How Pixar and Toy Story Got it All Wrong

OK, I have to say this: the basic premise of Toy Story is creepy and so fundamentally wrong. (Yes, I've seen the film with my boy — twice. This is but just one of the many humiliations sustained in my role as dad.)

Sid — the supposed evil kid next door — may be kind of a dick but he's unbelievably creative. When he looks at a toy, he sees opportunity. He sees possibilities. A toy, to Sid, is a starting point to be shed quickly so he can get on with the act of creating. His toys are a database of gestures and tropes, figures and materials, to be manipulated this way and that.

Sid, my friends, is an artist.

And yet he is so cruelly vilified in the film. And what is Sid's crime? He plays with his toys passionately, creatively, interestingly. Andy, the pansy next door, does nothing but recapitulate Hollywood cliche when he plays — the cowboy, the superhero, love stories. Sid is popping off heads, sewing parts together, welding, melding, molding. Sid is a punk rock artiste.

What lesson is Pixar — which is really Disney — teaching our kids? That one should respect the integrity of commodities? That to toy — ahem — with the corporate prescribed rules is evil? That kids who dress in black and make art are the enemy? That the best way to play is to play it safe, within the stipulated norms set by Hollywood and Mattel?

I tell my son over and over: Sid is maligned. Sid is the real hero here. And I think I'm getting through. Yesterday, he asked me for a rocket so we could blow up some of his toys.

Oh yeah.


Daniel Jackson said...

I had never thought about Toy Story like that. Good form, Coffeen.

Jennifer said...

Gee Dan, it must be tough trying to raise a non-conformist while living in a city like San Francisco, you know, with the bar already being set high and all. I suppose encouraging your kid to view Pixar as the capitalist consumerist commodified anti-christ and encouraging him to blow up your toys really is the next logical step to your problem. You can also move to a small town in
Ohio, where simply being Jewish casts your child as a radical free spirit, possibly even dangerous. See Dan, it's the same old dilemma, only dressed up Gen X style- big fish in a small pond or small fish in a big pond. At 40, I prefer the former.

jay said...

Curiously enough, Wired agrees with you, in an article about ten "bad messages from good movies":

"4. Unconventional creative play is very, very wrong (from Toy Story). Sid, the kid next door, is portrayed as basically evil. The movie makes him out this way because he pulls toys apart and reassembles them in strange ways, and likes to blow things up. In other words, he’s a geek. If the toys weren’t alive — and Sid can probably be forgiven for not realizing that they were — his behavior would be perhaps a little extreme, but not in any way wrong, especially for a boy his age."


Thought you might be interested.

jay said...
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Daniel Coffeen said...

Well, first of all, Jennifer: my fight to keep my kid free of the soul numbing, sanctimonious bullshit that runs rampant in our collective zeitgeist seems like a universal dilemma, not a local one. Were I living in, say, Macon I'd feel the same about Pixar — and about the film.

And Jay: For once, I feel less alone. Thank you.

Jennifer said...

Why don't you try seeing (and reviewing, for that matter) "where the wild things are" by Spike Jonze. I bet you will find that movie more to your liking. Also try Spirited Away, if you haven't already seen it. An older movie, to be sure, but I think you would find the moralizing there less objectionable.