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I’m not sure which astounds me more – that it took me this long to finally talk about Pixar, or that the first Pixar thing I’ll be reviewing isn’t one of their movies.
Toy Story is a series that I’d say had its highs and lows if it wasn’t for the general opinion that it’s been nothing but highs – and I can see where that would stem from. No one expected the first fully computer animated film to be more than a novelty, let alone a box-office success, and especially not a cultural phenomenon that put Pixar on the map. The whole story of Toy Story’s genesis is worth an analysis of its own, but I’m saving that for when I look into one of the actual movies themselves. For now, the special.
Despite every plot point and character arc of the Toy Story saga being nicely wrapped up at the end of the third movie, that didn’t stop the Pixar crew from playing around with their toys; if anything, a new locale and characters meant even more storytelling possibilities. So when they weren’t twiddling their thumbs debating whether it was too soon to make Toy Story 4, they began releasing Toy Story shorts in front of select movies. They were fast, funny, and always in the spirit of the trilogy. Then in October 2013 came their very first television special, Toy Story of Terror, which I consider one of the most perfect half-hour holiday themed pieces of programming to grace the airwaves (suck it, Great Pumpkin). It was a dark adventure that cleverly paid homage to classic horror tropes without losing that trademark Pixar humor and heart. But perhaps what I love most about it is how it expanded upon one of my favorite characters from the series, Jessie, and elevated her to the spotlight. I know I’m not alone in noticing how Pixar is something of a boys club when it comes to their features, so having the ladies take the field is a nice change.
It should come as no surprise that after Toy Story of Terror’s success, another special was greenlit. Originally pitched as a short, some nobody at Pixar named John Lasseter expanded upon it until it became Toy Story That Time Forgot (though apparently he was so busy expanding that he forgot to put a “The” in front of it, thus driving all grammatical sticklers insane). But does the lightning strike twice or does it…something…toy metaphor for failing…