When I was a boy, my TV viewing consisted of three channels and an antenna that we had to physically turn on Saturday in order to get the big game. I never had the opportunity to watch Woody’s Roundup, which, to be clear, would have been well into its second decade of syndication had it actually existed. However, we did have big hats, handkerchiefs, toy guns, and real horses (it was a rural upbringing), and we played cowboy until the cows came home, which we also had.
Flash forward a generation and my sons do not have regular access to horses or cows, although they do have little doggies that get along swimmingly. They also have imagination and sidewalks, classic movies and an oak tree, and an antenna that they have never had to tie tinfoil to.
What they know of the wild west they have learned from The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Lone Ranger, and their old pal Woody. Also, Jessie. What they know of cows they have learned at the petting zoo.
Apparently, that is enough.
My boys love playing cowboy, but in a twist of technology and popular culture they do not pit themselves against the clichéd stereotypes that frequented the playgrounds of my youth, but rather against looming forces of danger and the pending promise of unknown adversity. Theirs is a battle for what is right, and there is a space ranger involved.
He has lasers and everything.
When the Toy Story Infinity Play Set arrived the boys were beside themselves. To be fair, they declared Disney Infinity as the greatest video game ever about three hours after it came out, and with the ability to combine and create all the Disney magic they can think of (and that’s a lot!). I have been inclined to agree.
Adding Buzz Lightyear and Jessie to the mix, not to mention Woody (whom we purchased separately), took the experience up many notches. Suddenly, the Toy Box was full of the toys they loved so much, and their world of imagination grew all the bigger.
This past weekend we took a family trip to the Disneyland Resort. Both parks are full of festive fun, and the Toy Story characters are everywhere to spread holiday cheer. My boys took one look at Buzz Lightyear in the Disneyland A Christmas Fantasy Parade and their mouths opened like so many portals.
“I need to tell Buzz about the house I built him in Disney Infinity!”
“I want to tell Buzz how Woody borrowed his jet pack and raced Jessie on a roller coaster!”
It went on for a while.
“Do you think Buzz would even know what you are talking about?” I asked. “Those are things that you created in a video game.”
“Of course he would know,” answered my youngest. “He would know because he was there.”
I stood there listening as the boys connected the dots of their imagination, from toys to books to movies, the great outdoors, and video games to the moment we were standing there, in the middle of Disneyland, watching their ideas soar between the constant glow of fireworks.
“To Infinity and beyond!” they shouted.
It seems so obvious now.
Photos: W. Honea
Whit Honea is the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book (January, 2014/Adams Media). Read more at his site Honea Express. You can follow Whit on the Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).