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posted: 10/11/2013 6:00 AM

ABC's not-so-scary 'Toy Story' treat

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  • New character Combat Carl (Carl Weathers) joins Buzz, Woody and the gang in "Toy Story OF TERROR!" The new half-hour special airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.

    New character Combat Carl (Carl Weathers) joins Buzz, Woody and the gang in "Toy Story OF TERROR!" The new half-hour special airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.

  • Video: Toy Story OF TERROR!

  • Video: Escape From Tomorrow trailer


Buzz and Woody are back, but you don't have to go to the movie theater to see their new adventure.

Pixar's first TV special, "Toy Story OF TERROR!" airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ABC and features the lovable cast of characters (and their famous acting counterparts) of the "Toy Story" theatrical trilogy. The 30-minute short film could have been an inferior product and still skated by on reputation alone -- but this is Pixar we're talking about. Their animated Halloween treat has plenty of delightful tricks up its sleeve.

When a flat tire forces the toys' new owner Bonnie and her mother to spend a night at a roadside motel, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and their pals find themselves trapped underneath the building and hunted by a scary, scaly predator.

Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), whose minimal screen time was used to maximum comedic effect in "Toy Story 3," shows he has a surprising command of film clichés for a stuffed porcupine and provides amusing commentary on the not-so-scary plot as it develops. Seasoned moviegoers like Pricklepants will have fun spotting the short's references to iconic horror flicks.

Eventually, our heroes make friends with Combat Carl (Carl Weathers), a military toy in search of his missing arm, and work together to escape the clutches of a nefarious motel manager played, in a stroke of casting genius, by omnipresent character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. (You know him better as Ned Ryerson -- "BING!" -- from "Groundhog Day.")

The animation in this made-for-TV short is just as stunning as what you'd expect from a multimillion-dollar feature. If you thought the otherworldly vistas of "Gravity" looked realistic, wait till you see the motel bathroom in "Toy Story OF TERROR!" It sounds great, too, thanks to a bouncy score by Pixar stalwart and "Up" Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino.

Do you want more "Toy Story"? This ABC special isn't the first short film to feature Andy's pals; you can watch the fun, five-minute "Small Fry" and "Hawaiian Vacation" at

'Escape' from Disney

Perhaps you've had enough Disney magic for one lifetime. Perhaps you're tired of standard Hollywood fare. An antidote for both maladies arrives Friday on VOD services and iTunes.

It's a bit of a miracle that "Escape From Tomorrow," a daring film from first-time director Randy Moore, even exists. It chronicles a middle-aged father's descent into madness after learning he's lost his job while on a family vacation to Walt Disney World.

Moore and his cast surreptitiously shot the film on small, black-and-white cameras inside the actual Disney theme parks. The trailer shows off gorgeous footage of it's a small world, character meet-and-greets and fireworks shows.

But this is no kids' movie -- the protagonist (Roy Abramsohn) finds himself pursuing two Parisian teenagers amid his mental breakdown, and there are glimpses of some decidedly un-Disney images, like a nightmarish lab with a test subject who has Epcot's Spaceship Earth where his head should be.

Despite buzzworthy festival screenings at Sundance and Ebertfest, "Escape From Tomorrow" has somehow escaped the wrath of Disney's legal department. Catch it before Mickey does.

• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald copy editor and a tireless consumer of pop culture. His favorite Pixar movie is "WALL•E." You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.

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