Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Amy Rust, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Scott Ferguson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrew M. Winters, Ph.D.


Toy Story, Metaphysics, Ecology, Economics, Heidegger, Ontotheology


Pixar’s Toy Story (John Lassiter, 1995) is not just a story about toys and the children that play with them, but a demonstration of how we interact with the world. This thesis looks at the way in which both main children, Andy and Sid, interact with their toys and how this interaction is one that is structured by way of what Martin Heidegger calls “Enframing.” In this modality of playing, toys and other things and entities in the world, and the world itself, appear to the children as on-hand resources for use at any time and can be molded, as if plastic, to fit their needs. I problematize this way of interacting with the world by looking at not only it manifests in Toy Story, but also in the process of the film’s production, Silicon Valley aesthetics, our reliance upon plastics, neoliberal capital in light of the “1099 economy,” and ecological ramifications of these practices as seen in the ecological registers. Through these metaphysics, we seek to mold the world in accordance with human-centered interests as we play within the world. My thesis also turns to understand how metaphysics has transformed over time so that we can work towards bringing forth a different way of relating to the world that is sustainable, ethical, and one of care. I argue for an understanding of things in the world likened to an interconnected and interdependent network that we are always connected to, and in an “interplay” with. I conclude the project by arguing for a possible turn to the writings of Alfred North Whitehead, Henri Bergson, and other philosophers who work in process metaphysics for a possible reinvigoration of “apparatus theory,” which has lost favor with many film scholars since the 1970s/1980s. I argue that a process framework could provide fresh light on the cinematic apparatus in light of digital at-home streaming services, as well as work towards revealing stronger interlinked connections between media, economics, ecology, geopolitics, etc.