Buzz instead of him to go on an outing, Woody attempts to knock Buzz down behind a bureau.
The attempt goes too far, however, and Buzz is knocked out the window. Woody is taken on the outing but Buzz, furious, follows and catches up with him. The ensuing en·sue
intr.v. en·sued, en·su·ing, en·sues
1. To follow as a consequence or result. See Synonyms at follow.
2. To take place subsequently. fight leaves them both lost and alone--Woody terrified ter·ri·fy
tr.v. ter·ri·fied, ter·ri·fy·ing, ter·ri·fies
1. To fill with terror; make deeply afraid. See Synonyms at frighten.
2. To menace or threaten; intimidate. by the fact that he is a "lost toy" and Buzz, still deluded, upset that he has been prevented from successfully completing his mission against the "evil Emperor Zurg." This infuriates Woody, who tries yet again to explain to Buzz, "You are a toy! You are a child's plaything!" so he can get Buzz to help him figure out a way to get back to Andy. Buzz's comment is, "You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity."
Eventually they manage to find Andy but are prevented from rejoining him by Sid, Andy's next-door neighbor, who takes the two toys home to "play." A ghastly child, Sid delights in torturing his toys. His room is filled with horribly mutilated mu·ti·late
tr.v. mu·ti·lat·ed, mu·ti·lat·ing, mu·ti·lates
1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.
2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably: mutilate a statue. playthings that roam about in silent, furtive fur·tive
1. Characterized by stealth; surreptitious.
2. Expressive of hidden motives or purposes; shifty. See Synonyms at secret. groups. Both Woody and Buzz are desperate to escape. They find a fortunate opportunity when Sid's usually locked door is left open. But they get separated, and Buzz ends up in a den with the television blaring.
"Buzz Lightyear, this is Star Command! Come in, Buzz Lightyear!" says the TV, and Buzz, excited and relieved to hear from Star Command at last, eagerly opens his communicator to answer. But the television blithely continues on with the commercial, completely ignoring Buzz. Buzz watches in horror as an exact replica of himself is shown, in excruciating detail, to be nothing but a toy--and not even a flying toy at that. His rival Woody has been right all along.
Buzz leaves the room in despair, all the meaning in his universe turned upside down. "Years of academy training wasted!" he laments. Now that he realizes he is a toy, he feels valueless, worthless, unable to save Woody, unable even to save himself. Woody has to explain to him that he has value exactly because he is a toy and not a real space ranger. "Look at you," Woody tells him, "You are a really cool toy."
It takes a long night of hard thinking before Buzz comes to accept that Woody is right. So, with the aid of Sid's maimed maim
tr.v. maimed, maim·ing, maims
1. To disable or disfigure, usually by depriving of the use of a limb or other part of the body. See Synonyms at batter1.
2. but gentle toys, which know all too well what it is to be hurt and how important it is to help, Buzz and Woody manage to escape Sid's clutches and are reunited "Reunited" was a #1 hit in the United States in 1979 by the Washington, D.C.-based group Peaches & Herb.
"Heart of Glass" by Blondie Billboard Hot 100 number one single
May 5 1979 Succeeded by
"Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer with Andy.
Humanism Under the Surface
In order to see what is hidden here in plain sight, we need to realize that the world these characters inhabit is a toy version of the real world. The toys are metaphorical human beings, the problems they face are metaphorical versions of human problems, their hopes and feelings and desires are human ones: In and of themselves the events in the toy story have no particular validity; they merely motivate these metaphors to act and show their true nature.
Seen as such an allegory, Toy Story becomes a carefully wrought description of two opposing world views: naturalism naturalism, in art
naturalism, in art, a tendency toward strict adherence to the physical appearance of nature and rejection of ideal forms. Artists as diverse as Velázquez, J. F. Millet, and Monet, have followed naturalistic principles. and supernaturalism su·per·nat·u·ral·ism
1. The quality of being supernatural.
2. Belief in a supernatural agency that intervenes in the course of natural laws. . Woody and the other toys in the playroom represent the naturalistic nat·u·ral·is·tic
1. Imitating or producing the effect or appearance of nature.
2. Of or in accordance with the doctrines of naturalism. world view. They are mechanisms--material objects that have a material source, a real-world history and origin (Mattel or Playskool or such), and no function other than to be just what they are. Woody embodies basic American Pragmatism pragmatism (prăg`mətĭzəm), method of philosophy in which the truth of a proposition is measured by its correspondence with experimental results and by its practical outcome. . He's a toy, a mechanism, a material being; he knows it and is content with it.
