Thursday, April 28, 2011

Problems I Had with Toy Story 3

As an English major, I analyze things. I've seen any number of jokey infographics declaring that English teachers read way too much into things and that sometimes an author just meant that the paint on a wall was blue, whatever, get over it. That's fine, and I know I will probably read too much into things for the rest of my life, and now that I have a child I have more reason to do it with children's literature and film. So we watched Toy Story 3 a few weeks ago.

First, if you don't want to read spoilers, just stop reading here. It had been a while since I saw Toy Story 1 and 2 so I refreshed my memory on what exactly happened in them and, as a sequel and an end to a series, Toy Story 3 is totally fine. I like that they used the same voice actor for Andy in all three movies, I loved the ending, Bonnie was one of the cutest kids ever, and her toys were awesome in all kinds of ways. My problems all stemmed from the daycare element of the movie.

In case you hadn't noticed, Calvin's not in daycare. That's partly because we're lucky enough that he doesn't have to be, and partly because I'm a little panicky about the idea of leaving him with strange people in a strange place where I can't be with him. I have nothing against daycare as a concept--it's necessary and many are great, and I'll likely be utilizing one in the future. So here's the problems I had with this movie and this setting.

1. It's freaking scary. The toys sneak off to daycare, they meet the pink teddy bear who runs shit, they see the older kids playing peacefully with toys, and then they end up in the toddler room where they get absolutely demolished by these crazy two year olds. Not only that, but Lotso Huggin' Bear is pretty evil, and he never experiences the recognition that many villains do, especially in children's movies. Instead, he meets an unpleasant fate as a grill decoration on a truck. It's messed up. There is danger in the first two Toy Story movies--from the kid who wants to blow up the toys, to the collector's item who tries to take Woody from his friends--but this is a darker kind of nemesis, with conspiracy theories and outright meanness. It's more shadowy and I guess it makes sense that as the movies grow up, the dangers do too, but it even made me a little uncomfortable.

2. The idea that toys can only be played with as they're meant to be played with. This one gets tricky, so hear me out. Bonnie has a tea party with her toys and turns a dolly into a witch. She uses her imagination and plays with the toys creatively but respectfully. Cool. The two year olds in the Caterpillar room at the daycare smack the toys into railings, shove pieces up their noses, and paint using Jessie's hair. This is depicted as hurting the toys. I can remember multiple times that I played with my toys in fairly destructive ways as a child, and seeing the toys' reactions might make me think twice about it, if I had the capacity for reason, which a two year old lacks in large amounts. I also understand that many of the toys are listed as "for ages 3 and up." That's fine, but this is a recurring issue; Sid in the first movie takes his toys apart and rebuilds them into monstrosities. Instead of looking at this as a kind of cool scientific experiment, it's seen as Frankenstein-like and wrong.

3. The guilt trip. Kids, at some point you will be too old for your toys. That just happens. You don't have to hang on to them forever, and you don't have to feel bad about them going to someone who'll play with them. Andy ends up giving his whole toybox to Bonnie, which is great, but not everyone knows a Bonnie. There's nothing wrong with donating toys to daycare. Kids in daycare love those toys, however they play with them. They don't have to be kept pristine in an attic forever.

Anyway, I didn't like the movie that much, but maybe Calvin will. It's the first Pixar movie that I haven't gone head over heels for, EVER, so with a track record like that I'll keep going to see them. Plus, it was pretty, and you can't argue with that.

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