Toy Story: Special Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by John Lasseter
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 81 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1, 2.0 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Review Date: March 17, 2010
What Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was to feature length animation, Toy Story is to CGI animation. The most popular form of current animation in feature films in this country began right here courtesy of a (then) modest animation studio called Pixar. The company is world famous now with tons of awards and billions of dollars in revenues to its credit. Toy Story, however, will forever remain something special. Sure, its animation techniques and box office success have been far surpassed by more recent smash hits by Pixar and its rivals at other studios. Still, this first CGI animated feature film in many ways cemented the kind of work audiences would come to expect from this miracle of a company: innovative, hilarious with tons of heart and with stories that make one care to enter the worlds that have been created in order to get to know the characters who reside there.
Ever wonder what toys do when their master isn’t playing with them? Toy Story settles that question with aplomb. They have their own lives, loves, envies, and troubles. They gambol around their master’s room, interact with one another, and have their own systems of communication. In Master Andy’s domain, the head honcho is a cowboy toy named Woody (Tom Hanks). He’s secure in his position as Andy’s favorite until a space age gizmo named Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) appears on the scene courtesy of Andy’s birthday party. Within hours, Woody has been replaced as the favorite by a toy who seems blissfully unaware that he isn’t human and doesn’t sense how much the old reliable Woody resents being replaced as numero uno.
Through an unfortunate set of circumstances the two tangling toys manage to get dropped into the outside world, and so their job (and the picture’s plot) is to get them back home without sustaining major damage. A few obstacles stand in their path: a fiendishly heinous kid next door who loves to torture toys, an imminent move by the family across town, and the toy population of Andy’s toy chest who are convinced Woody is trying to destroy Buzz and refuse to lend him any helping hands.
To say more would spoil the fun, surprises, and genuine suspense the two toys endure to make their way back home for those who are new to the movie, but it’s an eventful trip, as full of perils and scary situations as Dorothy’s adventures in Oz contained. And we get inside the hearts and souls of these computer animated creations to such an extent that we participate fully in their every scheme. It’s pure Pixar to humanize the most plastic of creations, and these cinematic inventions are no different. Tom Hanks provides the voice of Woody, and he’s an inspired choice, full of the bravado, sarcasm (the Hanks of old from his Bachelor Party-Nothing in Common period), and leadership which makes Woody a toy leader. Tim Allen’s Buzz isn’t quite as commanding, despite his character’s ego, but he makes a good foil for Hanks. Don Rickles is his usual sour self as Mr. Potato Head (he even gets to use his favorite “hockey puck” putdown legitimately), Jim Varney is an endearing Slink the dog, and John Ratzenburger makes appropriately acid comments as Hamm, the piggy bank.
The movie is not a musical, but Randy Newman contributes a few songs to capture the emotions of the moment: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” establishes the super close relationship between Woody and Andy (and became something of a Pixar theme song), and “Sailing No More” serves as a beautifully poignant hook when Buzz eventually learns he’s a toy after all and not a real space ranger. The film’s only real weakness involves the computer generated animation of the live characters both human and animal: it’s lackluster and somewhat generic, generally beyond the scope of the computer technology of the time. So much more can be done now with shadings and shapes as well as with different hair textures to give human characters more life and vivacity. Then again, the stars of the film are the toys, and their plastic appearances are beautifully realized with the tools the animators had at hand fifteen years ago.
The freshness of the concept and its generally magisterial handling (kudos to John Lasseter’s energetic direction that puts the viewer right into the picture through much of the film: the excursions into the vicious Sid’s room are genuinely suspenseful and the ending chase sequence can stand with the best live action chase scenes) make for a memorable comic adventure. With solid acting and an engrossing story with characters one comes to care enormously about, Toy Story richly deserves every accolade that was heaped upon it culminating in a special 1995 Academy Award for its achievement.
The picture has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. True to the quality of previous Pixar releases, the movie looks spectacular, as gorgeously colorful and sharp as one expects animated films brought forth from digital files to be. There isn’t a hint of banding in the image, and the richness of color will thoroughly astound you especially the deep, tantalizing burgundies and the crisp variations on green (from Rex the dinosaur to the plastic army men to Buzz’s luminous green paint). You’ll also revel in the superb detail such as reflections in Buzz’s space helmet and the clearly discernable patterns in Andy’s socks, the denim of Woody’s jeans, and so on, another reference transfer from Disney/Pixar. The film has been divided into 30 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio selection list offers 6.1 and 2.0 choices. I selected the 6.1 sound mix, and I wasn’t disappointed with the superlative breadth in the soundstage and with some key directionialzed dialogue adding to the ambiance of the sound field. There’s a nice low end to the music and effects (Sid’s dog has lower growls than a lion) and superb split surround effects keep the various channels plenty busy through much of the film’s running time.
