If Pixar's going to keep making shorts and holiday specials from now on with the Toy Story gang in lieu of another movie, then they're off to a pretty good start with this Jessie-focused Halloween special that aims to become a perennial, ala It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.
The toys are back with all their original voices, and this time on vacation with their new owner Bonnie, when they wander out of their backpack at a motel and get lost in the halls, guided by the horror-movie loving Pricklypants (voiced by Timothy Dalton), who narrates the story with several Scream-like references to horror tropes of what should happen next. The toys are as pop-culture savvy as ever and never slow to drop a reference, but in classic Toy Story fashion, they turn out not to be in a scary movie situation, but at the mercy of another unfortunate real-world danger for the average lost toy: being snatched up and sold on Ebay. Woody and Buzz are shortchanged for once in this outing, as Jessie takes center stage and must overcome her pathological fear of being sealed up in a box (remember her plight from Toy Story 2) to rescue Woody and save the toys from getting lost yet again.
It's a fun, funny Toy Story adventure, with as many jokes packed into a half hour special as they can muster. Particular delights are all the little nods to details from past adventures (this franchise does love its fans) and the hilarious new Combat Carl toy (Carl Weathers, who else?) and his tiny buddy, Combat Carl, Jr. My love of Toy Story knows no bounds, so I'll happily watch these guys star in shorts and specials until the end of my days, my only minor complaint being that in a mini-length format, the characters must necessarily be watered down to a basic one note personality trait, while the best parts of the movies are often how deeply we come to feel for these characters, based on how well we know them (as crazy as that sounds, fellow Toy Story fanatics will understand completely). Maybe the best way to go for these kinds of specials is to narrow down the gang a bit, and focus on just three of four of them at a time? I know we want to see all of them, but it may help enrich the short for storytelling purposes. Otherwise, Toy Story of Terror is a warm and tasty Halloween treat.