Tonight, October 16, 2013, was a great night for Pixar fans as the premiere of their first 30-minute television special aired in North America. We have been waiting with deep anticipation to view this incredible film for quite some time and it was definitely worth the wait as the entire Toy Story of Terror team delivered one delightfully terrifying film. Read on as we discuss our favorite moments from the film as well as some of the hidden items we spotted along the way. Be careful though – this review will contain some spoilers.
UPDATED – As we’ve been finding additional references, we’ve been adding them below to our list – if there’s a hidden reference we’ve missed, be sure to let us know!
Our Review & Technical Details
From the very first shot of Toy Story of Terror the team had our attention as the Toy Story gang watched a spooky Dracula-like film in the trunk of the car on their way to Bonnie’s grandmother’s house. Though this film was originally slated as Jessie’s staring role, we also feel that Mr. Pricklepants, with his narration, was also a star – creating drama and comedic appeal throughout the film.
As the film kicked off you may have noticed that there was one element of the introduction that wasn’t animated – that being the floppy bat that was featured in the first few seconds of the film. The bat was actually filmed on a green screen and then added to the scene. The beginning of the film also showcased some classic horror-film lighting similar to Hitchcock classics as a streak of light focused on Betsy’s eyes (the girl in the Dracula film).
Not only did the storyline catch our attention, but the animation detail was outstanding. As many Pixar fans know, animating rain was once a difficult task to take on (A Bug‘s Life), now it seems almost effortless (not only with this film but also with The Blue Umbrella). Watching those rainy scenes looked so realistic that the entire animation, lighting, and simulation teams deserve a standing ovation – especially for the rain streaks along with Bonnie’s mom’s car as she sped down the road.
The detail didn’t stop at the rainy scenes as the team continued their efforts into the Sleep Well Motel. Most of the background content in scenes can go completely unnoticed, however, we tend to gravitate and focus on these details. In the lobby of the motel, there was the trash can with a trash bag tied tightly to secure it in the can – this really caught our eye. The realism and accuracy that went into that one item really shows that the team at Pixar is dedicated to not only making a great story but creating a full visual experience that is steeped in realism.
Another scene that visually blew us away was the bathroom. Yes, the bathroom scene. Not only was the animation flawless as it looked beyond realistic but it was again the attention to detail that brought the scene to life. From the uneven caulking on the tiles near the tub to the scuffed towel ring on the wall, it was a perfect scene. Now when you add the lighting, with its dull fluorescent feel, the bathroom was perfectly matched to the feel of a real motel look.
Speaking of the bathroom, that’s also when we were introduced to Mr. Jones, the adorable iguana. We have to say that we loved the animation of Mr. Jones – when he excitedly smacks his head on the bell to signify that he has found a new toy, it couldn’t have been more perfectly put together. We also loved at the end of the short when Jessie kicks Mr. Jones’ face, how great the squash and stretch of the hit was executed. We were also completely taken with the detail and realism inside of Mr. Jones’ mouth – the saliva looked like saliva, the textures were fantastic and his uneven row of teeth all solidifies why we love Pixar – it’s the little things.
One moment that we still can’t get out of our heads was when Jessie was in the shipping box and was about to get trapped as the delivery woman started to seal the box. Between the way the scene was edited (with its fast cutting), the heartbeat sounds added in the background and the thin shaft of light creeping into the box, you couldn’t help but feel Jessie’s panic.
Toy Story of Terror was a great film and was over in the blink of an eye – we wished that it could have been an hour-long special (though that would be a tad too close to a feature film). We have so many favorite moments and technical details that stood out to us we couldn’t possibly list them all. But one line that really cracked us up was when the ever-so-sarcastic Mr. Potatohead says to Mr. Pricklepants “Can it Pants! Life ain’t a movie, they’re never coming back!” Frankly, we’re still laughing about it as we’re typing it.
Not only did Pixar do a great job, but we were also quite taken with Michael Giacchino’s musical accompaniment to the film. Not only did his score enhance the scenes but added that subtle drama and suspense that horror films are known for without making it too creepy – it was just right. Be sure to read our review of the Toy Story of Terror soundtrack as well.
Hidden References & Easter Eggs
Below is a list of Easter Eggs and Hidden References that we found in Toy Story of Terror so far – have you found any additional items? Click and image to enlarge it.
In the graveyard scene, the gravestones pay homage to deceased Pixar characters, such as Coral the clownfish (Finding Nemo), Gusteau (Ratatouille), and Simon J. Paladino “Gazerbeam” (The Incredibles) whose gravestone reads “A public servant with a unique vision”.
Did you notice the two Pizza Planet references? You’ll find the first reference on Bonnie’s mom’s car – her license plate holder says “I brake for Pizza Planet”.
The second Pizza Planet reference can be seen inside the motel, but you’ll have to look very closely as it’s on a poster hanging in motel manager Ron’s office. Additionally, Bonnie’s car is a Gyoza which is the same manufacturer as the Pizza Planet Truck (with the missing G, Z & A to spell its famous YO on the tailgate).
If you are a fan of horror films you may have seen a similarity between the Sleep Well Motel key and the infamous 237 key from The Shining.
