Toy Story: A Critical Reading

by Tom Kemper

Playing with destruction

This extract ‘Playing with Destruction’ from chapter 6 Playtime: The Film describes the above particular scene employing intertextuality, being rich with historical and cultural references that can be associated across multiple mediums. The scene introduces the viewer to the environment of Sid’s room and the mutant toys that inhabit there. There is a juxtaposition of creativity by how Sid ‘plays’ with his toys in a dark horror genre and Andy’s heroic happy-ever-after inventive play. Kenper highlights the satire that can be drawn from Mad magazine and Wacky Packages, as well as the surreal assemblages of artists Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell. Each having its own twisted take on the modern day commercial manufactured products. This is seen through the reconstruction of the toys Sid has operated on. The Pixar team has truly been able to inspire gruesome, repulsion and disgust through these characters, and most effectively with ‘Baby Face’, who is composed of a baby’s head on an erector set constructed like spiders legs. The fact he is missing an eye adds to the spooky melancholy characteristic. He is described like a lost spirit, reminiscent of the ghostly trapped figure in the classic horror film Eyes without a Face 1960. These pop references would only be appropriately acknowledged by the adults. What these characters serve is to unnerve and shock us, as a subtle symbol of sharing the impulses behind Wacky Packages, Mad, EC horror comics and other forms of popular culture.

This element of Toy Story is what I find personally useful in applying these intertextual elements and symbolism in animations of my own. This enriches the product as a whole and is thought provoking to understanding the cultures and more about humanity.


Kemper, Tom. (2015) Toy Story: A Critical Reading, London, Palgrave


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