In 1986 ABC aired Jim Henson’s made-for-tv movie “The Christmas Toy”. Nine years later, Disney/Pixar kicked off the Toy Story trilogy, which I discovered tonight has strikingly similar elements to the 1986 Christmas special.
My family and I settled in tonight to watch a Christmas themed movie since we opted not to attend a local holiday event as planned. After skimming the featured holiday favorites on Netflix my kids settled on Jim Henson’s “The Christmas Toy”, after all, who can resist a movie cover with Muppets on it.
As the movie kicked off it seemed familiar, which means I probably saw the Christmas special when it first aired in ’86, but as the story progressed there were a number of other elements that felt familiar. Familiar, because they carried similar plot elements to the beloved Toy Story franchise.
The story revolves around a stuffed tiger named Rugby. Rugby is an arrogant toy that thinks that the Christmas holiday is all about him since Christmas is when he was unwrapped and he became the favorite toy of the little girl that owns him. Striking resemblance to Toy Story protagonist Woody, no?
Because he doesn’t understand Christmas he thinks he needs to get downstairs and get back inside a Christmas gift to be unwrapped again. As he escapes the room to head downstairs, a much older beat up bear with a cane draws the attention of all the toys to explain to them what Christmas is and how they’ll need to welcome to the new toys who won’t be used to their world. Hmm, an overly friendly beat up bear with a cane who heads up a welcoming comity for new toys…Didn’t Lotso play that part in Toy Story 3?
Anyways, there are some crazy misadventures in between and eventually a handful of the other toys venture out of the room to try and save Rugby along with a cat toy named mew. When they get downstairs Rugby is in the process of trying to get inside a box to put himself in when he discovers Meteora, Queen of the Asteroids, this year’s Christmas toy.
Meteora busts out of he box quickly thinking that she is on a bizarre planet and begins making her way around the living room trying to locate her arch nemesis, which from her statements sounds to be some sort of robot. At first Meteora has no idea she is a toy and feels that the box she was in was nothing more than a prison. It take some coaxing, but finally the other toys are able to convince her she is a toy and get her back in the box. Wait, a space toy that doesn’t believe they are just a toy? Where did we see that? Oh yeah, Buzz Lightyear!
As you can see, at the core Toy Story shares a lot of similar elements to the 1986 Christmas special. Some additional elements include.
- A ditzy doll that shares a striking similarity to Barbie in the Toy Story films
- A scene in which the doll is dressed like Little Bo Peep (I never understood the Bo Peep character in Toy Story, so maybe this explains it)
I’m not saying that Toy Story ripped off The Christmas Toy, but there are definitely some striking resemblances. If you have about 45 minutes jump on Netflix and stream it and let me know what you think. My memory of the Toy Story films isn’t that fresh, so there may be other elements I simply didn’t pick up on that both movies share.