Why Toy Story Matters

In the first Toy Story movie, we meet Woody, the Tom Hanks-voiced cowboy who’s concerned about being replaced by a shiny new space toy. Then we are introduced to said shiny new space toy Buzz Lightyear, and he slowly realizes that he’s not a real space ranger, but just a toy.

Self-esteem issues and jealousy? Coming to grips with the limitations of reality? Is this any way to launch a kids-movie franchise? I guess so, judging by its success.

Toy Story (and its subsequent sequels) did what most movies aspire to do: inspire children, keep the attention of adults, and somehow really entertain both groups simultaneously (and make loads of money at the box office and with product tie-ins). While bringing toys to life (in often creative and hilarious fashion), it also did something else: it examined not just what we play with, but how we play.

By focusing on how we play, we learn about how we think and the limitless possibilities of imagination. Pretty lofty stuff for a cartoon.

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