Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

14 Jun 2013

(Movie - 1995) Toy Story directed by: John Lasseter

(Reaction) A Toy's Coming of Age by: Francis Concepcion

Walt Disney himself once said, You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway. This was the goal that John Lasseter and his team at Pixar set when they began working to achieve the dream of creating the first computer animated feature film, Toy Story. It was an ideal that they struggle with at the beginning, when they were brainstorming up the character of Woody.

It seems only appropriate that the movie-which brought about the dawn of a new age in animation-was a coming of age story of a cowboy doll and a space ranger action figure. It reflects the very idea that Walt Disney put forth in his statement. Woody and Buzz are both seemingly grown men, yet both have a large part of them that is still innately childish.

Woody is selfish in his need for attention and affection from his owner, Andy. Buzz, on the other hand, is completely removed from reality, from his sense of self and identity.

One need only watch the scene where Woody and Buzz quibble on Andy's bed about Buzz's capabilities as a space ranger and we already see how much they are acting like children. At first, Woody shows us his blown-up ego by trying to keep Buzz off of his spot-Andy's bed. Also, there has been sort of a mix-up. This is my spot, see... he says. Buzz, on the other hand, is too preoccupied with his identity as a space ranger.

Then there's the back and forth between Woody and Buzz over whether Buzz can or can't fly.

WOODY: These are plastic. He can't fly.

BUZZ: They are a terrilum-carbonic alloy, and I can fly.

WOODY: No. You can't.

BUZZ: *Sigh* Yes. I can.

WOODY: You can't.

BUZZ: Can.

WOODY: Can't. Can't! Caaan't!

BUZZ: I tell you I can fly around this room with my eyes closed.

A typical way for kids to fight, this scene shows exactly what Woody and Buzz are: children. Woody's need for attention from his parent alone shows how much of a needy kid he is. Just as we, during our younger years, craved the attentions of our mother and father over everything we did, Woody wallows in the pleasure of knowing that he will always be Andy's favorite toy. It's only when Woody is finally able to accept that he's not an only child and that he has other family members that need the same level of affection does he truly mature.

Woody gets a wake-up call when Andy starts replacing all the cowboy posters, drawings, and bed sheets in his room with Buzz Lightyear merchandise. He starts to feel neglected, and eventually has it when he's suddenly placed in the toy box at night, while Andy has Buzz sleeping next to him. Woody then makes a move to win back Andy's affection by getting rid of Buzz temporarily-something a lot of older siblings could probably recall to have done so with their own younger siblings in one way or another. The younger begins to annoy the elder so much, and in every way possible, that the older sibling starts hurting the younger.

Buzz's case, in a sense, reflects Freud's structural model of the psyche. At the start, buzz is a rough reflection of the Id. He derives pleasure in being a space ranger. It is his basic instinct as a toy and as the type of toy he is. His basic need and desire as a toy is to be played with, and as a result he is stuck in that mode of play-forever a space ranger.

Buzz's ego employs a self-defense mechanism in order to somewhat mediate between id and reality: denial and fantasy. This makes him removed from the reality and realization that he is a toy. As Woody quips in the movie, You actually think you're the real Buzz Lightyear. Oh! All this time I thought it was an act. Hey guys look, it's the real Buzz Lightyear!

One would think that Buzz would notice all the large furniture around him as well as the presence of Andy himself as obvious signs of what he is. However Buzz's ego shows a loyalty to the id, allowing Buzz to gloss over the details of reality while at the same time pretending to have a regard for it.

Buzz's super-ego finally balances his character when Buzz is able to internalize the roles and rules of his identity as a toy. When Buzz no longer finds value in himself or in who and what he is, Woody shows him just how valuable he is, especially to Andy. Buzz is able to realize his purpose as a toy: a lifetime of service and dedication towards the pleasure and enjoyment of his owner, Andy.

Both Woody and Buzz finally come of age while they're at Sid's house. Woody finally concedes that he can't have all of Andy's love, while Buzz comes to terms with identity and purpose.

As a matter of fact, you're too cool. I mean what chance does a toy like me have against a Buzz Lightyear action figure, says Woody. Why would Andy ever want to play with me, when he's got you. Woody finally opens up about his insecurities, an insecurity that's not real as Bo Peep reiterates on that same night as she gazes upon a sleeping Andy. Oh Woody, if only you could see how much Andy misses you.

The great thing about this coming of age story is that it doesn't end with the epiphany, with the defeat of the child's innocence, but it shows how that change in maturity affects the overall character of both Woody and Buzz. They both become better for it.


When this first came out, it was indeed a whole new experience for movie-goers. I was myself amazed by the thrill of seeing toys come to life and how they would react to the world around them. After I saw it I began imagining my very own toys as living and breathing. I'm sure many of felt and thought the same either before or after watching this amazing film.

The great thing about Toy Story is that it is one film that greatly values and respects character change. Everyone has difficulty changing something about themselves, and this was reflected in both Woody and Buzz. There's a real struggle there, and it's definitely not easy. Once that leap is made, however, it's often for the better.

This, like its sequels, is definitely a movie that could be watched over and over and still pluck at one's heartstrings.

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