If we’ve learned one thing from Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy of films, it is this: It’s not easy being a toy. The new Toy Story Toon, Small Fry, currently playing in theatres with Disney’s The Muppets, further emphasizes this point and expands on the idea that all a toy wants is to be played with. The setup is great – Buzz Lightyear finds himself left behind at a fast food restaurant. In his attempt to escape, he accidentally comes across a group of discarded Fun Meal toys. In the meantime, a tiny Fun Meal sized version of Buzz stows away in Bonnie’s backpack hoping to get some playtime at home. The short intercuts between the two situations.
The biggest laughs come from the oddball assortment of Fun Meal toys lead by Neptuna (voiced by Jane Lynch). In quick-cut fashion we see a whole range of new characters and personalities that wonderfully sends-up the familiar world of fast food tie-ins. Pixar shows a knowing wit and also a great affection for the world of toys. You can see it in the details. From the seams and screws in the little plastic toys, to the limited movement of their parts, they never take shortcuts when it comes to fully realizing this world. These scenes are what Pixar does best – mixing nostalgia, humor and personality while exploring and alternately creating a mythology around the toys we love. They continue to find new angles to show us humans the toy point of view.
The only complaint I have about Small Fry is the length. This short is too short. With the great concept and beautifully designed new Fun Meal characters, there is a lot going on in this toon but not enough time to fully appreciate it all. Compared to the previous Hawaiian Vacation toon that ran before Cars 2, Small Fry zooms by at a break-neck pace. Pixar could have easily filled a half-hour special with this story. But perhaps that’s the point. What better way to keep Woody and friends from overstaying their welcome than to leave the audience wanting more.