To Infinity … or not

Buzz Lightyear and I started very much the same. We rocketed into this world convinced that we were fantastic beings with a vital mission to accomplish. Star Command had sent us specially because we were best equipped to deal with the evil threatening the galaxy. We were chosen.

Living the life of a space ranger was quite exhilarating. We could see the shadow of the Evil Emperor Zurg hiding behind everything that threatened us. But we knew that all we had to do was call on Star Command, follow our training, and we could defeat evil.

The strange thing was, our actions never seemed to quite fit with the reality around us.

We couldn't understand why other people couldn't see the grand scheme we were part of. Ever so slowly we began to wonder why our wrist laser didn't seem to work they way we thought it should. It seemed like every time we tried to save people from Emperor Zurg we never quite got anywhere. In fact, the people seemed to get annoyed. And we'll never forget the day a rocket supposedly bound for Star Command turned out to be inhabited by single-minded aliens who were willing to give us to the Claw.

Finally (and it was a sad realization indeed), Buzz and I found out that in all likelihood we aren't space rangers sent from Star Command. The stickers on our arms peeled off. Our wings turned out to be merely decorative. Our heads made squeaky noises when bonked.

We weren't heroes; we were toys.

Both of us ended up at a tea party with silly hats on our heads, chugging down Darjeeling. In many ways I'm still there. Not sure what to do with myself anymore. What good’s a space ranger without Star Command?

I have to hand it to Buzz. He finally left that table. He went back out into the world and he made a life out of being a toy. Imagine that. In the words of another Disney movie, he went from hero to zero. And he found meaning in it.

He hooked up with his toy box neighbors and worked with them as an equal, rather than as a hero, on problems that concerned them all. He saw the other toys as toys, rather than accessories to further the plans of Star Command.

Interestingly, later, Buzz's friend Woody, who spent the first movie mocking Buzz for his far-fetched beliefs, went in the same direction Buzz had just come from. Woody was offered the chance at eternal life in a toy museum, and this time it was Buzz that reminded Woody of his toyhood.

At the end of Toy Story 2, Buzz and Woody talk about how, yes, their owner Andy will one day forget about them, and they will find themselves in a junk heap. They will eventually decay. But that's OK because right now, they are fulfilling the measure of their toyhood. And that's enough for them.

I admit, Buzz's philosophy scares me. In many ways, I know I'm a toy. But I still want to be a space ranger and return to Star Command someday, having fulfilled my mission. I still want immortality, even if it is in a museum full of other perfected toys in their protective glass boxes. I admire Buzz for looking life in the eye. I admire him for restructuring his entire worldview. I admire him for finding meaning in a world without Star Command.


  1. Brilliant!

    Maybe, by recognizing his “toyness,” Buzz did fulfill his mission.

    As you said, his reward may be a ticket back to Star Command or a place in a museum full of other perfected toys (let’s hope not). Or it could be a cycle through a Toy Recycler, who uses Buzz’s parts to create a new toy, a new toy life with a new “Andy.”

    And if it is none of the above, at least a toy life well-lived is a great reward in and of itself.

  2. Stephen, I see a “Tao of Pooh”-like book coming out of this. Get to work!

    Some quotes that can easily be re-interpreted using your implied metaphor:

    Mr. Potato Head: How come you don’t have a laser, Woody?
    Woody: It’s not a laser. It’s a little light bulb that blinks.
    Hamm: What’s wrong with him?
    Mr. Potato Head: Laser envy.

    Hamm: Wow. Impressive wingspan. Very good.
    Woody: Oh, what? What? These are plastic. He can’t fly.
    Buzz: They are a terillium-carbonic alloy, and I can fly.
    Woody: No, you can’t.
    Buzz: Yes, I can.
    Woody: Can’t.
    Buzz: Can.
    Woody: Can’t, can’t, ca-an’t.
    Buzz: I tell you, I could fly around this room with my eyes closed.
    Woody: Okay, Mr. Lightbeer, prove it.
    Buzz: All right then, I will.
    [Buzz launches down the hot wheels track…]
    Buzz: Can!
    Woody: That wasn’t flying! That was… falling with style!

    Mr. Potato Head: How did I get stuck with you as a moving buddy?
    Rex: Everyone else was picked.

    Buzz: Years of Academy training wasted.

    [last lines of movie]
    Woody: Buzz? Buzz Lightyear? Are you afraid?
    Buzz: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Are you?
    [camera pans out]
    Woody: Now Buzz, what could Andy possibly get that is worse than you?
    Andy: Wow, a puppy!
    [camera zooms back in]
    Both: Heh, heh!

  3. John Remy says:

    Stephen, I’m so with you. I’m willing to face the truth even if it seems less than ideal. Other toys were kind critical, however, when Woody tried to burst the bubble that Buzz was taught to believe from inception.

    And what about his realization that the Emperor Zurg is really his…


    …father? Will we come to call Satan “Dad”? Or will we embrace our fears and realize their formative influence in our lives? Or did I just kill the metaphor?

  4. Lisa Tensmeyer Hansen says:

    Yeesh. Have we ALL experienced the fall from being full of promise? Knowing that we were IT and lacked only the amazing future that was surely coming sprung fully to life. We BELIEVED in ourselves, didn’t we? And instead of the future we envisioned, we all learned failure and inadequacy and how blind we were. And became more lovable and loving instead. Fair trade.

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