I was tidying Henry’s room the other day having made his bed, sorted his books and put his teddies all in order. I cleared under his bed and found Buzz light-year on the floor with Woody both in the place where they fell having slipped down the side of his duvet and onto the floor. I picked them up and their painted happy faces stared right back and at that moment I felt I was right in the middle of a Disney film…
Standing there holding 2 plastic film characters who had done exactly what they had done in the film made me wonder whether the idea for the film came first or the idea for the merchandise? Did they sit in a meeting saying ‘kids love toys and if we design some really cool toys and write a story around them then all the kids will want their own; how fabulous would that be? We’ll make loads of money.. .’ Hubbie says I’m being too cynical and that Toy Story is a great film that the boys love it so where is the harm? I honestly don’t feel there is any harm but I do feel at £49.99 for an all singing all dancing Buzz Light year I have been had but as Henry was desperate for a Buzz I searched high and low for one in charity shops for his Christmas present. I felt 1p short of £50 was a ridiculous amount to pay for a child’s toy that he may or may not love for more than 5 mins. To my astonishment, I found a Buzz in Hungerford for £2.50. I was ecstatic; Hubbie was dubious wanting only new toys for his children. I can see his point of view but I was utterly determined not to pay the full £50.
Buzz was opened on Christmas Day by a very happy Henry. To be fair I don’t know who was the most excited him or me but it was lovely to see him so happy with his present and he played non-stop. Buzz came to a family lunch and was mixed up with his cousin’s Buzz but I could tell ours because he had a few knocks and a few scratches being second hand. My brother found a permanent pen and wrote under his foot ‘Henry’ just as Woody had ‘Andy’ in the film. If it were possible Henry loved Buzz more now he was marked as his.
Buzz had been played with for so many hours and sat pride of place on Henry’s bed when he was at school. Ollie played with Woody and Tobes played with a little Buzz and they all played together. The various buttons pressed all the time, the lasers fired (death scenes acted brilliantly) and it wass wonderful to see. When we moved we found Ollie’s original Buzz that had wings on (the second hand one didn’t and Henry hadn’t noticed) and this, much to my sadness, became his new favourite. Henry could be heard shouting ‘To infinity…and beyond!’ and then Buzz’s wings would pop out and Henry would fly him around the room and this is where the problem occurred…
Buzz, on one of his missions, flew into the large, heavy plastic hoover and broke his arm.
Buzz was brought to me by a very reverend Henry laying him gently on the table as he realised the seriousness of the situation. Buzz’s arm hung by one wire having completely snapped at the plastic joint. I knew this was unfixable as the joint was a moveable one and although superglue is great it would eventually break and we would go through all this again. Hubbie came home and looked at poor Buzz but agreed. He was not fixable.
We told a desolate Henry the next day that Buzz’s arm couldn’t be fixed and that he may just have to go in the bin and we buy Henry and new one (we have a deal in our house that toys that are broken through play get replaced, if they’re broken through sheer ‘dicking about’ as it’s known then they don’t get replaced) Henry looked at Buzz, carefully picked him up and quietly said ‘…he’s not going in the bin…’ To see my second son’s heart nearly bursts with sadness was just awful and I really didn’t know how to help.
We’ve talked about taping Buzz’s arm back together and then covering it with a bandage as he could easily have been wounded in battle; after all he is a space commander. Henry seemed taken with this and we agreed to see what we could do. I didn’t feel that Henry wanted Buzz replaced, why would he when this is Buzz as far as he’s concerned and it would be like replacing a well-loved pet; a nice idea but just too painful.
Then Hubbie came up with an idea that was a wonderful solution…
He mentioned to Henry that we could send Buzz back to ‘Star Command’ (where Buzz came from in the film) and maybe see if he can be fixed or upgraded. Henry seemed to think this an amazing idea once it was explained that Buzz would be posted to Star Command, be fixed and then be posted back to him as good as new. He perked up, was extremely enthusiastic and lovingly wrapped buzz up ready for posting.
The problem came when we had to find an address for Star Command. Henry can’t read but Ollie can and he knows most of the places where we know to send Buzz. I decided Grandma and Granddad’s was a good place if I left off ‘Manchester’ and that’s what we did. Buzz was posted on a rainy day and Henry was excitedly sad as to what Star Command would send back.
The next day came and went but no word from Star Command…
On Friday a large parcel arrived addressed to Henry and he knew instantly what it was. He opened the box and saw a gift-wrapped package with this printed tag;
‘It’s from STAR COMMAND!!!!!!!!!’ Henry was more than just excited as he ripped the package open (my grandmother would have been dismayed ‘Careful with the wrapping paper Emma, we can use it again!’) and there in a brand new box was an upgraded Buzz smiling happily out to my gorgeous son.
Henry flew Buzz (dodging the hoover), played with Buzz, and took Buzz to bed but most of all fell in love with Buzz all over again. The ‘upgrades’ (courtesy of Amazon) were just amazing to Henry and he was one very happy boy. He put Buzz in his box (‘Rocket ship Mummy!’) and then found a spot on the floor where if he squeezed right over to the side of his bed, he could watch his Buzz before falling asleep…
So I have to re-think my initial thoughts on Disney, Pixar and the evils of merchandise. Irrespective of whether this is a character from a massively successful film my son, my Henry, loves his toy Buzz and really this love could have been for any toy he has or has seen. What he feels is real love in all its budding infancy. He’s enjoyed the anticipation, the highs and sheer heaven at having his favourite toy –however much it costs and wherever it came from but now he’s felt the lows that only lost love can bring as he saw his beloved Buzz broken with no way of being fixed. He didn’t want a replacement, he wanted his Buzz back and that’s something he just couldn’t have. But Hubbie’s ingenious idea of posting of Buzz to the fictitious ‘Star Command’ to be fixed, worked. The gift wrapping from Amazon and the printed tag was just a loving extra from a loving father to his son. Hubbie is the best and I (and Henry) am very lucky. So this is a blog about love in just three of its many forms. The love a mother has in finding a toy for a certain price for her child, the love a father has to fix his son’s broken heart and the all-consuming love a boy has for his toy. Maybe Pixar and Disney just understood how children really feel about their toys and for that, and for giving my son the chance to have a Buzz; I forgive them for their shameless merchandising.
(…I would have just loved to have been a fly on the wall when the postman delivered the parcel to ‘Star Command’ to Hen’s Grandma as when he handed it over the parcel shouted ‘TO INFINTY, AND BEYOND!!!!’ Grandma didn’t really know what to say to the surprised postman!)