Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Homage To My Childhood

Or, Why I Weep Through The End Of Toy Story 3

So work gave us Toy Story 3 on Blu-Ray and DVD yesterday, so clearly, the first thing I did after getting home from the gym last night was pop it into my DVD player. 

I will never deny that I am a Disney person, and frustrated though my job may make me with the company itself, I cannot deny the kind of magic that is inherent, somewhere inside. I grew up during the Disney Renaissance (a term given to the years between 1989 and 1999, which produced such classics as "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin", and "The Lion King", and which also just so happen to be the first 10 years of my life). So I love my Disney movies. Hence, why I still watch them at age 21. (One of the things that is unanimously frowned upon by pretty much everyone I ever date - curse my requisite 10 year age difference.)

The original Toy Story film came out in 1995, when I was 6 years old, making me around the age of the children characters in the story. And now, at age 21, I'm just a bit older than the all-grown-up Andy of Toy Story 3. 

And in the home video montage that provides part of the opening of Toy Story 3, I was immediately moved by a reminder of my own childhood, and, as it faded to black, hurt by the realization that I made. 

Kids don't play like that anymore.

While I'm comforted to know that kids still grow up on the classic movies that I loved so dearly, as well as by the fact that I still have a few childish bones left in my body, I was saddened by the realization that my not-so-distant childhood is actually a thing of the past. 

When I was little, I had toys like many of the ones you see in Toy Story. I had a whole collection of plastic dinosaurs, and more Barbie dolls than were probably ever really necessary. I had lots of Beanie Babies, and a whole rack of costumes to dress up in that were actually my mom's old clothes. But let's face it - stuff from the 60's, 70's, and 80's often deserves to be on a costume rack. I had an Etch-a-Sketch, and stuffed animals. I had an American Girl doll. I didn't have video games, or electronics, or the internet until I was much older. The extent of my childhood computer use was playing the occasional game of Tetris on my grandparent's dinosaur of a Macintosh. 

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that I had a lot of toys that didn't do anything on their own. They didn't have any electronic parts, or need any batteries. My dolls didn't talk, I made them talk. And I would create elaborate stories for them, though I always got mad when mom was playing along and didn't want Barbie to agree to marry Ken after one dinner date. (Come on, mom, a five year old does not have the patience to pretend 2 years of  dating and a relationship before popping the question and changing Barbie into her pretty white wedding dress!) 

I took my toys outside with me, and we got wet, and dirty, and we scraped up our knees, and that was okay! Sure, maybe I spent a little more time in the emergency room than I would have liked (skateboarding down the slide seemed like a good idea at the time) but I'm no worse for the wear. Most of what I remember of my childhood actually involves being outside. I lived in the neighborhood where on any given Saturday, one child would go outside to play, and eventually all the neighborhood kids would be traipsing through everyone's back yards playing some ridiculous war game or building a fort in someone's trees. 

If you walk through my neighborhood now, you don't see that anymore. And it's not because we've all grown up. We all had younger sisters and brothers, and new kids have moved into the neighborhood. Though many of us have left for college, there are many kids there now who are the same age we were then. But you don't see them out on their bikes, or dragging their favorite dinosaur down the street by his tail. Sometimes you can see them through the windows, silhouettes against the flashing TV screens as video games entertain them. 

And I have nothing against video games, really, I don't. I love them just as much as the next kid. But when I was little, playing video games meant going outside, walking to my friend's house who lived around the corner and had an N64, going into his basement and helping him cart his television, video game system, and a whole bunch of extension cords out through the garage and onto the front lawn so we could play them outside. (Yes, we actually did that). 

I'm sad that often, when I babysit, kids are so engrossed by their handheld devices, electronic toys, and televisions at such a young age that they just don't want to go outside, or play with their friends, or play with a toy that doesn't talk and move on its own. I'm sad because all the happiest memories of my childhood are outdated. 

Maybe I'm just jaded, and there are still kids out there somewhere who are growing up like I did. And I really hope there are. But growing childhood obesity rates seem indicative of the fact that it's more likely they aren't. 

So as I cry through the end of the final Toy Story movie, (shut up, I dare you to watch it and not get teary - you have a heart of stone if you can.) I wanted to give a bit of an homage to the childhood I knew and loved. The one where I played with dolls and dinosaurs, and ran around in the mud, and tore holes in countless pairs of tights, and dug up worms, and used my imagination. 


1 comment:

  1. Oh, man. I KNOW. It's like kids aren't made to entertain themselves, anymore. It's all about technology and what's easier. I can't really imagine growing up, today, as a kid. Granted, some of it is a parenting choice. But kids are really missing out on mud pies, easy bake ovens, and climbing trees. I spent so many hours playing Barbie, or a thousand different make believe games, as a kid. Hell, maybe that's when I started writing stories. Or making them up, anyway.

    Granted, I like video games. We had a Nintendo growing up (the original...I was little!), but we were only allowed a certain amount of time on it. So that we didn't turn into Jimmy Jet from the Shel Silverstein poem.

    Anyway, I'm rambling. Good post, Jessica.