In 2011, Pixar released its second Toy Story Toon, Small Fry ahead of the revamped, The Muppets movie. Pixarian Angus MacLane reprised his directorial role having previously directed the short, Burn-E (and most recently directed Toy Story of TERROR!).
The director’s chair wasn’t the only role MacLane filled during production, he wrote the short as well – crediting his mother and sister (who are psychologists) for being the inspiration behind the toy support group.
The short begins in a local fast food restaurant, Poultry Palace and if you look closely you’ll get a kick out of the silly items listed for purchase. Items such as Hot Oil for a bargain price of 99 cents are on the menu – and who could pass up a large ranch-flavored soda!
The charm of this short is that we can all remember getting toys from fast-food restaurants and of course getting numerous duplicate toys – UGH! MacLane mentioned that he visited 15 fast-food restaurants (all in one day) in his hometown for part of his research, just so he could get a glimpse into how the kid’s meal toys look today.
The play area inside of Poultry Palace was inspired by one of MacLane’s previous college jobs at Discovery Zone. I have been lucky enough to have experienced the Discovery Zone ball pit first hand back in the 90s – having a younger sibling has its advantages.
While the entire play area is covered in snot and drool, it was always the ball pit that caught everyone’s attention – some wanted to throw the brightly colored balls at each other while others scoured the bottom of the pit for loose change and treasures. While most of the treasures were used bandaids and lost socks, the ball pit was as MacLane put it “…a nightmare, it was not a sanitary place”.
Like all of the Toy Story Toons, the original voice talent was back to reprise their roles and MacLane was quick to point out that they acted as an anchor for the audience due to the quirkiness of the support group toys.
Growing up as a child from the 80’s I really appreciated MacLane and his team’s approach while designing the support group toys – from the cheaply made quality (plastic seams) to the limitations of functions that those toys had to offer, MacLane said that those reasons were incredibly appealing to him as were showing off the manufacturer defects on the toys themselves.
If you listen closely you may hear a familiar voice or two. If you tend to watch all of the bonus material on each Pixar film Blu-ray, you’ll know that many Pixarians tend to lend their voices for characters during production (this process is called “scratch vocals”).
While most of the time the audio is re-recorded by actors, there are occasions that the Pixarian scratch vocals work best. While it is unknown if the numerous voices were true “scratch voices” it’s always fun to hear a familiar voice on a new character. Below are a few of the Pixarians whose voices you’ll hear:
- Angus MacLane voiced T-Bone, Funky Monk, Gary Grappling Hook and Super Pirate
- Josh Cooley voiced Cashier and Lizard Wizard
- Bret Parker voiced DJ Blu-Jay
- Peter Sohn voiced Recycle Ben
- Jason “J-Top” Topolski voiced Pizzabot and Ghost Burger
- Kitt Hirasaki voiced Nervous Sys-Tim
The story process continues to be one of my favorite areas of Pixar and MacLane shared a funny backstory that he and his team created for the support group character T-Bone. The character was part of a TV show called “Steak Force”, which fears the healthy life-extending agenda of the evil vegetarians.
The government establishes the Steak Force as a commando squad of robots who are dedicated to mandating a meat option for every meal – and the whole show would be sponsored by the Meat Council (a council which of course the team made up as well).
As a side note, one of my favorite items in the short are Tartar Sauce cups, if you look closely at the ingredients you’ll notice that it contains Low Fructose Corn Syrup, Moulted Feather Extract, and Distilled Chicken Perspiration. The humor that goes into these projects is genius.
All of these food-related items in the short also made us wonder, would you rather be forced to drink a small Ranch Soda or slurp down seven of the tartar sauce cups? Let us know in the comment section below.
Finally, vote for your favorite kid’s meal toy from Small Fry in the Pixar Post Forum, then chat about your favorite all-time childhood meal toys as well – ours were both the McDonald’s Happy Meal Muppet Babies toys (photo included in the forum post).
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Small Fry is featured as part of the Pixar Short Films Collection 2” Blu-ray/DVD, or you can watch it on Disney+. If you haven’t seen our video unboxing review of the official mini Buzz Lightyear, be sure to check it out as well, it’s such a great toy.