Toy Story 3

I’ve become a very big fan of Pixar’s works, especially their recent works of Wall-E and Up. I don’t know what Pixar’s philosophical leanings are, but I think there’s a lot in their movies for Catholics of all ages to chew on. Indeed, Pixar provides some of the few films that are excellent visually and in plot, a rarity in Hollywood these days.

If you haven’t seen Toy Story 3, I recommend you (and your family) go do so. While I don’t think viewing the previous ones is an absolute necessity, much of the emotional punch of the film is added by the backstory and so I would do so.

If you have, come on below for all the spoilers and discussion of the movie.

It’s much nicer without all the losers who didn’t see the movie, isn’t it? ;)

The movie opens with an amazing visualization of Andy’s imagination. One of the themes of the film is the purity and necessity of the child’s imagination. The movie is fascinated with the prospect of taking these simple toys and creating whole worlds; the ease with which a child can introduce a spaceman into the wild west. While media either seems to idealize children are more frequently view them as a burden, this movie seems to genuinely celebrate children (although the toddlers are depicted less than ideally, in the end the toys accept the need for them to have toys to by taking turns in the toddler room). While it would be a stretch to make this into a pro-life sentiment, the notion that children are good and wonderful presented in a popular movie is a very welcome development for the pro-life cause.

As you know, in the last story Woody and Jessie were confronted with the choice between Andy and a museum. In choosing Andy, they chose the end that they were made for: that is, choosing to live within the nature of a toy by providing a child with joy rather than living the unnatural and empty life of the museum-a life that seemed to promise immortality. As Andy packs up for college, and the decision about what must be thrown away is made, the toys continue to be tempted by immortality: they want to avoid both the attic, which symbolizes a final end to their years of glory, as well as the garbage, which is death. In that pursuit, they choose the daycare.

The daycare to me is rich with symbolism especially in Lotso’s speech. It is clear that he is attempting to create a utopia in the daycare-a utopia without death (“we have all the parts to fix you”) and without pain, the idea being that by having new owners all the time, one can avoid the hurt caused by leaving the glory of a child’s attention. I know this may be a bit much, but I thought a lot of marriage when he talked about the replacement of children. Instead of devoting himself to one child, Lotso refuses commitment and prefers the pursuit of happiness through these many shallow relationships, which I found very similar to the hookup culture our media promotes. Woody, who as the cowboy stands clearly for tradition here, resists this and prefers the meaningful relationships with Andy and then Bonnie. And finally, as we know with all utopian states, Lotso must maintain his utopia by tyranny and oppression, even sacrificing those lower than the elect group  (the new toys) in order to maintain the society. Woody of course does the opposite, sacrificing his happiness (either with Bonnie or Andy) for the good of his friends.

In the final action battle, the toys met very clearly with death. In the situation because they refused to leave Woody behind, they find themselves staring face to face with a hot fire. Out of ideas, they decide to accept their seeming fate and join hands, vowing to go down together. It was an amazing display of community. They are saved by “the claw.”  While I think there is some playfulness with the machine claw that was the god of the aliens of Pizza Planet in the first movie (and therefore a deus ex machina rescue quite literally), I do think it’s not unfair to see a bit of genuine religious symbolism in that (i.e. being saved from hell by God). Indeed, the loyalty of the simple aliens saves the day.

Finally, the end was excellent. In a beautiful display of how tradition works, Andy as the previous generation hands down his toys to the new generation, for that generation to pick up and use and grow from. In contrast to his mom and Emily (Jessie’s owner), Andy does not simply drop off the toys and leaves (though he is clearly tempted to do so). Instead, he patiently explains the toys and their history, giving them to Bonnie to continue on. This act of genuine concern for the future is amazing. Tradition is nothing else if not the older generations passing on their goods and knowledge to the future generations. As Catholics, we view tradition as a pillar of the faith and it was wonderful to see tradition depicted so simply and beautifully.

Those are just a few reflections. I may have more when I see again. Feel free to critique my reflections or add your own in the combox.

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