Toy Story is one of the strongest franchises around. It’s composed of three phenomenal feature-length films (soon to be four…), two shorts and two TV specials. Originally, Toy Story That Time Forgot was going to be a short film like Hawaiian Vacation or Small Fry, but they decided to expand it. Although that decision ultimately didn’t benefit the story, this non-too-Christmasy Christmas Special is a fun addition to the Toy Story family of amazing stories.
If you haven’t watched, I recommend you stop reading now as there will be SPOILERS!
Still here? Cool. The special begins with one of the most magical things Toy Story can give us: playtime. Watching Andy or Bonnie play with their toys unleashing their imagination is a joy. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing quite like watching a kid being a kid to make you miss those times of your life and maybe it’s because we know how much these characters adore getting played with but every time there’s a scene that shows it, I can’t help but smiling.
Soon after this treat, we get to the central internal conflict of the story: Trixie wants to be played with as a dinosaur. But alas, Bonnie prefers to turn the (hilarious) Angel Kitty into a fearsome Kittysaurus before actually using her dinosaur toys. Soon after, the little girl goes to a friend’s house and takes our main characters along. It’s there our gang meets the Battlesaurs, who suffer from collective Buzz Lightyear-syndrome (Can you believe it?).
As always, Pixar does an excellent job of creating new toys with unique ways of moving and thinking and there’s no doubt if (when) Disney releases Battlesaurus action figures, they would be extremely popular. I’d personally consider getting a Reptilus Maximus, voiced by Kevin McKidd in the special. And although Trixie and Rex think everything is awesome (now you have that song stuck in your head. You’re welcome) at first, they soon realize these toys are dangerous and cruel. It’s up to Trixie to save the day by convincing the Battlesaurus that getting played with is way more fun than battling and conquering.
I watched Toy Story of Terror! right after this ended and it made me realize the new special was clearly conceived as a shorter film. The Halloween version benefits from having Jessie as its protagonist and the story is all about her having to overcome her fear of being trapped/abandoned. Since we all have her backstory branded with fire and tears in our brains, this is way more impactful than anything Trixie can offer.
However, I’m not saying the ‘Christmas’ special is bad in any way. It’s a lot of fun and it gives a chance to the supporting cast to shine again. I am a huge fan of the fact all these Toy Story shorts give the minor characters a chance to take center stage. We’ve seen Woody’s story so it makes perfect sense to see the other shine.
The highlight of the special, for me, was Angel Kitty. Although her lines are simply there to make you roll your eyes, it works perfectly, and seeing her play her trumpet made me laugh out loud. I also liked the playtime scenes a lot and the significance getting played with is given, in a classic Toy Story way.
I have only two complaints. The first is that most of the time, Trixie is talking to the Battlesaurus and we don’t get to see the amazing chemistry that the characters we know and love have. That’s something Toy Story of Terror! does really well, showing us the gang’s dynamics, the way they banter and adding Combat Carl to the mix (“Combat Carl never gives up, Combat Carl finds a way!”). I think the special would have been stronger if it had kept the character dynamics that make Toy Story so special.
My second complaint is that it lacks the emotional punch of the longer Pixar projects. It’s here that you notice it was conceived as a six-minute short because it has the emotional content of Hawaiian Vacation instead of going for the Halloween-special way of doing things. But I only mention this because of the dizzying heights achieved by Pixar and the franchise in the past and the raised expectations that brought along. Ultimately, Toy Story That Time Forgot is the Cars of the Toy Story franchise: a perfectly fun and good entry that simply isn’t as brilliant as what came before.