“It’s a small world, after all.” While we often associate this song lyric with our ability to meet people from our different spheres of influence who happen to be in the same place at the same time, what if this repetitive stanza from an amusement park ride is taken at literal, face value? A world that would be considered “small” includes many dangers we normally wouldn’t think about in our standard sizes. These small worlds can be magical in their details that would normally be overlooked by much larger people. Some creatures are so small that they only ever know the worlds we would consider “miniature.” Sometimes, we get a chance to experience a difference in scale ourselves through the magic that is the movies. This week’s two films highlight what it’s like to live in miniature worlds.
Toy Story 2
Length: 92 minutes / 1.53 hours
Toys have the innate ability to mimic the world around us on a smaller scale. This is partly due to the children who play with these toys being able to manipulate the world of the toys to suit the situation they want to reenact. In instances like The LEGO Movie (2014), or its 2019 sequel, the scale comparison is difficult to find, since everything around these miniature plastic people is built to suit their smaller scale. However, in movies like Toy Story (1995)—and its four sequels: Toy Story 2 (1999), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Toy Story 4 (2019)—the challenges of being a toy in a human world become readily apparent. The few yards between houses can seem like an enormous canyon. The many stories of a tall apartment building can seem like an impossible height to climb. A classroom for children can seem like a prison camp. Perspective shifts are common when dealing with miniature worlds.
When Andy (John Morris) leaves for cowboy camp, the toys go into rescue-mode when his mother decides to hold a garage sale and get rid of some of Andy’s old toys. While the rescue operation succeeds, Woody (Tom Hanks) is a casualty to the garage sale when he’s stolen by toy collector Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight). Now it’s up to the rest of the toys to figure out where Woody was taken and rescue him. Once in Al’s apartment, Woody learns he’s to be part of a Japanese museum exhibit celebrating the 1950s television show that spawned the toy line in the first place. After Woody’s friends find him and convince him that life in a museum is no existence for a toy, Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer) kidnaps Woody to ensure they all go to the airport together. The race is on to get to the airport and retrieve Woody—and his newfound friends—before the plane leaves for Japan.
Length: 102 minutes / 1.70 hours
While most toys will never experience the human world at human size, there are plenty of instances in the movies where humans are shrunk down and interact with the miniature world. In some instances, humans will have the chance to interact with the inhabitants of the smaller world, like in The Secret World of Arrietty (2010). Sometimes, someone will gain the opportunity to shrink down and experience this little world themselves. Occasionally, this shift in size is intentional, like in the superhero films Ant-Man (2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). Sometimes the shrinking is accidental, or outside the person’s control, like in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! (1989) or Epic (2013), respectively. In both cases, when people manage to survive the smaller world, they grow to appreciate their larger world when they return to normal size.
Professor Radcliffe Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) has been researching the forest around his house for years in the hope that he can discover a society of tiny beings known as the “Leafmen.” His daughter, Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), has come to live with him and—in true teenager fashion—demands that she be called M.K. After an argument with her father, M.K. leaves the house only to moments later have to chase after their dog as he races into the woods. As she searches for the dog, she finds Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles) as the tiny woman falls to her death. With her last bit of magic, Tara shrinks M.K. down to the size of the Leafmen and requests that she protect a pod that will either sprout in light and rejuvenate the forest or sprout in darkness and spread destruction. It’s up to the Leafmen warriors to stop the evil Boggans and protect M.K. so she can get the pod to sprout in the light.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 small settings