Apocalypse narratives in kid’s movies — from The American Book of the Dead:
Toy Story 3 then takes this theme [of loss] to a new level, in which the toys don’t just fear a figurative death by being ignored by their owner, Andy, but also a literal death, where at the end of the movie they risk being incinerated. Like Madagascar, the movie begins with a strange image — which, coming at the beginning, seems fairly innocuous, but by the end takes on a new meaning. In the beginning fantasy sequence, one of the toys drops a bomb of a barrel of monkeys that blows up into a mushroom cloud. Sensitive as I am to this stuff, I did feel this was strange at the time, because making light of a mushroom cloud seems as inappropriate in a kid’s movie as evoking 9/11 in Madagascar….
In the end though, this takes on a new meaning, as Woody and the gang sit in an incinerator. One by one, they look at each other. Instead of trying to fight it anymore and escape, they give in and acknowledge — we’re going to die. They hold hands with each other, waiting for the moment to come. This isn’t just the fear of not being played with, or a mere fear of death, it’s a fear of your whole world coming to an end….
Each movie ups the ante over the previous one and Toy Story 3 exploits people’s basic and growing fear about the end of the world. As Woody and the gang stare into that glowing fire pit, it’s like all of us staring into the uncertain future of Global Warming, or whatever other annihilation the world might throw at us. That the apocalypse made it into the Toy Story franchise isn’t a great surprise, given the literal apocalypse of Pixar’s Wall-E. So if you look beyond the cuteness of Woody et al. there’s perhaps a deeper reason why these characters are so popular and why the issue of loss is so integral to the sequels.
[Continues at The American Book of the Dead]