I’m a total sucker for the Toy Story films. The original movie came out when I was 9 years old, and it certainly had an impact on me. Not only was the first film a landmark in digital effects technology, as well as being Pixar’s very first feature, the characters left an indelible place in my heart. They were extremely loveable and memorable, and the grand sense of imagination and wonder that ran throughout the movie was perfect for a kid like me. At 9, your sense of creativity and imagination has no bounds, and I can still remember coming home and looking at all of my toys with a new eye.
Since then, a lot has transpired, and most of my toys have been permanently shelved or thrown away. But upon seeing the recent Toy Story 3, my interest in toys was somewhat re-ignited. You see, toys to me are a symbol of something greater, especially in the context of Toy Story. They represent the spark of imagination.
As I get older, I find it more and more difficult to imagine. It shouldn’t be too unusual that as we get older, practical concerns and day to day life get in the way of creativity. We all “grow up”, and at some point childish things are put to the side. We may return to them periodically to dust them off and look once more nostalgically, but in the end they end up back in the closet. There is a certain sense in which we do in fact need to grow up, and we can’t sit around playing in imaginary worlds forever. But what would it mean to bring a greater sense of imagination and wonder to how we interact with the world? I’m of the opinion that a greater sense of vision and ingenuity might actually come from us approaching the world more like a kid at times, with big eyed wonder and fascination.
My interest in the theatre is directly tied to this idea of play and acting like a kid. The theatre space is one of the few areas where I have the total freedom to act however I want to. There is a complete sense of liberation, because the space is neutral. No one has the power to judge you, because there is the implicit understanding that what you do up there is contained within the theatrical construct. If an actor or actress were to do half the things out in public that they do onstage, they would be considered just a tiny bit insane. I’m not suggesting we do that. But rather, what if we were to channel some of that creativity and wonder into an otherwise ordinary life? Can we still find the wonder of Nature, for instance? Or discover the beauty of children playing and laughing? Is it absolutely necessary that we become more cynical, dry, and calloused as we grow older?
I recently bought a Buzz Lightyear action figure replica, as well as a Woody doll. Both are created from the actual computer data of Buzz and Woody from the Toy Story films, and I have to say that they look fantastic. I no longer play with toys…after all, I’m 24 years old. But these figures are reminders to me that we can never be too old to dream and imagine. They’ve actually inspired me to sit down and write this. Wonder and play are both necessary for renewing our spirits, for keeping us vibrant and always looking for the beauty in others. We can’t be afraid to embarrass ourselves either, simply because some may not agree with the unavoidable silliness that may ensue. The best theatre is always the kind that draws the audience in and requires them to engage with the material. It calls for them to use their imagination, to tap into their childhood once again to essentially become a co-creator in the action onstage. The best life, likewise, should get people wondering and asking questions, wanting to engage with you and find out where it all comes from.