While technically speaking, Lee Unkrich's soulful "Toy Story 3" was the last entry in the hugely successful franchise, Disney and Pixar have kept the brand alive and well. There's the popular Toy Story Midway Mania ride operating on either coasts at both Disney California Adventure and Disney's Hollywood Studio and the series of "Toy Story Toons" short films that have appeared in front of "The Muppets," "Cars 2" and the 3D re-release of "Finding Nemo" (each of them beautiful and emotionally complex trifles). Taking the 'Toons' one step further will be a brand new holiday special, timed for Halloween next year, called "Toy Story of Terror," which will air on Disney-owned networks in time for the witching season.
Little is known about the special, which was first pointed out to us by Upcoming Pixar, although from what we have dug up one of the filmmakers behind the "Toy Story Toons" will handle directorial duties, with the bulk of production being done at Pixar's Canadian satellite campus (in Toronto, eh), under close supervision by original "Toy Story" director John Lasseter and the other Pixar Brain Trust members in California.
Instead of adopting a similar format to that of the "The Simpsons" yearly Halloween specials have, utilizing a kind of anthology format that fits well with the genre ("Creepshow," "Trilogy of Terror," "V/H/S," etc), "Toy Story of Terror" (according to the official synopsis) will instead be a pseudo-murder mystery, with the toys stopping at a mysterious roadside motel. When our characters start disappearing, the "survivors" must figure out what is going on, before they're all gone. Delightfully, this puts "Toy Story of Terror" in the "creepy motel/hotel" sub-genre that includes "Psycho" (and its sorely underrated sequels), "Vacancy," "The Shining," "Motel Hell," and "Eaten Alive."
While they haven't confirmed what actors would be returning to their roles from the features, it would be a big surprise if anyone opted out, especially considering almost everyone returned for the much smaller "Toy Story Shorts." Come on Hanks!
It's interesting that this is the first Pixar holiday television special. DreamWorks has been making some fairly sophisticated holiday specials for the past few years, utilizing characters from "Shrek," "How to Train Your Dragon," "Madagascar," and "Monsters vs. Aliens." It's also interesting to think that, while the "Toy Story" characters are more easily suited to a Christmas story, with them being toys and all, Pixar instead chose to go with an inaugural Halloween special. (Wouldn't the "Monsters, Inc." characters be better suited to Halloween? You'd think.)
Clearly, Disney and Pixar know what they're doing when it comes to the cast of "Toy Story" characters, keeping the brand in the forefront of the public's mind. And more importantly, in front of kids too, because movie tickets and DVDs may sell, but merchandising is where the real long tail money is.