Toy Story 4 explores what it means to be alive

You’ve got a friend in me: The first Toy Story was released in 1995, almost 25 years ago.

Why are we alive? This is the surprisingly existential question posed by a new character in Toy Story 4, released today. The new film tells the story of a plastic spork that comes to life.

“I am not a toy,” insists a spork named Forky in the trailer for Pixar’s Toy Story 4. “I was made for soup, salad, maybe chilli, and then the trash.” And, yet, a little girl gives Forky a face and arms. So, he gains consciousness.

The rest of the film is spent grappling with the consequences of this. “Why am I alive?” asks Forky.

“The world of Toy Story is built upon the idea that everything in the world has a purpose. A toy’s purpose is to be there for its child. But what about toys that are made out of other objects?” director Josh Cooley told E! News. “[Forky] wants to fulfill his purpose as a spork, but now has a new toy purpose thrust upon him.”

Forky is far from the first to ponder such deep questions. Many philosophers have also wondered why we are alive. In other words, what is the meaning of life?

For Woody, it is to make children happy. He spends much of the film trying to convince Forky that it is worth living for this.

For Plato, it was the pursuit of the highest form of knowledge. For Aristotle, it was the highest good. In the 20th century, Friedrich Nietzsche argued that life had no meaning at all. Humanists argue that each person must find their own purpose, as long as it adds to the “common good”.

To infinity and beyond?

Do you agree with Woody — that life is about doing good and making others happy? Perhaps we get the most meaning out of life when we set our own egos aside, and try to make the world a better place for everyone.

Or do you agree with Forky and the humanists — that we each have our own purpose, and we will be happiest when we find and fulfill it? Instead of spending our whole lives trying to make other people happy, we must spend our lives being true to ourselves.

You Decide

  1. Should more children’s films tackle deep questions about life?

Activities

  1. Write a short scene from an imaginary Toy Story movie, set in your own childhood bedroom. Do you remember your favourite toys? What would they say about your younger self?

Some People Say...

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The first Toy Story was released in 1995 and directed by John Lasseter. Its two sequels were released in 1999 and 2010, respectively. Toy Story 4 has already made $1 billion worldwide.
What do we not know?
Whether Toy Story 4 will be as successful as its predecessors, although it is likely. We also do not know whether Pixar will keep making more sequels in the Toy Story universe.

Word Watch

Toy Story 4
Out in cinemas today. The previous Toy Story movie earned $1 billion worldwide.
Consciousness
The state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings. However, philosophers have debated just what it means for thousands of years.
Plato
An ancient Greek philosopher.
Aristotle
Plato’s student.
Friedrich Nietzsche
A German philosopher who lived 1844 to 1900.
Humanists
Humanism is a non-religious belief in science, reason, and concern for other human beings.
Common good
For the benefit of all people.

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