Toy Story of Terror: A Spooktacular Success for Pixar

Christopher Falcioni ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Pixar is known for it’s heartwarming stories, endearing characters, and out of the ordinary storylines that often go outside of the conventional animated tale, leading to something more realistic in tone and, often, more adventurous. Pixar also appeared to never create a flopped film until quite recently, with Cars 2, which was not as much of a flop as it was uninspired. It’s most recent films, too, Brave and Monster’s University, have been received well, but often not as well as other Pixar films such as Finding Nemo, WALL-E, or the Incredibles. A major critique of the more recent animated films has been that they lack a sort of “heart” and unconventional love that has characterized others of their films.
With Pixar’s release schedule just recently shuffled due to story re-workings and directorial changes, Pixar will not release a movie in two years, with June 19, 2015 as the opening of Inside Out, a journey into the human mind, Nov. 25, 2015 as the new opening date of The Good Dinosaur, and June 17, 2016 as the new date of the highly anticipated Finding Dory. The new gap of two years is making Pixar look quite vulnerable and might lead one to question whether or not Pixar is having serious creative issues.
Enter Toy Story of Terror!, Pixar’s first foray into the world of holiday television specials, pitting everyone’s favorite holiday toys against the likes of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, The Simpsons Treehouse Of Horrors, Scared Shrekless, and the uncountable number of shows that will feature their leading characters at costume parties, meeting ghosts, turning into zombies, etc. It’s a risky step for Pixar, a new time format in-between the short and the feature length film, and the fourth Toy Story creation after the main trilogy came to an end (the other three being rather good short films now viewable on It features, of course, Bonnie, the new owner of the toys, and she’s taken a few of them away on vacation where, in true horror fashion, something goes horribly wrong and the toys end up in a “Bates Motel”-esque situation where (of course) something is very wrong.

Trixie, Mr. Potato Head, Rex, Mr. Pricklepants, Buzz Lightyear and Combat Carl in "Toy Story of Terror." Photo Credit: Disney/Pixar 2013.
Trixie, Mr. Potato Head, Rex, Mr. Pricklepants, Buzz Lightyear and Combat Carl in “Toy Story of Terror.” Photo Credit: Disney/Pixar 2013.
The special is incredibly self-aware and, thanks to the mildly annoying thespian Mr. Pricklepants, everyone in the family will get the jokes. But somehow the special transcends the corny self-referential nature of Scared Shrekless and Treehouse of Horror, and not only in the stunning production quality that makes everything look so real. Eventually, the story escapes typical “holiday special formula” and becomes a rather heart-pounding adventure with excellent suspense and cliffhangers galore. There is a central character here as in every Toy Story animation, and while revealing who it is would give much away, the plot of this character is so well crafted that it feels as though this piece of the character’s arc had somehow been missing from the previous three films and has finally been resolved. Indeed, every animated offshoot of the Toy Story franchise is part of the cannon and this special fits right in.
What I love most about Toy Story of Terror! is that it shows that Pixar still knows how to write a story that has the heart of it’s most popular works. Hopefully, Pixar’s newest films in two years will be able to give us the same heart… but for now, I think Toy Story of Terror will be able to tide me over.
Toy Story of Terror airs Oct. 16 at 8pm on ABC.

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