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KM Group cinema writer Mike Shaw on Disney deleting a scene from Toy Story 2

Disney's decision to delete a scene from Toy Story 2, more than 20 years after it was made, has caused a furore. Here, KM Group cinema writer Mike Shaw gives his view:

If you're a regular reader of my column, I can assume one of three things...

1. You like what I write

2. You hate what I write

3. You love cinema

Toy Story 4 - Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) Picture: Disney Pixar
Toy Story 4 - Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) Picture: Disney Pixar

I'm not so egocentric to believe anyone has particularly strong feelings about me, so I think it's fair to say that regular readers love cinema.

Now, if you love cinema, I think (I hope) you'll be inclined to agree that cinema is art.

Even the worst films contain some kind of artistry. If Kurosawa Akira's Seven Samurai is the cinematic equivalent of Da Vinci's Last Supper, then 50 Shades of Grey is Dogs Playing Poker. It might not be to my taste, but thought and workmanship have gone into it.

If we can agree that even the worst cinema still counts as art, then we should also be able to agree that the same rules should apply to cinema as they do to "traditional" art - including the idea that defacing it is not a good thing.

Once a creative work is released, the public owns it. Authoritarian rulers should not be able to destroy it, nor should creators who have had second thoughts.

The reason I'm going down this path is that I've been thinking about whether it's ever appropriate to delete the past.

Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear Picture: Disney/Pixar
Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear Picture: Disney/Pixar

For instance, where do you stand on the pressure to republish The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with all occurences of the N-word removed (the word appears more than 200 times in Mark Twain's book)?

Do you believe it has no place in modern society, even when in a book published in 1884? Or do you feel that although the book contains things we wince at today, it's a historical document and, as art, we should leave it be?

I tend to believe the latter. Huck Finn can - and should - be challenged, but scrubbing it from history is the wrong thing to do. Pretending something never existed doesn't make it go away.

A similar (though less severe) thing is happening to some films, most recently Toy Story 2.

As far as animated franchises go, none are as popular as Toy Story. The original movie hit cinemas back in 1995 and blew audiences away with its smart storytelling and cutting-edge technology. Four years later Toy Story 2 came along and it's still regarded as one of the best family films ever made.

Millions of people have seen the film, and probably own it in some fashion, but Disney has decided to go back and remove a controversial scene.

Lots-O-Huggin' Bear, Buzz Lightyear and Woody in Toy Story 3 Picture: Disney/Pixar
Lots-O-Huggin' Bear, Buzz Lightyear and Woody in Toy Story 3 Picture: Disney/Pixar

The scene in question appears at the very end of the film, in the "gag reel" that plays during the credits. It shows the baddie Stinky Pete (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) chatting with a pair of Barbies, flirting and telling them he can probably get them a role in the inevitable Toy Story 3.

Twenty years is a long time, and that joke hasn't aged particularly well. Disney obviously doesn't want to be associated with jokes that hint at sexual harrassment or the infamous casting couch, so has decided to pull the scene from all future physical and digital releases.

Unlike Disney's decision to forbid the use of its characters on children's tombstones, I'm not going to argue with this judgement.

It's not an appropriate joke for a kids film, it's not relevant to the plot and taking it out isn't going to change the movie for the worse.

And yet... something about the decision to throw it in the memory-hole just doesn't sit well.

It might be because I fundamentally feel we need to leave art alone, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us.

It might be because it's useful to see the societal shift in mindset between 1999 and 2019.

It might be because it will ultimately prove to be futile

It isn't the first time Disney has tried to do this, and all it does is make the missing material more attractive. The studio has famously tried to suppress its 1946 movie Song of the South - the live-action/animated hybrid is controversial because of the way it handles race.

Despite Disney's best efforts, VHS copies of the film trade on eBay for far more than they're worth, the controversial scenes are all over the internet, and people go hunting for a film that would have otherwise quietly slipped into obscurity.

I expect the same will happen to versions of Toy Story 2 that retain the Stinky Pete scene.

I'm not 100% what I think about this yet, but I'd be curious to hear your views.

Tweet Mike @mikeshaw101 and read his column in the KM Group's What's On, inside all paid-for KM Group papers weekly.

Read our review of Toy Story 4 here.

To find out what’s going on in the county and for all the latest entertainment news click here.

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