If you look at the artwork in the motel located just above the beds you’ll see that there is a reference to The Good Dinosaur. The artwork shows a couple of dinosaurs near trees in an open field – perhaps farming?
The famed Pixar ball makes an appearance as well — however, you may just miss it if you blink your eyes. Located in the bathroom, the Pixar ball is actually stamped on the underside of the sink where Combat Carl and Jessie first meet.
Who paid $2,000 for Woody on the eBid Auction site? If you had a hunch it would be Al McWhiggin from Al’s Toy Barn you would be correct. The full label is addressed to Al McWhiggin, c/o Al’s Toy Barn, 1001 W Cutting Blvd, Tricounty Area, 94868. Interestingly, Al was originally going to be shown for a brief moment (in his famed chicken suit), but was later cut due to time constraints for the film (as stated by Andrew Stanton) and shown in the updated special feature on Disney Movies Anywhere. Interestingly, 1001 W Cutting Blvd was also the address of Pixar’s first studio location in Point Richmond, California.
A keen-eyed reader on our Forum noticed an interesting tidbit about Jessie when she was listed for sale on eBid. She was originally listed for sale at $19.99 which pairs nicely with the fact that we first met Jessie in the 1999 release of Toy Story 2.
It’s always a fun added bonus to hear a familiar voice in Pixar film as many Pixarians lend their voices to characters. However, it would be hard to recognize Peter Sohn as he voiced Transitron. Sohn previously voiced Recycle Ben (Small Fry), Emile (Ratatouille) and Squishy (Monsters University).
Did you know that there is a BnL (Buy-N-Large) credit card? Again, you’ll have to look quick but towards the end of the film, you’ll notice that on the door of the motel they proudly accept the BnL Credit Card.
In the background of the manager’s office in the motel, you’ll notice a familiar lamp – now we can’t confirm if this is a nod to Luxo Jr., but it does look very referential – don’t you think?
If you think that Combat Carl’s attire looks familiar, perhaps it’s because it mirrors almost exactly to the wardrobe of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the film Predator (a film which also stars Carl Weathers – the voice of Combat Carl).
If you look closely you may notice a familiar character on Bonnie’s t-shirt, DJ Blu-Jay from Pixar’s Small Fry Toy Story toon (also directed by Angus MacLane).
Director Angus MacLane and Pixarian Josh Cooley lent their voices to Officer Wilson (MacLane) and Officer Phillips (Cooley). One thing that we did notice was that when the officers are standing next to each other you can read their name tags as “Wilson Phillips” – do you think this was a reference to the 90’s vocal group Wilson Phillips? Perhaps not but it still made us laugh.
Have you ever noticed the stamp on the back of Combat Carl’s head? It’s stamped with the year 1995 – the year that Pixar released their first film, Toy Story. It’s too bad that the official Combat Carl toy release doesn’t also have the 1995 stamp.
There were so many references and easter eggs found in the film that we couldn’t get images for all of them – below is a list of those items (Updated – some have been updated to include images).
- There is a post-it note on the computer located in the manager’s office that has a direct quote from the film Hard Eight – “Never ignore a man’s courtesy“. We can’t help but wonder if this is a direct reference or who decided to write it on the post-it, but it’s a fun one.
- The auction site eBid notes that they are the “#2 Auction Website”.
- It’s also worth noting that Bonnie’s grandmother perhaps lives in Arizona as this is where the Sleep Well Motel was located. At the beginning of the film, Bonnie’s Mom mentions that they’ll arrive in “a few more hours”.
- Combat Carl (voiced by Carl Weathers) had a missing right hand, which mirrors the character he played (Chubbs) in the film Happy Gilmore, also missing his right hand.
- Bonnie’s mom’s car isn’t a Hybrid, it’s a Hybird!
- Do you think that the Lego Bunny was a nod to director Angus MacLane as he is a Lego aficionado – of course, it is!
- We also thought it was funny to read all the descriptions of the toys that the Sleep Well Motel manager was selling. For instance, Mr. Pricklepants was listed as a “German Beaver”. How hilarious is that?
- Ron, the manager’s eBid User Name is IGUANALUVR75 – which makes sense with his unusually speedy and dog-like pet.
- A Raising Arizona reference was also spotted as the Sleep Well Motel is located on State Farm Rd. #31, Tempe AZ (which was the address for Maricopa County Maximum Security Correctional Facility For Men in the film Raising Arizona).
- We also noticed a familiar sound throughout the film – that being the sounds of RC the car that was used for the Forklift Sal toy (as well as Transitron when he speeds off after closing Jessie in the box).
- Did you know that a deleted scene from Toy Story of TERROR! called Travel Brochures actually had a nod to Russell from Up? Check out the brochure on the right which says “Russel’s Redwood Forest – Explore the Wilderness”. Maybe it’s not a nod to Russell since his name is spelled incorrectly (with one L), but we still believe it is.
We can’t help but praise the entire Toy Story of Terror team on this incredible accomplishment and we would absolutely love to see another 30-minute television special in the future. Be sure to let us know what you spotted while watching and what your favorite moments were from the film on the Pixar Post Forum Toy Story of Terror discussion.