Toy Story 2: Special Edition (Blu-ray)
Directed by John Lasseter
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 92 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1, 2.0; Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Review Date: March 18, 2010
In the annals of Hollywood moviemaking, there are only a handful of sequels which managed to surpass the greatness of their original films (The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, and Aliens come immediately to mind). Toy Story 2 is undoubtedly a member of that illustrious club. A thrilling, hilarious amalgamation of the patented Pixar humor and heart, Toy Story 2 takes everything that was wonderful and special about the original movie and expands on its premise tenfold. The sequel is funnier, much more inventive, and so filled with action set pieces that it could easily qualify as an action film as much as a comedy. None of the honestly earned sentiment, however, is lost in a film that is simply a marvel in every respect. The Hollywood Foreign Press voted it the best comedy or musical film produced in 1999 (in competition with all live action films), and it was a richly deserved honor. Toy Story 2 only grows more impressive with each successive viewing.
When their owner Andy (John Morris) goes off to summer camp leaving a depressed Woody (Tom Hanks) behind because of a small rip in his shirt, the toys in Andy’s room seem to have some time to themselves. Things take a bad turn, however. when obsessive toy collector Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight) kidnaps Woody because he is a highly valuable collector's item, a merchandising doll from a long forgotten 1950s kiddie show called “Woody’s Roundup.” Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Rex (Wallace Shawn), and Hamm (John Ratzenberger) all leap into action to rescue Woody and get him home before Andy returns from camp.
The brilliant screenwriters for the film (Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin, Chris Webb) have two actual plots in constant motion during much of the movie: Woody’s experiences in Al’s room as he meets other characters from his “Woody’s Roundup” days and becomes enraptured with his status as a celebrity, and the dangerous quest by his pals to rescue Woody from Al’s clutches. Each of the stories is equally involving and filled with terrific humor, and the dramatic action continues to build and build (the simple crossing of a street is packed with so much tense action and humor it should be a textbook on how to construct action scenes) right to a hair-raising climax at the airport as Woody and Jessie are about to take off for Tokyo. As expected, the animation bristles with creative ideas, and director John Lasseter and his team do such a tremendous balancing act (at one point there are two Buzz Lightyear dolls in play, and they even concoct a mystery of sorts involving an unknown traitor in Woody’s story) in keeping their stories constantly moving forward with tremendous tension and suspense. Things do take a momentary pause, of course, for that rapturous sequence in which Jessie (Joan Cusack, singing voice of Sarah McLachlan) relates the affecting story of her previous life with owner Emily through the moving Randy Newman song “When She Loved Me.” Matched only in poignance with the pantomime sequence of the love affair and marriage in Up, this is Toy Story 2 at its zenith, firing on all cylinders.
All of the terrific voice actors from the first film return for the second film in the series, and they’ve only gained in precious lovability in the years between the two movies. Joining in on the fun this go-round are Joan Cusack as the spirited and no nonsense Jessie, Kelsey Grammer as the sage and sneaky Stinky Pete the Prospector, Wayne Knight as the shifty, calculating Al, Jodi Benson as the hilariously chipper Barbie, the late Pixar story editor Joe Ranft as injured penguin toy Wheezy, and Oscar-winning director Andrew Stanton as the evil Buzz archenemy Emperor Zurg.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Gorgeously appointed and tremendously sharp, the transfer is next-to-perfect in all respects. Only the tiniest bit of aliasing glimpsed for a few seconds in the parking lot at Al’s Toy Barn prevents this from being another positively reference level Pixar transfer. Otherwise, outstanding color depth, incredible details in objects, and the stunning dimensionality of the images is as wonderful and impressive as one could want. There isn’t a hint of banding or any other problematic artifacts in this marvelous release. The film has been divided into 35 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 audio track can stand its ground with the sound design of any current action-adventure live action films. The extent of the ambient sounds in the split surrounds is continually impressive, and bass reaches impressive depths, particularly in the brilliantly designed outer space gaming sequence which begins the movie. This is a surround track to savor again and again. (For the record, the Blu-ray menu lists this as DTS-HD MA 5.1-ES, but the PS3 names it as a 6.1 audio track.) A DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track is also among the included audio selections, but I didn’t listen to it.
The audio commentary is headed by director John Lasseter, and he’s joined by co-directors Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon, and story writer Andrew Stanton. It’s another amicable remembrance of a joyous experience in making the film which fans of the movie will want to listen to.
