There are certain movies you wait for when a new format is introduced and Toy Story is one of them. I’ve owned these movies on VHS as well as DVD, so the upgrade to Blu-ray was a no-brainer. Sure that’s triple-dipping, but with movies that are classics like Toy Story and Toy Story 2 it’s hard to pass up seeing the films in a new realm of digital clarity. And the presentations certainly don’t disappoint—with a beautiful 1080p transfer adorning both and a DTS-HD MA track to accompany them as well, the Blu-ray releases of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 will definitely stand out in your home theater. Plus it doesn’t hurt that when you’re picking these up for the third time around you get two free movie tickets (one per film) to Toy Story 3.
A Golden Globe® Award winner for Best Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical, Toy Story 2 has become a favorite all across the world, garnering praise from fans and critics everywhere. It’s “an instant classic,” raved New York Magazine. While Andy is away at summer camp, Woody is toynapped by Al McWhiggin, a greedy collector who needs Andy’s favorite toy to complete his “Woody’s Roundup” collection. Together with Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack), Bullseye, and the Prospector, Woody is on his way to a museum where he’ll spend the rest of his life behind glass. It’s up to Buzz, Mr. Potato Head, Hamm, Rex, and Slinky Dog to rescue their friend and remind him what being a toy is all about.
Considering it’s been fifteen years since Toy Story originally debuted in theaters (and eleven for Toy Story 2), I honestly can’t recall which of these films I actually saw in the theater. I still remember going to a theater (that’s no longer in existence) at a local mall to see this film with my dad and brother. While my dad wasn’t impressed with the film, my brother and I were and absolutely loved every minute of it. Of course I was only eight at the time so I loved anything in animation, but Pixar films always stood out to me after that moment. I just honestly don’t remember whether it was the first or second film that I saw in that theater—I’d hoped watching them again after all these years would jog my memory, but there was so much about these films I didn’t even remember that it’d be near impossible to try to jog my memory any further. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t matter—they’re both excellent films and as wary as I may be about the third film coming out eleven years after the last one I just have to remind myself that it’s Pixar. Even when Pixar does something less than stellar, I still can’t help but love the films anyway (A Bugs Life and Cars, I’m looking at you).
Strictly speaking these films aren’t that structurally different; while Toy Story is more of a Buzz Lightyear focused outing, the sequel shifted focus onto Woody and his toy legacy. But despite the prettier CGI used in the sequel, it’s the first film that I’ll always remember the most as it was not only a unique take on animation back in 1995, but it was also just a story that worked exceptionally well. As many moments as there were for kids there were just that many for adults (and now that I’m an adult I can fully enjoy both) and that’s really always been a key thing with Pixar films. Of course I don’t know what my Dad’s problem was with the film; he just didn’t like animated films at all, I guess.
While Toy Story may be the defining film in the series, Toy Story 2 set a precedent that Disney movies could have sequels that weren’t DTV annoyances. With its Buzz Lightyear infused opening that mixed more of the Lightyear story into the series as well as a healthy dosage of Star Wars (sound effects included) references, Toy Story 2 immediately started out with a greater levity than the first film. Plus it had the added bonus of us knowing the entire cast already, so once the new characters came on screen it was able to flow into their origins much more smoothly. As I said in my Toy Story review, the scope of the world is opened up quite a bit in this film. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that they’ve moved into a new home and area, but the idea of the toys venturing outside of Andy’s room just didn’t seem to be that scary anymore. Although that may be because I wanted to see how they’d react by being in a toy store.
The real focus of this film though was the expansion on Woody; he’s kind of put in the same ego-enforced position that Buzz was in the first film, so essentially this film is kind of just the same one with some role-reversal going on. It is just different enough that it doesn’t feel like a complete retread of the same concept, however; the idea of Woody being a vintage toy that’s incredibly valuable is unique to the film and that whole situation with him and the rest of the “Woody’s Roundup” gang led to some of the best sequences in the film. Of course while this film was a bit lighter on the Randy Newman songs, it had the Sarah McLachlan “When She Loved Me” song (written by Newman) which was probably one of the more heart-wrenching songs to come out of Pixar at that time. I’ve yet to see a single bit of animation that was anymore heart-wrenching and character rounding at the same time (except maybe the opening to Up).
While Toy Story 2 was really just more of the same with a more refined sheen, it’s just as fun as the first one was. In fact I watched the two films back-to-back and as similar as they were, they both have their fair share of reasons to watch. Whether it’s the expansion on Woody’s character, the extra screen time with Andy’s other toys, or watching Buzz gawk at the aisle full of Buzz Lightyear action figures (and subsequently get into a fight with one) Toy Story 2 is truly one of the best sequels ever made to one of the greatest animated movies of all time. Highly Recommended.
