Just forget the words and sing along

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cartoon Catch-Up

What better place than Saturday morning to kick back and finally go through the cartoons I'd PVR'd throughout the week?

Actually, there's just one cartoon on my PVR that's been waiting for me, and that's Pixar's first ever TV special, Toy Story of Terror!

Jessie, Buzz, and Woody hear something in the dark in "Toy Story of Terror!"

See, when John Lasseter took charge of Disney animation in the great Disney/Pixar merger of 2006, he noticed that one field of animation that Disney had never really participated in was the animated holiday special.  So, he had Disney Animation get to work on Christmas specials, and we got their Prep & Landing trilogy.  Over at Pixar, he had them get to work on a Halloween special, and the result was this year's Toy Story of Terror!  And of course, with my lover for all things Pixar, I just had to check out.

I think I did mention that using the Toy Story characters like this does give me a sense of unease.  I mean, Toy Story 3 was such a phenomenal end to the franchise, that these revisits are all kinds of unnecessary.  With the trilogy of Toy Story shorts that have been released, I thought that Hawaiian Vacation and Partysaurus Rex were cute, but Small Fry was actually a dollop of unexpected brilliance.  And on top of that, Pixar's track record just hasn't been that good as of late.  (See the dismal Cars 2, the "meh" Brave, and the "good, but not Pixar great" Monsters University.)

So I fired up my PVR this morning, sat down for Toy Story of Terror, and was pleasantly surprised.  Our familiar toys are on a road trip with their young owner Bonnie, when their car gets a flat tire, forcing them to spend the night in a roadside motel.  Of course, the character of Mr. Pricklepants begins the running commentary on how this seems to be following every horror movie cliche, as Woody warns that a motel is a common place for toys to get lost and left behind.  But of course, Mr. Potato Head goes missing, the toys go in search of him, and the horror movie spoofs start piling up.

Until about the halfway point.  At the halfway point, it turns into a variation on Toy Story 2.  Turns out the manager of this motel has been stealing some of the more valuable toys from guests, and selling them online.  Our heroes are captured, Woody is about to be shipped off, and our true hero rises...Jessie.

That's what was really neat to see.  Jessie really is the protagonist in this story of toys.  When she was first introduced to us in Toy Story 2, it was revealed that she's cursed with claustrophobia...an effect of being abandoned and boxed up for many years.  Needless to say, all those dark, cramped corners common to horror films leave her just a little panicked.  But of course, it's soon up to her to face her fears to save the day.

This was better than I expected.  There's some sprinkling of the ol' Pixar charm in there that just makes it really good.  Much like Small Fry, I found some unexpected brilliance in it.  Shouldn't surprise me, then, that this had the same director as Small Fry, Angus MacLane.  This guy just might go on to great things at Pixar...that is, if Pixar doesn't turf him for colouring outside the lines too much.  Pixar seems to be doing that a lot lately.

And while I'm blogging about cartoons, I should also take a minute to pass along some sad news.  One of the greats behind my childhood passed away a few days ago.  Lou Scheimer, one of the founders of the animation studio Filmation, passed away at the age of 85.

Of course, Scheimer had his hand in many of Filmation's productions, such as the 1970s Batman cartoon, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Fat Albert, and of course, the one I know him best for, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Scheimer also did voices in many of his productions.  For example, on He-Man, he did the voices of King Randor, Orko, and Trap Jaw. 

A lot of great cartoons from my childhood were courtesy of that guy.  I think I'll fire up some He-Man DVDs, in memoriam. 

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