I finally saw Toy Story 3 the other day, and like many before me couldn’t help but blub at the end of it – even though you couldn’t exactly describe it as anything other than a happy ending.
Why should this be so? Without wanting to give the ending away, it is clear that for the main characters they have reached a good place. I think though that it links into something deeper: the power of human imagination.
This may sound a bit obvious; after all, isn’t imagination a given when watching a film? That’s not what I’m talking about however; I’m concerned here with the quality that allows us to see objects as something more. If we did not have this quality, toys would be just objects; instead, we imbue them with personalities, create stories around them, and give them a value and a role that goes far beyond a lump of metal or plastic. This in many ways is what Toy Story has always picked up on: we are able to suspend our disbelief in toys having some form of life and personality because as children, and as adults that play with children, this is exactly what we do.
This means that when the time comes to put away those toys, throw them out or pass them on, we find it hard. It’s not just a toy tiger; it’s the personality that we created for it, the imaginative play it lead to, the shared experience. There’s a grieving process, a sense of loss – and Toy Story 3 recognises this, plays upon it, and in masterly fashion makes adults acknowledge something: that it is never just a toy, but a companion.