The two films arrive in similar packages, with two varieties for the buying public: a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set and a two-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo set. Yeah, they’re identical in appearance except the former is in a Blu-ray Elite case and the latter is in a standard DVD Amaray case. Its clever marketing on Disney’s part, since either way the Blu-ray format gets adopted…plus, combined with the $10 off coupons floating around for each film and the sales available during its first week of release you could grab these films for under $20 for the set. At that price how can you afford to not triple dip?
My copies arrived in the Blu-ray Elite setup, with a reflective foil/embossed slipcover and a series of inserts on the inside including the DisneyMovieRewards code (which doubles as your movie ticket redemption code), a sheet advertising the Blu-ray format as well as an upgrade program for them, and the usual multi-page foldout booklet for future Disney releases. Disc art inside mimic the cover art (on both the DVD and Blu-ray editions) and…well, that’s it, really. It’s a nice presentation and the foil reflection really makes the cover pop.
Video is a AVC encoded 1080p transfer and…wow. That’s all I’ll say. I popped this disc in expecting some fuzzy animation (all of those years watching it on VHS I guess) but what immediately came on my screen was pure digital clarity. While Toy Story had some issues pop up that were related to the dated animation, Toy Story 2 just blew me away utterly and completely. The color palette in this film was much more extreme than in the last one; it starts out as such even, with the Buzz Lightyear video game in the opening sequence. We get another dosage of color in the toy shop; the Barbie aisle was especially interesting as I thought something was wrong with my TV because of how pink the screen was getting, but I quickly realized it was just a very hot pink infused sequence. Everything from the retro Woody’s Roundup toys to the debut of Emperor Zurg just looked absolutely fantastic here especially the Zurg bits. The neon lighting and glow-in-the-dark features of Buzz Lightyear’s armor are just absolutely fantastic in HD and will make you satisfied you dropped that huge sum on a TV.
Audio is similarly fantastic, with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix (although my PS3 claimed it was a 6.1 track) driving the entire film from start to finish. While the first film seemed content with blasting me at random times with the LFE, the sequel is a bit more leveled out with subtle LFE and surround usage throughout the film. The street crossing segment is a remarkable bit of sound play, with cars whirring in surrounds and the subwoofer thumping every time a collision occurs. Of course the fact that the world is so huge to the toys makes even the smallest environmental element much louder and focused; it’s interesting to hear chopping a small plant with Buzz’s karate chop action, since it’d barely be a whisper to us, but to them it’s a true aural experience.
Extras for this release are a mix of the old and the new. Those new to this release:
• Characters: An Exclusive Sneak Peek At Toy Story 3
• Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs:
o Episode Two: International Space Station – Buzz reports back about his adventure to the International Space Station.
• Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists – In this series of shorts, Pixar artists talk about their career path and share advice to aspiring filmmakers and animators.
• Studio Stories: A series of amusing anecdotal shorts about life at Pixar.
o “Toy Story 2 Sleep Deprivation Lab” gives audiences an inside peek into the intense time pressures under which the Toy Story 2 editors found themselves.
o “Studio Stories: Pinocchio” shows an impromptu competition between the animators to decorate their workspace by throwing toys into the ceiling.
o “Studio Stories: The Movie Vanishes” tells how a mischievous technical error almost erased all of Toy Story 2 from the computer system.
• Pixar’s Zoetrope – A look at the creation of the live-action zoetrope that Pixar created to capture the principles of animation in a live sculpture.
• Celebrating our Friend Joe Ranft – A tribute to beloved Disney and Pixar story man Joe Ranft, regarded as one of the industry’s most gifted story artists.
The above extras are all presented in HD; they’re also really quite brief for the most part. They only add up to about thirty-three minutes of extras, but there’s an hour’s worth of extras from the previous DVD release ported over here, including a Director’s Commentary which tackles a myriad of concerns over making a sequel to a film of Toy Story’s caliber and success. Unfortunately you’ll have already seen those between the various DVD release of Toy Story over the years, but it’s nice to have it all in one package.
Overall Toy Story 2 is a Highly Recommended Blu-ray to own. Sure you have it on DVD already, but if ever there was a film to own in multiple formats it’s Toy Story–it just looks and sounds flat out amazing on Blu-ray and if you’ve enjoyed the film as much as I have over the years then you’ll likely give into picking this up anyway.
Toy Story 2 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.