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Disney In Depth: ‘Toy Story Of TERROR!’ Review
Brett Nachman   |  @   |  

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Our Toy Story pals, terrified as can be, star in a spooky special that just aired on TV. Here is my review of Toy Story of TERROR!, the extraordinarily clever special that you should check out in no time, and I promise you that from this point forward I will limit my rhymes.

Beware, spoilers below!

“And so it begins,” warns Mr. Pricklepants, who lends ominous overtones to the scenes that unfold. Toy Story of TERROR!, Pixar’s first foray into television territory, takes the toys outside of Bonnie’s room and into the mysterious confines of an old Halloween film. Or so it seems, as the gang is merely watching a scary movie on a DVD player inside Bonnie’s car.

But reality soon models fiction, as the dark and stormy setting of the horror flick translates into real-life terror once Bonnie and her mom must stay the night at an old roadside hotel. Ooh, chills. As I indicated in my initial preview of the first half of the special shown at D23 Expo earlier this August, the quality of the animation, performances and storytelling found in the theatrical Toy Story pictures carry into this featurette-length piece of entertainment. Though only roughly 22 minutes long, each second is packed with chills, thrills and intricate details – sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Toy Story of TERROR!

The toys immediately find themselves in danger, as almost each character subsequently disappears out of sight in this creepy atmosphere. I must admit that I occasionally shook during a few instances, as the special plays off of shriek-inducing classics with its sound effects and impending doom-like score by Pixar mainstay and Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack reprise their roles as Woody, Buzz and Jessie, respectively, and Jessie fortunately walks onto center stage in this special. Whereas the previous Toy Story Toons shorts and even Toy Story 3 overlooked the sassy and swingin’ character to some extent, this special explores more of Jessie’s psyche. Thanks to the revealing of her tragic abandonment backstory in Toy Story 2, we understand her fears. Those concerns re-emerge during a few key moments in this special, when Jessie must choose fight over flight. You go, (cow)girl!

The self-aware television special owns its wittiness, much thanks to Timothy Dalton‘s continued funny delivery as Pricklepants. He inserts lines here and there to match the mood, following the structure of a horror movie. Combat Carl, and his one-third-sized version, who speak in third-person, also factor into the entertaining “great escape” equation. The other “misfit toys” in the cabinet, much like the amusing oddities found in the Small Fry short also starring the Toy Story characters, have their moments – most notably the Pez dispenser that “vomits” Pez when it sees Jessie trying to retrieve Mr. Potato’s Head arm from the mouth of a dog-like iguana. Yes, you read that right.

Toy Story of Terror Image

My main disappointment, if there is any within this masterful special, rests in the special’s brevity. Its limited focus on several characters prevents us from seeing other Toy Story favorites, including Hamm, Slinky Dog and Mrs. Potato Head. I would watch an entire film of Mrs. Potato Head reacting to scary scenes, with her adopted alien children used as bait. Additionally, the hotel manager’s characteristics parallel that of Al from Toy Story 2 a little too heavily. His intentions and methods in selling these toys match the chicken suit-wearing monster. All this guy was missing is the voice of Wayne Knight.

Toy Story of TERRROR! suggests that the Toy Story franchise can successfully continue, albeit not in feature-length film format. These everlasting characters, and the seemingly-endless variety of tales that can be told, prove that in the hands of talented artists and storytellers, the book does not close. Disney and Pixar know how to develop brands that do not overstay their welcome through finding new energy and ways to utilize the favorite familiar faces. The two first demonstrated that with the smart Cars Toons that aired in the years leading up to the disappointing Cars 2 and magnificent Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. Those shorts and the merchandise kept Cars in the minds, hearts and play rooms of children across the globe. Similarly, the sophisticated and ingenious marketing for Toy Story 3, as well as these further entities under the Toy Story umbrella, help in maintaining fresh appeal for Woody, Buzz and company.

Disney Pixar Toy Story Of Terror Halloween Special

Next year will see another Toy Story-themed television special, and if I were a betting man, I would envision even more to come. Why not? And why not anticipate them? Toy Story of TERROR! demonstrates that the toys are here to stay, to play and to bring a smile to millions of fans who see its value in a society where over-branding can lead to fatigue. But not with these savvy toys in an even slicker special.

Toy Story of TERROR! will air multiple times through the rest of the year, including Sat, Oct. 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC Family’s 13 Nights of Halloween, and also during ABC Family’s annual 25 Days of Christmas, on Fri, December 13 at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Grade: A

What did you think of Toy Story of TERROR!? Share your thoughts!

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for updates on new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom!


  1. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they did this and was thrilled to see that they made the effort to bring in the original cast to voice the special. When I first heard they were making this I was wary, would it hold up? The Toy Story trilogy, its story telling, and the connection it made with it’s audience have always been crucial to the success of the films and I didn’t think they could achieve this in a half an hour. Not to mentioned I assumed they would skimp on the voice talent, which always bugs me when I can notice the difference. Fortunately, they pulled through and brought back the original cast. I hope that Disney follows in the path of Dreamworks and the Shrek Halloween specials and releases more of these in the years to come.

    Comment by Mike Wilton — October 17, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

  2. I thought it was good, but not as well-told as it could have been. Largely because it tried to do too much in such a short running time that I never felt I was allowed time to rebuild sympathy for Jessie’s trauma, which in turn hurt any suspense that it tried to build.

    If it had fewer story elements, and did not retread on the crazy toy collector (you were very much spot-on on this one) storyline, it would have been a much better. Or perhaps they should have just made this an hour-long special to get through all that they wanted to achieve.

    Over I found the Toy Story Toons, with their very brief running time, to better paced.

    Comment by SirEdge — October 17, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

  3. Absolutely, Mike. The “Toy Story” brand continues to provide excellent content, and this was no exception!

    Comment by Brett Nachman — October 18, 2013 @ 11:00 am

  4. You make some good points there. A longer running time would have helped in strengthening that component of the special involving Jessie. Nevertheless, given that it was as short as it was, I think they executed the special rather flawlessly.

    Comment by Brett Nachman — October 18, 2013 @ 11:01 am

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