Mirrors and shadows: duality, illusion and the divided self in Toy Story

Batkin, Jane (2018) Mirrors and shadows: duality, illusion and the divided self in Toy Story. In: Toy Story: how Pixar reimagined the animated Feature. Animation: Key Films/Filmmakers . Bloomsbury, New York. ISBN 1501324918, 9781501324918

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Pixar’s cinema is one of friendship, family and the bonds that are created within its seemingly child-centric universe. Beneath the surface, however, lie shadows, otherness, and a curious fracturing of self. Ellen Scott writes about Pixar’s ability to broach ‘dark existential themes’ with its audience; it becomes a cinema of maturity and one that is unafraid of confrontation. Such themes resonate with us, from the absence of the parent in Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich, 2001) to the lost child in Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, 2003), identity crisis in Inside Out (Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen, 2015) and bereavement in Up (Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, 2009). Pixar invites its audience to view the image as offered, but also to consider what lies beyond it. Peripheral images are inferred through the slow, considered pacing of their films. In Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995) shadows emerge, and the mirror reflects what is present on the screen and what may also be hinted at beyond it; the shine and luminosity of this film point to the darker recesses within it. The looking glass becomes a portal between the character and their murky twin, the shadow hovering somewhere in that unfamiliar world at the edge of what we know, awaiting what Casement calls ‘an eruption […] into consciousness’.

The focus of this chapter is on the physical and symbolic mirrors in Toy Story and the duality and fracturing that occurs within objects and characters (and objects with character) to create duality and shadows. I will be discussing the notion of what the shadow infers and applying it to the characters of Andy and Sid and to Buzz and Woody. I will also explore the idea of the image hovering on the edge of a character’s, and our, vision; that dark spot at the corner of one’s view, which is almost there, almost not. Presence becomes absence and absence becomes presence as we engage with these ideas. Are these half-formed characters real or imagined? Significantly, what do the reflective surfaces reveal about Toy Story’s world, and what does the shadow really represent?

Keywords:Toy Story, Self, Otherness, duality, doppelgänger, identity
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
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ID Code:30502
Deposited On:08 Mar 2018 11:44

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