Pixar has become the gold standard that every other animation studio wishes they could be. From Toy Story and Wall-E to The Incredibles and Up, they rarely make a misstep. But in recent years, fans have begun to think that maybe the studio just isn't what it used to be. They not only cite Cars as an obvious example, but also Brave and Monsters University as well.
They have nothing to fear -- aside from the terror that's on the loose, of course -- with Pixar's first television special that continues the Toy Story franchise beyond the movies and shorts.
In Toy Story of Terror, Woody, Buzz and the gang are back for another adventure. This time around, Bonnie and her mother are on a road trip, with the toys hanging out in the trunk. But when their car runs into some mechanical issues, they must stay the night at a roadside motel. What could go wrong?
Everything, of course. All the toys are in a panic when one of their own goes missing, and they set out at night (why do these things always happen at night?) to save their friend. This is a Halloween special, after all, so they better hurry before someone else vanishes.
What drives Pixar films, especially with Toy Story, is having character-driven storylines. And Terror follows that same winning formula. Jessie the cowgirl was introduced in Toy Story 2, and even though she's always been involved in the action and plot ever since, I would still consider her a secondary character, with Woody and Buzz being in the primary roles. But here she finally takes center stage.
As we know, Jessie was a collectible and left in a box for years. Isolation and claustrophobia like that can affect anybody. I won't give away spoilers, because you really need to experience the story for yourself, but let's just say that backstory comes rearing back, and character development becomes a big focus.
While not one of the original toys, Mr. Pricklepants is a fantastic character, first seen in Toy Story 3. He can be very dramatic, sees how real life can relate to what's seen in the movies and seems to generally know how a story's plot will go. At one point, he says, "This would be the part where the characters get separated and picked off one by one." His little bits of commentary are always hilarious.
There are plenty of new toys introduced in Terror, though they fortunately don't take the focus off the characters we've come to know and love. But one of them isn't actually new at all. Combat Carl was in the first Toy Story movie as one of Sid's toys that he destroyed and mutated. Here, we get a proper introduction.
Mr. Pricklepants thinks he knows how every story will end, but for us viewers, we're taken on a wonderful journey that includes some twists at the end -- who or what took the toy that goes missing? And is that the real "villain" of the story? The revelations may surprise you, like they did for me. And make sure you stick around to the very end because there's an epilogue during and after the credits.
As I said earlier, some have come to the conclusion in recent years that Pixar isn't what it used to be. But Toy Story of Terror proves that it hasn't lost that magic touch. As with previous films and shorts, there's plenty of humor throughout the special that will have you laughing out loud. And the quality of the animation is beyond fantastic -- not just for the toys, but for regular objects that look so real.
Will you be tuning in to Toy Story of Terror? Are you glad the franchise has continued on after the third film?
Toy Story of Terror airs tonight at 8pm on ABC.