Unless otherwise noted, the following bonus features are new to Blu-ray and presented in 1080p:
“The Story: An Exclusive Sneak Peek at Toy Story 3” has director of the sequel Lee Unkrich introducing the new characters which will be in the new film along with many of the old favorites from the previous two movies. This featurette lasts 4 minutes.
“Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs – Episode Two” continues the exploits of a Buzz action figure aboard the International Space Station in this 3 ¾-minute featurette.
“Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists” has six more Pixar craftsmen telling the stories of the paths to their careers at Pixar. This vignette lasts 4 ½ minutes.
“Studio Stories: Sleep Deprivation Lab” is a 1 ½-minute story about how difficult it was for the editors of the film to get their work done to meet deadlines.
“Studio Stories: Pinocchio” is a silly remembrance by some animators who decorated the ceiling of the old Pixar offices with any manner of object flung into it including an old Pinocchio doll. This lasts for 2 ¼ minutes.
“Studio Stories: The Movie Vanishes” recounts a hair-raising experience in which the digital files for the movie were accidentally erased and only retrieved by a true quirk of fate. This lasts 2 ½ minutes.
“Pixar Zoetrope” is the story of the creation of a live action zoetrope which Pixar created to illustrate the principles of animation to the general public. This fascinating glimpse of its creation (which uses characters from the Toy Story films) runs for 2 minutes.
“Celebrating Our Friend Joe Ranft” is a moving tribute to Pixar story man and voice actor Joe Ranft who died during the production of Cars. This lovely remembrance of him runs for 12 ¾ minutes. It’s in 1080i.
The vintage DVD bonus features carried over to this Blu-ray release are presented in 480i:
“Making Toy Story” presents the film’s three directors and other key staff members discussing their intent for the sequel to be as great as the original while staying true to the story and spirit of the original while producing it on a much larger canvas. This interesting overview runs for 8 ¼ minutes.
A profile of director John Lasseter has the various members of the production team extolling his strengths as a director of the project and a leader at Pixar. It runs 3 minutes.
“Cast of Characters” introduces us to the new voice actors at work along with the familiar returning players all describing their experiences on the movie. It runs 3 ½ minutes.
The outtakes which run over the closing credits are presented here without the scrolling credits in a 5 ½-minute presentation.
“Jessie’s Gag” was an Easter egg on a previous Toy Story 2 release and has a lighter take on the poignant song used to establish Jessie’s personality in the movie. It runs 1 ¼ minutes.
“Who’s the Coolest Toy” finds the voice actors trying to decide who the coolest toy in the movie is. It’s a 3 ¼-minute vignette.
The Rider in the Sky Music Medley combines several songs used in the two films as sung by the artists who sing the “Woody’s Roundup” song in the movie. The medley lasts for 3 ¼ minutes.
There is a ¾-minute montage of autographed black and white photographs from principal toy cast members.
There are two deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or together along with an introduction, all of which together run 4 ¼ minutes.
The Design section of the disc has musically accompanied montages of the characters (16 ¾ minutes), 3-D visualizations of the characters (11 minutes), and the color script for the film in various drawings (4 ½ minutes).
The Production section of the disc (which together runs 13 ¾ minutes) has been divided into six sections: Woody’s past, Woody’s Roundup, a production tour, early animation tests, special effects, and an international scene.
The Music and Sound section (which together runs 14 ¼ minutes) includes a featurette on designing the sound, making the songs, the “Woody’s Roundup” music video, and the Jessie song demo by composer Randy Newman.
The Publicity section (which together runs 8 ½ minutes) has a faux interview with Buzz and Woody, trailers for the film, TV spots, a montage of posters, and a brief clip of Baseball Woody.
The disc contains 1080p trailers for, among other films, James and the Giant Peach, Toy Story 3, Beauty and the Beast, and The Princess and the Frog.
The disc is BD-Live ready, but the network had not been activated during the review period for the movie.
Disc two in the set is the DVD release of the movie.
5/5 (not an average)
Toy Story 2 finally arrives on Blu-ray in a rousingly welcome high definition transfer that makes the film’s humor and heart ever more immediate and affecting. A fine selection of new and vintage featurettes and a DVD copy of the film increase the necessity of fans of the film updating their collections with this fantastic new rendering. Highest recommendation!