For all the laughs and sweet surprises, the Toy Story franchise can also deliver big frights, from the freaky mutant toys in the 1995 original to the deadly incinerator that nearly claimed the lives of Woody, Buzz and the gang in 2010's Toy Story 3. Now the peeps at Pixar are dishing up more chills with their first-ever Halloween special, Toy Story of TERROR!, a takeoff on the old Agatha Christie chestnut And Then There Were None (aka Ten Little Indians).
"Toy Story has a tremendous pedigree with lots of beloved characters the audience wants to see — and here we are picking them off one by one!" says the special's director, Angus MacLane, who nonetheless promises "a very happy ending, along with homages to Psycho, Friday the 13th and Night of the Living Dead."
The plot, which finds the toys at a roadside motel on a dark and stormy night, brings back Tom Hanks (Woody), Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear), Timothy Dalton (Mr. Pricklepants), Kristen Schaal (Trixie) and Wallace Shawn (Rex). But it's Joan Cusack's character, Jessie — Woody's cowgirl pal — who gets the spotlight here. "This is Jessie's rebirth story," says MacLane. "Not only must she overcome her intense fear of enclosed spaces, but she also goes from full Jamie Lee Curtis scream-queen mode to ultimate superhero."
Also on hand — of course! — is Mr. Warmth himself, Don Rickles, voicing Mr. Potato Head. "This is the job that won't quit!" says the legendary 87-year-old insult comic. "It's been 18 years with this cockamamie thing. But, hey, at least my grandchildren finally know what I do for a living."
Don't get him wrong. Rickles adores the gig, although he admits he often loses track of the story's details. "The director will tell me, 'Don, your line comes right after the monkey enters and the birds tweet and the moose gets sick,'" says Rickles. "And I'm like, 'Puh-leez! Enough with the monkey and the moose. It's 6:30pm. I'm a very old man. I just wanna go home and get my dinner.'"
It's lonely work. "I record my lines in a studio all by myself," Rickles says. "We only see each other at the premieres, and then I have to spend the whole night telling Hanks he's a big star. The guy is so damn needy!"
Toy Story of TERROR! airs Wednesday at 8/7c on ABC.