The show opens with the toys watching a scary movie from the trunk of the car while on a trip to Grandma's house. Bonnie's mother's car gets a flat tire, forcing her to pull off to the nearest motel. Mr. Pricklepants draws a few parallels between their current situation and the scary movie they watched, such as finding "slime from the creature's metamorphosis". Despite Jessie and Woody's warnings, the toys go out exploring for amenities and, one by one, start to disappear.
Pixar has always done a great job with making movies that appeal to kids but can still entertain adults. For Toy Story of Terror, they take all of the greatest tropes from horror movies, like keeping the creature cloaked in darkness or by having it move so fast that it becomes a blur. It adds a creepy tone to the episode but doesn't become too scary for a kid to watch. The humor also comes through the running theme of self-awareness with Mr. Pricklepants' constant narration of their situation. The other toys keep looking to him for guidance but in reality, he just freaks them out even more.
The episode introduces a few new characters to the line-up. Combat Carl (voiced by the spectacular Carl Weathers), a 12-inch G.I. Joe homage, continually refers to himself in the third-person and is the driving force behind the show, helping Jessie to find her lost friends. He also has a 1/3 scale counterpart, which he calls Combat Carl Jr. We also meet Pez Cat which, as you can probably tell, is a Pez dispenser shaped like a cat. There's also a super-hero figure called Pocketeer (a part of the Fastener Four) and the Lego Buddy. Despite their small roles, each one is perfectly personified, exactly as you would expect from Pixar.
The entire cast makes a return for the special including Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz and Joan Cusack as Jessie. But there are a few new voices on deck. I've already mentioned Carl Weathers above but we are also treated the great Stephen Tobolowsky as the motel manager. You may not remember the name but you sure as heckfire remember his face.
I haven't seen anything beyond the original Toy Story movie. Not through any sort of refusal or anything (that honor belongs to Cars) but just because I haven't gotten around to it. But when I heard about Toy Story of Terror, I really wanted to make time to watch it. I even DVRed the newest episode of Arrow to watch this. But I do have a complaint; I'm upset that the show was only a half-hour long. Even though they managed to cram a full story into 22 minutes without making it feel condensed or rushed, I would have liked to see more. Maybe ramp up the suspense a little bit, add some more dialogue for the Pocketeer. Something. But despite that, I loved what they did with the Halloween special (most especially the Pez Cat's horrified reaction to seeing Jessie reach down the iguana's throat). I'm pleased with the outcome of Toy Story of Terror and look forward to the other half-hour short Pixar has planned for this year.