Toy Story of Terror was a scream


With a stormy night, a spooky setting and a monster in the shadows, the first Pixar TV special is a nearly perfect Halloween treat for ‘Toy Story’ fans.


Last week, ABC premiered the first ever episode-long short from Pixar. Aptly named Toy Story of Terror, the Halloween special followed a few of the Toy Story characters (Hamm, Mrs. Potato Head and most of the newer toys were mentioned but absent) as they and their owner were forced to stay the night at a creepy and possibly haunted motel. And surprise — it turned out to be one of the better executed holiday specials I’ve seen in a long time.

Sure, some of it has to do with the fact that it’s Toy Story and Pixar just has that world and it’s characters down pat. I heard Pixar was doing a Toy Story TV special and I was sold … way before hearing the premise, actually. They also managed to get the voice actors back for their roles, including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn and Kristen Schaal (who now voices Louise on Bob’s Burgers and Mabel on Gravity Falls and I just adore her). And then we have silk voiced Timothy Dalton as toy thespian Mr. Pricklepants (introduced in Toy Story 3), who is also a horror film enthusiast and gleefully points out the classic scary movie tropes happening around them — flat tire during a storm, impromptu stay at ominous lodgings, friends disappearing one by one and of course, the gang splitting up to cover more ground.

[T]he writers avoided pushing direct references in favor of focusing on Jesse the Cowgirl.
To be honest, I was expecting the special to use more horror references, especially since the motel setting gave them the perfect opportunity to parody The Shining. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the writers avoided pushing direct references in favor of focusing on Jesse the Cowgirl, voiced again by Joan Cusack. Jesse’s severe claustrophobia from being packed away for years was introduced in Toy Story 2 and has become an established part of her character, but not something really dealt with in the films. When the sinister plot behind the disappearances is revealed (which I may or may not have gasped at … it’s a really clever twist), Jesse has to push through her fear to save them all. It was so cool not only to see Jesse save the day on her own, but also watch the Halloween special revolve around a character with a legitimate phobia overcoming it to be the hero. Pixar didn’t have to add a message into their fun little special, but they did and it worked (I also appreciated that her friends — Woody and Buzz in particular — are comforting and understanding when she has a panic attack early in the special).

Toy Story of Horror was just what I was hoping for.
The first thing I said after leaving Toy Story 3 was that I never wanted them to make Toy Story 4 — the third movie ended on such a perfect note — but that I would kill for lots and lots of Toy Story shorts. With the new toys from Bonnie’s room and the charm of the characters from the first two movies, I knew there was plenty of room for the writers to play with these characters in shorter stories. Toy Story of Horror was just what I was hoping for. It used only a few members of their cast to tell a tight story with a suspenseful climax worthy of the franchise’s other mad escapes. I found myself smiling the next day thinking about how much I liked it. Best of all, Toy Story of Horror made really good numbers. It just shows that these kind of thoughtful, well-written specials are profitable and it’s worth making more. Hint.

Oh, did I mention we also get to meet Combat Carl and he’s played by Carl Weathers? If you need any reason to check out this special, do it for Carl Weathers’ melodramatic, behind enemy lines speeches … all spoken in third person.

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Photo Credit: ABC

One Comment on “Toy Story of Terror was a scream

  1. I didn’t know about this special, but your great review has convinced me to check it out. Thanks, Katie!