Saturday 19 October 2013

Toy Story of Terror! Review: Terrifically Fun!

Since Pixar closed the Toy Story trilogy (in magnificent fashion) in 2010, they have been very busy making sure that the beloved toys are kept in the audience's minds. Instead of producing a fourth film (thank God), they have given us short films that have always delighted and entertained without falling prey to the burden of meeting the impossibly high expectations of the original trilogy. We got two Toy Story Toons in 2011, Hawaiian Vacation played before Cars 2 and Small Fry before The Muppets; in 2012 we got Partysaurus Rex in front of the 3D re-release of Finding Nemo. But this year, instead of a theatrical short, they turned their focus to TV and made a Halloween special that debuted this past Wednesday on ABC. Here are my thoughts on it.

Usually, I'm not fond of Holiday specials, because I relate them to the ones that DreamWorks Animation have produced in the past few years, with not very good results. The animation feels cheap and the stories, while harmless, are completely forgettable. I was afraid that Pixar would go that same route with Toy Story of Terror! But fortunately they delivered a suspenseful, funny and ultimately satisfying special that is sure to become a Halloween classic for years to come.

For those who haven't seen it yet, I'll do my best to tread lightly on spoilers but I think everyone knows the basic story: Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex, Mr. Potato Head, Mr. Pricklepants and Trixie travel with Bonnie and her mom to visit her grandmother. But, when their car breaks down, they have to stay in a motel for the night, where strange things start to happen. One by one, the toys start disappearing and it's up to Jessie to figure out what's going on while also battling her own abandonment trauma.

I have to say that I was really surprised of how well the story was told. It was nice to see Jessie in the spotlight and seeing Pixar give her a great arc that links this special to the films. The nods to many horror pictures and to the Toy Story films are endless and you may want to see it a good few times to catch them all. But, even if you don't look for all that, Toy Story of Terror! is still a thrilling experience for audiences of all ages; while it's not scary per se, it has its dose of suspense, it keeps you wondering what's going on. It also delivers excellent humour, especially from Mr. Pricklepants, who gets the funniest lines, delivered in his usual "over the top" way.

Two outstanding things to note, also, are the animation - which is up to Pixar's usual standards and doesn't feel cheap in any way - and the voice cast - which is the same from the theatrical films and shorts. Tom Hanks and company deliver, as always, top-notch performances which bring the characters to life in a wonderful way.

Toy Story of Terror! is another triumph from Pixar and the TS crew. They showed us, once again, that they care deeply for these characters and the production values of the special are just superb. I think it can - and should - start a great trend of Holiday specials from the studio, and I can't wait for Easter to see these toys in another great adventure!



  2. Great review, Munir! I absolutely loved the special; Combat Carl was completely hilarious!