The audio commentary is headed by director John Lasseter and includes six other members of the production staff including future Oscar winners Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter. Together they reminisce about the three year journey to get the film made, their favorite moments, and allusions to other Pixar products contained within the world of the movie. It's a must listen for fans of the movie.
These 1080p bonus features are new to this edition of Toy Story.
“Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Episode One: Blast Off” finds an actual Buzz action figure blasting off into space on his journey to the International Space Station. This lasts 3 ½ minutes.
“Paths to Pixar: Artists” has four Pixar employees discussing their backgrounds and how they came to work at one of the world’s most respected animation studios. This runs for 4 ¾ minutes.
“Studio Stories: John’s Car” has the celebrated director describing his beloved rattletrap of a car which he intended to keep until his bosses at Disney insisted he have a new one. This little tidbit runs 1 ½ minutes.
“Studio Stories: Baby AJ” involves one particular Pixar employee who dressed up as the baby in Tin Toy and won a Halloween contest at the studio which enabled him to go to Las Vegas for his wedding. This also runs 1 ½ minutes.
“Studio Stories” Scooter Races” has several Pixar employees remembering the old scooter races they had around the winding halls of the studio to break the tension from the pressures of work. This runs for 2 ¼ minutes.
“Buzz Takes Manhattan” describes the unveiling of the Buzz Lightyear balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with John Lasseter as one of the proud line holders. This runs for 3 ¼ minutes.
“Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw” was the catastrophic result of a Disney executive’s suggestions about improving the film and how it made the Pixar animators determined to stay true to their own vision. The story of the trouble and the footage that was so terrible is shown in the 7 ½-minute clip.
Sneak Peak” Toy Story 3 is a 2-minute look at the upcoming release of the film’s latest sequel with the film’s director introducing a few very select, very short moments.
There are 1080p trailers for, among others, The Princess and the Frog, James and the Giant Peach, and Beauty and the Beast.
The remaining bonus features are from previous releases of Toy Story on DVD. They’re all presented in 480p.
“The Filmmakers Reflect” is a 16 ½-minute reflection by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Joe Ranft on the many high and low points they experienced during the movie’s production.
“Making Toy Story” is the 20 ¼-minute making-of featurette repeating many of the stories told in the commentary about the film’s production.
“The Legacy of Toy Story” has the reactions of the animators and others (including Leonard Maltin and Roy Disney) to the finished work and its tremendous success in this 11 ¾-minute recollection.
“Designing Toy Story” is a 6 ¼-minute discussion showing the evolution from separate drawings to the finished computer renderings for both sets and characters.
There are ten deleted scenes or alternate ideas for scenes which can played separately or in one 18 ¾-minute grouping.
There are four separate montage art galleries for characters and scenes including sketch galleries (14 minutes), computer generated renderings (11 minutes), 3-D visualizations (5 ¾ minutes), and color shots (8 minutes).
The Story Gallery is arranged in three sections: pitches, storyreels, and a storyreel-to-finished film comparison. Together these run 14 minutes.
The Production section involves a tour of the facility, the layout tracks, the tour of the animation stations, and a multi-language comparison. Together these run 13 ¾ minutes.
In the Music and Sound section are the music video of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (2 ¼ minutes), a discussion of sound design by Gary Rydstrom (6 ½ minutes), and six Randy Newman demos of songs for the film (17 ½ minutes).
The Publicity section has a faux interview with Buzz and Woody along with trailers, TV spots, posters, and toys and other merchandise all in montage form.
Toy Story Treats are fifteen delightful shorts featuring the characters from the film in a series of encounters with one another.
The disc is BD-Live compliant, but the network was not operational during the review period.
The second disc in the set is a standard DVD release of the film with many of the new bonus features listed above also included.
4.5/5 (not an average)
The genesis of the Pixar stamp of quality is found right in its first animated feature Toy Story: enormous heart, hip humor that plays on different but equally appealing levels for adults and children, and dazzling sights and sounds that generate fresh enjoyment with each revisit. It goes without saying that this Blu-ray release is the finest the film has ever looked or sounded on home video, and the special edition package here that includes a host of new bonus features and a DVD copy of the movie should be the definitive release of this seminal motion picture. Highest recommendation!