Buzz, on the other hand, is an other-worldly being whose aims, purpose, and reason for existence come from outside this toy reality. Just as Christian believers in our world think they truly are embodied, immaterial souls guided by God and charged with the duty of defeating Satan, Buzz believes he truly is a space ranger directed by Star Command and charged with the duty of defeating the evil Emperor Zurg. He is "real" (that is, not just a toy) even if he is forced to follow the rules of being a toy (such as freezing still in the presence of humans)--just as religious believers are "spiritual" even though they are forced to take into account the facts of this material, physical world like the rest of us.
Buzz, supremely confident in his delusion, firmly believes himself to be "something more" than all the other "sad, strange little men" around him--just as religious believers do. After all, he can fly (perform or receive occasional miracles) even if foolish Woody, the humanist in the corner, thinks that all he can actually do is "fall with style" (live within the real constraints of the laws of physics).
Not until he is shown, point by excruciating point Coy the television--the voice of the modern world, of science, of technology) that he is in fact a mechanism, in a way that even he can't deny, does Buzz realize that his rival Woody has been telling him the truth all this time. Even then he can't believe it and tries, one more time, to embrace the wonderful story of his cosmic purpose as it was revealed to him on the box he came in (his bible). But when an effort to fly fails, even Buzz must admit he is a mechanism, a material object, a toy.
Having believed he had "infinity and beyond" in his grasp ("all this and heaven, too!"), he now feels he is nothing, absolutely worthless, and of no help to anyone. If he can't be a space ranger he can't be anything meaningful In his despair he gives up completely: "Andy's house, Sid's house, what's the difference?" he asks. If the atheists are right, what difference does it make in what material circumstance the believer finds himself? If it has to do with the material world, it is all vanity--worthless, purposeless pur·pose·less
Lacking a purpose; meaningless or aimless.
purpose·less·ly adv. , valueless. Without heaven and God, life is meaningless. What does it matter where you end up?
Even as a toy, however, Buzz in fact has worth and meaning--just as human beings have worth and meaning even if they are "nothing but" material objects. Saving the poor tortured toys in Sid's room has meaning, just as working to make the material world a better place has meaning. Going back to Andy--to the democracy of the playroom--has meaning and value, even if there isn't a heaven or a Star Command. "Falling with style" has meaning, even if it isn't flying. Loyalty has meaning. Understanding has meaning. Honesty has meaning.
And so Buzz courageously accepts his lot and even makes good use of his life, saving the day within the terms of the material, scientific, and humanistic universe in which he now realizes he has been all along.
Toy Story 2: As It Appears to Be
Woody is accidentally damaged by Andy during play and put up on a high shelf while Andy goes off to Cowboy Camp. Woody is horrified hor·ri·fy
tr.v. hor·ri·fied, hor·ri·fy·ing, hor·ri·fies
1. To cause to feel horror. See Synonyms at dismay.
2. To cause unpleasant surprise to; shock. , as this is tantamount tan·ta·mount
Equivalent in effect or value: a request tantamount to a demand.
[From obsolete tantamount, an equivalent, from Anglo-Norman to death for a toy--as is ominously shown the following morning when a pathetic penguin sharing the shelf with him is summarily dragged off to a garage sale. Woody vows to rescue the penguin and does so with the help of Andy's dog Buster. But he himself is accidentally left behind and falls into the clutches of Al of Al's Toy Barn, who has been looking for Looking for
In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with. a Woody doll for a long time.
