Phantasy v. Fantasy in Toy Story 3

A student asked me to clarify what I was thinking when I screened the ending of Toy Story 3 last night. Why is Andy’s play with Bonnie not simply fantasy, but rather phantasy in Klein and Isaac’s sense of that term?

My response. Brief, but hopefully it might provide insight into how I’m viewing the Toy Story finale.

Phantasy for Andy is the way in which he projects onto the toys an inner life which the film mirrors by the conceit of the toys’ actual lives when humans aren’t around. So that last burst of play with Bonnie is his relinquishing the phantasy which guided him through his fractured, yet better than good enough, family life as a boy – through the help of the toys. The final goodbyes between Andy and Woody signal his final transition from youth to adulthood and the transition for the toys to a newly reinvigorated phantasy world that Bonnie will provide for them. They are parental objects for both Andy and Bonnie. Even the mom stepping out at the end and inviting Bonnie inside for lunch indicates how the real intervenes in phantasy – the psychic reality of Bonnie in this case. Psychic reality engages with the world and thus has real world consequences.

Fantasy is simply day dreaming and confabulation which, while important, isn’t given the motive force of desire – life. I think that the final scene catches, with considerable eloquence, the bittersweet essence of growing up and leaving aside one’s transitional objects.

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