Caution: This review contains spoilers on the “Toy Story” Christmas Special.
It was an evening of epic battles on “Toy Story That Time Forgot,” consisting of a parody of dinosaur and gladiatorial programs. Trixie the triceratops (Kristen Schaal) is a little down that she never gets to be a dinosaur in Bonnie’s playtime. Even when a dinosaur is featured in the child’s imaginative games, another toy is cast in the role.
When Bonnie takes some toys to a friend’s house for a visit, the toys crash-land (in a spaceship backpack, amusingly) at the gate of some new dinosaur toys. In this adventure, the focus is on Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Rex (Wallace Shawn), and Trixie; they’re also joined by an Angel Kitty, who only speaks to impart little quotes of inspiration. Trixie is particularly excited to be in the dinosaur world, which is also probably a play on Jurassic Park, because she’s fully able to embrace being the dinosaur that she is. She’s plated up in beautiful new armor, relishing every moment as well as the attention she garners from Reptillus Maximus (Kevin McKidd), a sort of champion in the realm.
However, these Battlesaurs have yet to understand that they’re toys. They’re new Christmas gifts fresh out of the wrapping, in need of an identity. Unfortunately, that void was filled by the evil Cleric (Steve Purcell, who also directs the special), a pterodactyl, who presides over fierce gladiatorial games. The Cleric even comes complete with the thumbs down signal. Trixie plays hero in this episode, managing to tear Bonnie and her friend from the video games and bring them back to regular playtime.
It’s not difficult to see why “Toy Story” continues to remain popular since it’s original release nearly 20 years ago (1995!). There’s a penchant for going all out with the jokes, such as the Godzilla-type dinosaur, but also making sure to develop a meaningful lesson and to be clever without being cheesy and dull. With Trixie, the message is to be happy and take opportunities to stretch yourself. And through Bonnie’s, children can see that the experience from pretend play with a toy is far more exciting and fulfilling than time spent on a video game (not that a Nintendo Wii can’t be fun either). You’d probably expect the theme song for the Battlesaurs to be a corny moment, but it actually hits the mark quite splendidly in imitating toy commercials.
Another interesting aspect of this storyline is that the setting is after Christmas, when all the toys have been unwrapped. Usually Christmas specials are concerned with the lead-up to the big moment, whether it’s waiting for Santa or the big moment of tearing that wrapping paper off the gifts. It’s always a joy to revisit the world of “Toy Story,” which will only continue to get new fans year after year. As we approach the 20th anniversary, can we expect something big in 2015?