Sunday, October 20, 2013

Horror Thoughts ‘13—Toy Story of Terror (2013) ***

TV-G, 22 min.
Director: Angus MacLane
Writers: John Lasseter (characters), Andrew Stanton (characters)
Voices: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Carl Weathers, Stephen Tobolowsky, Timothy Dalton, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, Kristen Schaal, Kate McKinnon

Several years ago, the filmmakers who made the movie “Shrek” restarted the tradition of holiday specials starring popular animated characters from feature films. Finally, the animators at Pixar have gotten into the game of lending their characters to the holiday special with the first “Toy Story of Terror” to celebrate the upcoming holiday of Halloween. With all the original voice talent returning to their popular roles, the animators at Disney/Pixar have put together yet another fun “Toy Story” romp.

For this half-hour short, Woody and friends find themselves on a family trip in the trunk of the car when they get a flat. Their new owner, Bonnie, takes them into the hotel room they check into until they can get their car fixed. Mr. Pricklepants, voiced wonderfully by former James Bond Timothy Dalton, warns the toys that this is how all scary movies start, in a strange location with some characters wanting to explore and others wanting to play it safe. Mr. Potato Head doesn’t care and leaves the bag despite T-Rex’s claims that hotel rooms are a place where toys are frequently lost.

Soon everyone is out of the bag and Jesse takes the spotlight because of her fear of being left alone. I was surprised that Mr. Pricklepants didn’t point out to her ahead of time that this fear of hers is a sure sign that she will eventually be left alone in this particular movie plot. After all her friends have disappeared because of a mysterious attacker, Jesse meets Combat Carl, voiced brilliantly by Carl Weathers. Combat Carl only refers to himself in the third person and Jesse has to clarify that he is actually the Combat Carl of whom he speaks. Jesse uncovers a nefarious plot and only she can save all her friends.

The “Toy Story” franchise still has a strong emphasis on the theme of friendship and the notion that no one who has friends is ever truly alone. This short isn’t the genius typical of Pixar features. It is conforming to a formula for this particular format, and the results are pleasing but not amazing. There are a couple of very good laughs, like when Kitty Pez throws up a block of candy. I hope the “Toy Story of Terror” is a sign of a new Pixar tradition. Maybe we’ll get a “Monsters Terror Chamber” next year.

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