When Woody is taken to Al's penthouse apartment
A penthouse apartment or penthouse is a special apartment that is at the top of the building and differentiated from other apartments in the building by , he discovers he is not "just" a toy but a "valuable collectible," part of the famous 1950s TV show Woody's Roundup. His Roundup companions--the cowgirl Jessie, the horse Bullseye An established reference point from which the position of an object can be referenced. See also reference point. , and the prospector Stinky stink
v. stank or stunk , stunk, stink·ing, stinks
1. To emit a strong foul odor.
a. To be highly offensive or abhorrent.
b. Pete (who has never been removed from his box)--all greet him with enormous enthusiasm. Woody wonders why, and Jessie explains that with Woody there they form a complete set and can be sold for a large amount of money to the Koneshi Toy Museum Toy museums are museums for toys. They typically showcase toys from a particular culture or period.
Notable toy museums around the world include:
Woody, though deeply impressed and flattered by their attention and his unexpected importance, demurs, declaring that he has to go back to Andy. This disappoints the other Roundup toys, particularly Jessie, who loathes the idea of being put back into storage. The tender-hearted Woody then finds himself pinned on the horns of a moral dilemma: should he go back to Andy's room and rejoin his old friends, or remain and help his TV companions? Woody wants to return home but "How long will Andy's love last, Woody?" Stinky Pete asks. He warns Woody that, as a toy, he is certain to be abandoned --as Jessie was. Jessie tells her sad story and Woody realizes that, in time, Andy will abandon him as well. Surely the toy museum is a better choice.
In the meantime Adv. 1. in the meantime - during the intervening time; "meanwhile I will not think about the problem"; "meantime he was attentive to his other interests"; "in the meantime the police were notified"
meantime, meanwhile , Woody's old friends at Andy's house, having identified Al from the TV advertisements, vow to rescue Woody. A group of them leave Andy's room for a nineteen-block journey to Al's Toy Barn. Once there, they set off in different directions looking for Woody. In the process, Buzz discovers an entire aisle full of copies of himself.
Except they aren't quite copies. They're a slightly newer version of Buzz --one with a utility belt. Buzz realizes the belt might be useful and tries to sneak one off of a display model. He almost succeeds but the display model catches him. Every bit as deluded as Buzz once was, the display model says that Buzz has broken Star Command rules by coming out of hypersleep too soon and forces him into an empty box.
Buzz eventually escapes to rejoin the rescue team, which reaches Woody a short time later. The rescue fails, however, when Woody refuses to return, declaring, "Who am I to break up the Roundup gang?" The rescuers leave disappointed but not before Buzz upbraids Woody for his cowardice Cowardice
See also Boastfulness, Timidity.
a swaggerer lacking in courage. [Br. Lit.: The Rivals]
vainglorious braggart, vaunts achievements while rationalizing faintheartedness. [Br. Lit. and for valuing Andy's love so little.
After thinking it over, Woody realizes Buzz is right and decides to go back to Andy after all--except that Stinky Pete, "forced to take desperate measures," prevents him from leaving. Sick of being unwanted and unbought but terrified of facing the dangers of being played with by a child, Stinky Pete prevents the others from rescuing Woody.
Soon Al returns and packs the toys for their trip to Japan. So the rescue team follows Al to the airport. Cliff-hanging rescue effort follows cliff-hanging rescue effort until Buzz, riding Bullseye, saves the day. The toys then return home on a stolen baggage-handling truck--all except Stinky Pete, who has been added to a little girl's backpack along with a Barbie doll Barbie doll
popular dress-up doll; extremely conventional and feminine. [Am. Hist.: Sann, 179]
See : Fads . He is mortified mor·ti·fy
v. mor·ti·fied, mor·ti·fy·ing, mor·ti·fies
1. To cause to experience shame, humiliation, or wounded pride; humiliate.
2. and becomes even more so when he sees that the girl has painted pretty designs on Barbie's face and realizes that, whatever fate awaits him, he will definitely not remain in mint condition
Mint condition is an expression used in the description of pre-owned goods. Originally, the phrase comes from the way collectors describe the condition of coins. !
More Humanism Under the Surface
Finding meaning in Toy Story 2 comes from realizing that the metaphor behind the surface story tries to answer a very important question: once you've released yourself from belief in the immaterial, how are you going to live your material life? Are you going to live it courageously, willing to love others deeply enough to risk the pain of loss and rejection, the inevitability of growing old and finally dying? Or are you going to take the safer path of avoiding love and change so you can fool yourself into believing you can somehow last forever?
