Take on the spotlight, Trixie. The blue Triceratops (voiced by the astoundingly droll Kristen Schaal) who enjoys playing games with best buddy Rex finally has an opportunity to steal the show – and truly, she dominates the screen in all the best ways in this half-hour special.
Toy Story That Time Forgot proves the brand remains mighty and merry. The ABC holiday event succeeds last year’s Toy Story of TERROR! as the franchise’s second major foray on television. It delivers that high-quality mirth we can expect from Disney•Pixar. Toy Story That Time Forgot is one special you will want to return to again and again.
The holiday season has arrived! The time has come to play with those favorite toys, and Bonnie’s creative storylines for her playthings never seems to end. “The way Bonnie’s mind works is a mystery of science,” Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) says in hilariously dry form. Trixie seeks being viewed as an actual dinosaur toy, not merely what Bonnie imagines her to embody. But Trixie’s idealization of possessing that prehistoric personality changes once thrust into an environment occupied by delusional Battlesaurs.
While visiting Bonnie’s friend’s house, Woody, Buzz, Trixie, Rex, and a blank-staring ornament named Angel Kitty are literally thrown into a bedroom consumed by gladiator dinosaur toys. These Battlesaurs appear more deranged than Buzz in the first Toy Story film. Thankfully, this trend of having new, confused toys entering the picture does not feel too tired here. Yes, Jessie encountered this in the horror-themed special and Buzz has met a few too many of these types, but Pixar’s genius lies in that it can spin these familiar archetypes into original beings. Trixie immediately encounters Reptillus Maximus (Kevin McKidd), a stately, metal-clad dino convinced he is a warrior. Poor guy. Enchanted by the dinosaur universe, Trixie and her pals from Bonnie’s room are enveloped in a Battlesaurs-dominated bedroom that looks like toy versions of Planet of the Apes, John Carter, Gladiator, and Star Wars: Episode II all mashed into one.
“We’re going to meet some new toys! I’m both excited and panic-stricken.” – Rex
Dino heaven is far from what it seems. Dozens of dinosaur toys live in this society where battle means everything. These Battlesaurs know nothing of human interaction, as Mason, their owner, has not spent much or any time with them. Reptillus sees giving himself to a child as surrendering, though Trixie tries to persuade him otherwise. Everything seems like fun and games – complete with an “apartment” shaped like a dinosaur’s head – until the ’60s-era arena scene emerges. Woody, Buzz, Rex, and Trixie are forced to fight. “I’ve heard enough Shakespeare in the Park for one day,” Buzz says. Too late. He and his cowboy comrade must compete with the crazed dino.
Steve Purcell splendidly directs this special that has some winter season elements, but veers from the traditional “warm message of the holidays” overtone in favor of a generally contemporary story that nostalgic viewers will appreciate. A handful of pop culture nods factor in, but more along the lines of reminding you of previous forms of entertainment you may have enjoyed in your youth. There are no overt pop culture references here that place Toy Story That Time Forgot in 2014. As it should, this feels immortal. Kids 20 years from now should find this tale charming and ridiculously funny, just like children watching 1995’s Toy Story for the first time today.
Schaal brings her vocal talents to the fullest extent in Trixie, whose quotes are some of the best I have heard in any film or television production this year. I adore her work in Toy Story That Time Forgot. While Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are relegated to more supporting roles, they still carry the piece. Wallace Shawn is always a riot as Rex. You can tell Kevin McKidd had a ball with his dino character. By far my favorite new character is Angel Kitty, whose creepy focus into nothing complements her ethereal quotes. “Greet the world with an open heart,” she says. Only a few lines come out of her, and she adds some hilarity to a special some might consider dark in tone. Toy Story That Time Forgot shows the gang encountering perilous situations, much like in Toy Story OF TERROR!, but it’s vital to show the various sides of this universe they populate. Some see beauty. Others view fear. However, Bonnie’s toys always prevail.
At the time of writing this article, we are only 30 months away from Toy Story 4, a project that has divided fans who love the brand and the way the last film ended. Three shorts and two television specials have kept Toy Story alive and well. Toy Story That Time Forgot demonstrates that we need not worry about if Pixar can succeed once again in giving these characters another opportunity to warm our hearts and take out our tissue boxes. With loads of amusement and some deep context about “surrendering” to others, Toy Story That Time Forgot amounts to a campy and absorbing 22 minutes that you will not soon forget.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom.