Article published in:From Culture to Language and Back: The Animacy Hierarchy in language and discourse
Edited by Laure Gardelle and Sandrine Sorlin
[International Journal of Language and Culture 5:2] 2018
► pp. 203–223
Bringing the toys to life
Animacy, reference, and anthropomorphism in Toy Story
In the children’s film Toy Story, toys spring to life when their human owners are away, creating an alternative world of transferred animacy relations signalled by visual and linguistic cues. The storylines and characters explore the nature of animacy and relationships between conspecifics and ‘others’. Our analysis focuses on the use of referring expressions over the course of the narrative, as they reflect the animacy of their referents. We relate these findings to well-established scales of animacy which link our perception of the world to the categories imposed by language. We find that, as predicted by models of animacy proposed by Dahl (2008) and Yamamoto (1999), among others, shifts in reference – specifically from common noun to proper noun to pronoun, and from collective to individuated referents – reflect characters’ shifting conceptualisation of, and empathy with, each other. We argue that referring expressions are used at key points in the film script to subtly mediate accessible cues to animacy like eyes, speech and motion, and to guide viewers’ empathies and allegiances, extending our understanding of animacy beyond ordinary anthropocentrism.
- Animacy in fiction
- Animacy and reference
- Non-linguistic cues to animacy
- Animacy and referring expressions in Toy Story
- Anthropomorphic toys
- Animal toys
- Supernatural beings
- Animacy and the unfolding narrative
- The mutants
- Buzz is a Toy
- Discussion and conclusion
Published online: 28 June 2018
Atran, S., Medin, D., Lynch, E., Vapnarsky, V., Ek’ Ucan, E. & Sousa, P.
Biro, S., Csibra, G., & Gergely, G.
Dahl, Ö. & Fraurud, K.
Foley, W. A. & Van Valin, R. D., Jr.
Gelman, S. A. & Opfer, J. E.
Gundel, J. K., Hedberg, N. & Zacharski, R.
Johnson, M. H. & Morton, J.
Leopold, D. & Rhodes, G.
Lockwood, H. T. & McCaulay, M.
Rakison, D. H. & Poulin-Dubois, D.
Searle, J. R.
Trompenaars, T., Hogeweg, L., Stoop, W. & de Hoop, H.
Tsutsumi, S., Ushitani, T., Tomonaga, M. & Fujita, K.
Whedon, J., Stanton, A., Cohen, J. and Sokolow, A.
Cited by 2 other publications
Macdonald, Ross, Silke Brandt, Anna Theakston, Elena Lieven & Ludovica Serratrice
Trompenaars, Thijs, Teresa Angelina Kaluge, Rezvan Sarabi & Peter de Swart
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