Woody begins the movie facing the uncomfortable realization of his own mortality--the realization that change in a material world inevitably leads to death and dissolution. Once he discovers the other members of Woody's Roundup, however, he finds out he is famous, important, and even marketable --provided he is willing to never change again and, more importantly, to give up Andy's love, a love that seems less valuable once he realizes it will ultimately come to an end. What is being offered looks like a practical, material heaven without the risk of mortality, ugliness, or abandonment. All he has to do is give up Andy's limited love and replace it with the endless, though distant, affection of strangers. It sounds too good to be true.
And surely it seems the best possible choice once he hears Jessie's story. Jessie has known real love, as has Woody, but, like a jilted jilt
tr.v. jilt·ed, jilt·ing, jilts
To deceive or drop (a lover) suddenly or callously.
One who discards a lover. lover, she is so full of pain she believes that not only will she never be loved again but that being loved in the first place wasn't worth her current agony. She's more than willing to accept the prospector's route of the sterile, distant approval that comes with a changeless change·less
Adj. 1. changeless - not subject or susceptible to change or variation in form or quality or nature; "the view of that time was that all species were immutable, created by God" , frozen fame rather than risk such pain again.
Stinky Pete has convinced her of this lie. And who can blame him? Kept in a box all his life, brought up, if you will, without any love at all, he is a kind of sociopath so·ci·o·path
A person affected with an antisocial personality disorder.
soci·o·path , convinced that his loveless condition is natural and proper not only for himself but for everyone else as well --so much so that he refuses to accept Woody's offer to come back with him to Andy's room and be a loved toy. In a single moment of carefully calculated tenderness he encourages Jessie to tell her sad story because he knows it will convince Woody of the transience of Andy's love. Stinky Pete can then be sold at last and never have to risk getting damaged or broken. He wants this eternal, changeless living death of being a toy in a museum because he is, in fact, terrified of real life. He will literally do anything to achieve his ends, even if it means ruining the chances of the rest of the Roundup gang for happiness with Andy. As Woody says, "You really are stinky, Pete."
But it is the truly enlightened Buzz who points out the folly of this hopeless desire for changelessness in the real world--a Buzz who has had to fight being forced back into the cookie-cutter world of the hordes Hordes may refer to:
Human beings, however much we might wish otherwise, are mortal, fallible fal·li·ble
1. Capable of making an error: Humans are only fallible.
2. Tending or likely to be erroneous: fallible hypotheses. , and subject to wear and tear, no matter how many face-lifts we have in an attempt to restore lost youth, no matter how many cryogenic heavens we might try to enter. Loving and being loved are what, make life worthwhile. And even though death is inevitable, as Woody says, life will be "fun while it lasts."
Coming from Disney, the home of the fantasyland fan·ta·sy·land
A place conjured up by the imagination, often populated by bizarre inhabitants: a fictional fantasyland teeming with unicorns and elves. philosophy of "wish upon a star," it's refreshing to see two movies expressing adult and grounded values that we can all readily embrace. For even though our whole existence is confined to this little planetary toyroom, even though we must face a life of limited length in which we risk both physical and emotional injury, that life is still rewarding and worth cherishing. Life has meaning when we are fully engaged in it. We don't need instructions from a supernatural Star Command, nor the permanence of either a heavenly or an earthly toy museum to find that meaning. Toys or people, our humanist purpose is best found in those we love.
Lucia K. B. Hall, a former biochemist, is the owner/artist of Planetary Dragon-works, writes both fiction and nonfiction, is the editor of the San Diego San Diego (săn dēā`gō), city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay. Humanist, and is the current president of the Humanist Association of San Diego. Her e-mail address See Internet address.
e-mail address - electronic mail address is email@example.com.
Philip B. (Member): Perspective proves its worth yet again. 5/14/2008 9:47 PM
The P word as i lovingly refer to it. A word in which my friends hear from my mouth at least once a day in explaining human futility. A word that embodies not only what the conscious, mortal world lacks as a whole, but desperately needs. Such high doses as this analyzation only makes me feel my stance is sadly, yet parallel-ly, joyously; revalidated. A seemingly easy solution, at the top of the highest metaphoric mountain the human race could hope to summit. Our own collective ego. Thank you for this.