Director Joe Dante established himself as a filmmaker who could unleash horror films that crossed over with large audiences with movies like Gremlins and The Howling. However, Small Soldiers proved to be a unique challenge, as Dante put a lot of horror elements into the film before he was forced to soften the content for a younger audience. The result is a movie that still has some darker elements that clash with its lighter tone.
Just two years after Toy Story charmed us with the adventures of Buzz Lightyear and Woody, DreamWorks' Small Soldiers used CGI to depict toys coming to life in the real world... and unleashing havoc in their wake. Amusingly, Dante used most of the surviving cast of The Dirty Dozen to voice the militaristic Commando Elite, with Tommy Lee Jones as their leader, Chip Hazard. Spinal Tap stars Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, and Michael McKean voiced the Gorgonites, with Skeletor himself, Frank Langella, as their noble leader, Archer.
Sarah Michelle Gellar and Christina Ricci also have really hilarious vocal turns as the Barbie-like Gwendy dolls who are co-opted into service with the Commando Elite. Some of Dante's darker elements are particularly prominent through the Gwendys' body horror. No wonder Burger King's tie-in toys turned off parents. Kids just weren't ready for that.
On a tragic note, Small Soldiers was also the last film of the late Phil Hartman. But the movie was dedicated to his memory, and he made it better just by being in it.
For more details about Small Soldiers, check out the latest episode of SYFY WIRE's original series, Everything You Didn't Know!