In the new ABC special, Toy Story of Toy Story of Terror!, airing Wednesday night, we find Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and a select few other toys watching a scary movie while on a road trip with Bonnie and her mother. A flat tire forces them to spend the night in a motel and self-styled thespian Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton) winds up cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack) by jokingly predicting horror-movie doom for the gang at every turn. But when the toys begin to disappear one by one, Jessie finds herself alone, trying to figure out what's really going on.
While it would be fitting for Pixar to put their first television special in the small but capable hands of Woody and Buzz, the toys who started it all, it's a welcome surprise to see Jessie play the reluctant hero this time out. Her fears of abandonment and enclosed spaces are well-known to fans of Toy Story 2 and 3, and it's rewarding to see her confront them and become empowered. It also provides a nice lesson for the, ahem, young intended audience without being preachy.
It took two years to bring Toy Story of Terror! to television, and every second of that time is visible on screen. This is an animated short that would be equally at home in a movie theater, if not for the commercial-break cliffhangers. As with all the Toy Story films, the attention to detail in regards to the look and feel of the characters, who represent different eras and genres of toys, is masterful, and should please Toy Story fans as well as toy collectors.
Despite its short running time, Toy Story of Terror is chock full of Easter Eggs and references to previous films. The art in the motel is from the upcoming feature The Good Dinosaur, the names of characters from previous films can be seen on packing slips and, well, on gravestones. We also get to meet an intact Combat Carl, voiced by Carl Weathers! You may recall from the first film that torturing Combat Carls was one of Sid's specialties.
One can only hope that this is just the first of many more television specials that further the adventures of our favorite Pixar characters. At the very least, we can treat ourselves to Toy Story of Toy Story of Terror! every Halloween.