It has won rave reviews and topped the US box office, but the computer-animated film Toy Story 3 has not impressed everyone. Feminists are complaining that the 3D family film is sexist, citing the prevalence of male characters – a ratio of seven males to one female – and negative depictions of women in the film: from Andy's "nagging" mother to the "hyper-feminine" and "overly emotional" Barbie.
The long-standing US feminist magazine Ms has accused the film of "careless sexism", with the writer Natalie Wilson arguing that the film may damage children.
"Kids who grow up watching sexist shows are more likely to grow up internalising stereotypical ideas of what men and women are supposed to be like," she writes.
The article also argues that the film is homophobic in its depiction of the doll Ken as a "closeted gay fashionista with a fondness for writing in sparkly purple ink", stating that: "Pairing homophobia with misogyny, the jokes about Ken suggest that the worst things a boy can be are either a girl or a homosexual."
Despite these criticisms, the film went in at number one at the US box office last weekend, taking $110m (£73m). It will be released in the UK on 19 July. Featuring the voices of stars such as Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack, the final instalment in the Toy Story series shows what happens to cowboy Woody and spaceman Buzz Lightyear when their owner, Andy, grows up and goes to college.
David Sproxton, co-founder and managing director of Aardman Animations, the studio famous for Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit, believes the series has an enduring, widespread appeal: "You've got a great cast of characters – they use toys to tell human stories – and they are very well made: It is Pixar at its best," he said. "They also spend a lot of money on marketing to get bums on seats."
It is more than 10 years since Toy Story 2 was released to widespread acclaim. Unlike many sequels, Toy Story 2 was widely regarded as being even better than the original film, which made history as the first feature film to be made entirely using computer-generated imagery.
This weekend's controversy will not be welcomed by British cinema bosses, who are hoping that the 3D family film will revive a box office that has seen ticket sales slump to their lowest level since 2004 this month. Attendance has plummeted due to the World Cup and warm weather.
Nevertheless, experts are predicting that Toy Story 3 will take a massive £11m in its opening weekend.
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