The dark side of 'Toy Story'

It's a scene from the creepiest of Philip K Dick-inspired science-fiction thrillers. Stranded in a hostile environment, a man discovers that everything he knows about the world is a lie. All of his memories are fake, all of his convictions wrong. He isn't the hero he assumed he was. He isn't even an individual. He is an automaton, manufactured from metal and plastic, his only purpose to amuse his creators. No wonder Buzz Lightyear gets so depressed.

It's exactly 20 years since audiences first saw that scene in Toy Story, Pixar's debut feature-length cartoon. Heralded as a groundbreaking triumph in 1995, the film is now enshrined as a classic, and every other Hollywood studio has copied its innovations: its eerily realistic digital animation, its snappy screwball dialogue - co-written by Buffy/Avengers mastermind, Joss Whedon.

But the film's most radical element, and the one which hasn't been imitated by any other studio, is its theme of disillusionment. As hilarious and heartwarming as Toy Story may be, its impressively downbeat thesis is that you're not special, you're the same as everyone else, and you won't be content unless you resign yourself to your unremarkable fate. That's quite something from a cartoon co-starring a talking Mr Potato Head.

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