Fear Guilt and the Future of Play in Toy Story 

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Although rarely considered of critical importance within the field of media and
cultural study, representations of childhood play form part of an important part
of cinema heritage. This is particularly apparent in the case of Toy Story (John
Lasseter, 1995), which, through its own particular depiction of play provides a
critical insight into contemporary social and cultural concerns, which relate to the
changing nature of family life, the role of new technologies and shifting patterns
of production and consumption, especially in response to ecological crisis. More
specifically, and as this chapter seeks to show, the setting of play depicted within
Toy Story forms a primary site for the creative expression and working through of
fears and anxieties relating to loss – especially the loss of analogue materialities,
something inherent in the computer- generated animation process. This allows
the animation to be read as a means of re- establishing and normalizing masculine
forms of cultural production, and as that which sustains patriarchal interests
(especially through the use of heroic fi gures and storylines). However, my contention
here is that the particular setting of play depicted within Toy Story intends to
draw attention to a deeper emotional landscape of transitional experience, which
involves, but precedes masculine identifi cation. With this in mind, I employ a psychoanalytic object-relations approach inspired by the work of Melanie Klein and
Donald Woods Winnicott to help elaborate upon the precise emotional dynamics
of mourning that the narrative of the fi lm represents. By doing so, I show how Toy
Story represents a particular kind of transitional experience, which allows the gap
between the past and present, analogue and digital, to be bridged, and thus the
future of play and creative life to ultimately be ensured.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationToy Story: How Pixar reinvented the Animated Feature
Subtitle of host publicationAnimation - Key Films/Filmmakers
EditorsSusan Smith, Noel Brown, Sam Summers
ISBN (Electronic)9781501324932, 9781501324925
ISBN (Print)9781501324918
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2018

Publication series

NameAnimation Studies


  • Play
  • Toys
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Digital Media

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