The cultural institution and multi-platform franchise known as
As in last year's Halloween special, "Toy Story of Terror!," which put cowgirl Jessie at the center of the action, and the theatrical shorts collectively known as "Toy Story Toons," original stars Woody (
What seems a chance to get back to her reptilian roots arrives when she's taken on a play date, two days after Christmas. Along with Buzz and Woody, Wallace Shawn's Rex and an angel-kitty Christmas ornament (Emma Hudak) given to statements like, "Limitations are the shackles we bind to ourselves," she finds herself in a city — that is, a play set — of armored "Battlesaurs." Their commander (
"You are a puzzle, Trixie," he observes.
"Well, technically," she replies, "I'm a posable action figure."
Not to overstate the case, but there really is a kind of philosophical-spiritual element at work here, involving the nature of being, self-awareness, free will, and will freely surrendered. The toys (manufactured, sentient) regard themselves and one another as actors, but also as essences. ("You must not play the dinosaur," Timothy Dalton's Mr. Pricklepants tells Trixie. "You must be the dinosaur." "But I am the dinosaur," she protests.) Unplayed with by their owner, the Battlesaurs lack any sense of their own toyness; they believe the packaging, and it makes them dangerous.
Written and directed by cartoonist and animator Steve Purcell ("Sam & Max," "Brave"), who also voices the villain of the piece, it's a smart addition to a canon whose intelligence is already well established. Purcell's comic timing is splendid, as is his staging of the action scenes.
Between the horror-motel motif of "Terror!" and the Thunderdome elements of "Time," involving at one point the (offstage) evisceration of a sock monkey, TV has brought us some dark, if still basically slapstick Pixar.
But it's Schaal who makes the special sing. Currently a voice on "Bob's Burgers" and "Gravity Falls," but earlier known as a
'Toy Story That Time Forgot'
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday