REVIEW: Small Fry [2011]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: G | Runtime: 7 minutes | Release Date: November 23rd, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director(s): Angus MacLane
Writer(s): Angus MacLane / Angus MacLane and John Lasseter (story)

“Pizza-bot sad”

Two guys with a Pixar DVD extra each and many animation credits to their names hit a homerun with their first shot at a theatrical short film. Director Angus MacLane and writer Josh Cooley bring to life a cornucopia of discarded Happy Meal-esque toys inside the ever-growing universe of the studio’s biggest franchise. The latest of the “Toy Story Toons” series, Small Fry takes right off from where Hawaiian Vacation and Toy Story 3 have most recently increased its level comedy. Absurd elements populate the short and earn big laughs as we’re taken on a journey into the often-disrespected realm of cheap pop culture based free prizes.

Much like the first Toy Story and it’s Pizza Planet adventure, the gang’s new owner Bonnie (Emily Hahn) is out with her mother for some grub at the Poultry Palace with Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) by her side. Wanting the miniature Buzz advertised in commercials to go with its larger counterpart in her backpack, her sad dejection at finding Zurg’s belt buckle within her meal’s box reminded me of my own disappointment when the best toys from the display case refused to find their way into my collection.

While Bonnie and her mother ask the minimum wage employee behind the counter to switch prizes, the mini-Buzz inside the display begins a conversation with mini-Zurg about escaping. Yearning for playtime as he languishes behind the transparent hard plastic while his facsimiles find homes outside the restaurant’s walls, the high-pitched voiced statuette undoes his twist ties and weasels his way into the girl’s bag while the real Buzz accidentally gets left behind.

Afraid and alone, the larger spaceman looks for a way out of the fast food establishment while his imposter attempts to assimilate with Bonnie’s toys through the help of Rex’s (Wallace Shawn) gullibility. As Woody (Tom Hanks) and the others do their best to procure information from the stowaway, Buzz finds himself falling through an air vent into an evening’s meeting of forgotten Poultry Palace toys. Led by Neptuna (Jane Lynch), the many oddly named toys come forward with their stories before reenacting how it is they feel about being left behind; their newest member feverishly looking for a way out.

Hilarious in both locales—whether watching the Toy Story characters interact with mini-Buzz as he ‘plays’ or meeting the wealth of comedic gems like Pizza-bot, Tae Kwon Doe, or Gatling Gun in the store’s storage room—MacLane and Cooley jam in as many high-impact laughs as they can. The list of new toys seems never-ending and the originality of puns brought forth reveals a smart wit without clunky filler. Some succeed more than others but the tone remains consistent and we become invested in both Buzz escapades.

The Alcoholics Anonymous gag will hit home for older viewers while the group’s airing of unloved psyches expresses themes of abandonment and friendship to youngsters. Never one-note or obnoxious, the pacing is set to perfection as its story progresses to its inevitable end. And even then, when a series of graphic menu-board panels flips through with the credits, the laughs continue with funny Poultry Deals and a short epilogue to bring everything full circle. With a continually stellar series of vignettes like this to keep the characters alive, who needs Toy Story 4?

[1] Woody with Mini Buzz
[2] Buzz with the other discarded toys

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