Does this Toy Story short fly, or simply fall with style? Our verdict on Sky Movies Disney's Halloween special.
Fair credit must go to the screenplay drafting team behind Toy Story Of Terror!- even in the space of just twenty minutes, these accomplished scribes manage to pack in genuinely heartfelt and relevant issues in a manner that could encourage its target audience to see Halloween in an altogether different way. Nevertheless, despite packing some of its studio's trademark charm and innovation, this brief return from Disney's finest leaves a lot to be desired.
That's not to say that the revived cast ensemble disappoints; in fact, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and the rest of the old gang are all present and accounted for, as well as Carl Weathers stepping up to the plate as Combat Carl, with each character recieving at least one or two remarkable gags or dramatic sequences. Timothy Dalton in particular manages to effortlessly steal the limelight (or in this case, the torchlight) during every scene in which his Mr Pricklepants appears, his portrayal a major highlight of the Special as a whole. Yet with such a brief running time, characters who are central to the episode's themes and motifs- mainly built around the noble concept of overcoming fear through self belief- naturally acquire more screentime than their supporting comrades, an inevitable balance which surprisingly shortchanges Hanks and Allen by sidelining Woody and Buzz for a notable period.
Some might argue that within a confined holiday instalment of Disney such as this, opening the Toy Story franchise up to a broadened perspective through a renewed focus on Jessie is a valid call from the writers and producers. At the same time, this character-driven narrative echoes many of the same beats as Toy Story 2 (1999) and its successor (2010), the deja vu that comes as a result rather out-of-place in a series lauded for its indifference to following the crowd. Only Pricklepants' meta-esque allusions to the wider horror genre (of which Toy Story Of Terror! is an unashamed parody, through and through) successfully elicited fresh laughs from this reviewer, the full episode itself a rather soulless watch in comparison to recent hit animated flicks such as Wreck-It Ralph and Monsters' University.
Is it unjustified to judge this particular bite-sized helping from Pixar against its feature-length franchise and studio predecessors? Perhaps an argument could be made along those lines, were it not for the level of gravitas and dramatic impact acheived in the short films which accompanied Disney's last pair of animations, The Paperman and The Blue Umbrella. Both of those five-minute pieces represent hallmark examples of inspired, confined modern storytelling, packing charm and heart aplenty, the likes of which are severely lacking here. Toy Story Of Terror! is fun while it lasts, but nothing more, its ever-enthusiastic cast burdened with sub-par comedy and a lacklustre narrative and the viewer burdened with a heightened longing for the genre's true greats as a result.