Model Citizens?


Credit: Disney

Leftoid cultural critics obsessed with "strategies of corporate control" must view the recent video release of Disney's Toy Story with knowing disdain. It seems to corroborate what social theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer said about an earlier Disney product: "Donald Duck in the cartoons…[gets his] thrashing so that the audience can learn to take their own punishment."

Toy Story could indeed be seen as a fable designed to gull consumers into following corporate rules. The movie's villain is Sid, a kid who creates "mutant" playthings by rearranging dolls and toys into weird combinations and, on occasion, blowing them up. One of Toy Story's climactic scenes comes when the toys surround Sid and enforce the will of their corporate masters: "From now on, you must take good care of your toys," hisses "Sheriff" Woody. "If you don't, we'll find out, Sid….So play nice!"

But Toy Story subverts such a message. By presenting Sid's acts of defiant creativity, the movie plants similar seeds in viewers' minds. Protagonists Woody and Buzz save themselves by employing a radio-controlled car and a bottle rocket in non-manufacturer-intended ways (the rocket even has a warning label). And Toy Story's computer-generated animation technology is itself new. The movie actually exhorts its audience to think creatively. Throw in two shadows lurking behind the film–Walt Disney and Pixar's Steve (Apple) Jobs–and the point is confirmed: Toy Story embodies precisely the sort of invention and innovation that undermines established corporate power. Any other view is just leftist quacking.