It was decided very early on that this would be a thriller that would air around Halloween (though it isn't branded specifically as a Halloween special as that wouldn't play as well to the International audience) and -- when we spoke to him during a visit to PIXAR this past week -- director Angus MacLane says he knew from the beginning he wanted the story to be focused on cowgirl Jessie, who he felt hadn't been developed enough in relation to her stature among the toys. The audience is also already aware that Jessie has serious abandonment issues and a fear of confined spaces, making her the ideal character to go from scared to, ultimately, heroic.
Like a Pixar feature, Toy Story of TERROR! spent two years in development and production and the animation quality you will see from your couch is exactly what you would expect to see on the big screen. Unlike a Pixar feature, there was an exact running time in which the story had to be told. Producer Galyn Susman found this to be the most surprising thing about television. With features, the Pixar mantra has always been "if it takes more time to tell it, it takes more time to tell it."
The short running time suited director Angus MacLane, as it demanded a tight, focus story. It did also meant limiting the number of characters, hence the road trip. Bonnie can only fit so many toys in her backpack, and "who goes travelling with their piggy bank?", Susman says of the absence of core characters like Hamm. MacLane likens the toys that did make the cut to a "team of specialists" one might find in an action film like The Guns of Navarone (the special also includes homages to Psycho and Night of the Living Dead).
Is Toy Story of TERROR! that scary? Susman is quick to remind us that there is "an element of threat" in all the Toy Story films, noting, "Toy Story 3 is way scarier than Toy Story of TERROR!" The difference, she says, with television is that parents often leave their kids unattended, whereas they are usually sitting with them in the movie theater the first time they meet a character like Sid or Prospector Pete or Lotso. "TERROR!" is in the title to message to parents that, "This is scary. If your child is liable to be scared, please don't leave them alone in the room."
That being said, Toy Story of TERROR! is as funny as it is suspenseful and has a very happy ending. "We love Toy Story as much as [the fans] do," says MacLane. "We've done everything we can do to make it the best Toy Story movie that would fit into a 22 minute time slot and we are very excited to share this with all the Toy Story fans of the world."
Toy Story of TERROR! premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday, October 16th on ABC.