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.
Toy Story, the first full-length computer-animated feature film, is “a wonder to behold.” – People Magazine. Experience a hilarious fantasy about the lives toys lead when they’re left alone. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), an old-fashioned cowboy doll, is Andy’s favorite. But when Andy gets Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) for his birthday, the flashy new space hero takes Andy’s room by storm! Their rivalry leaves them lost with a toy’s worst nightmare — Sid, the toy-torturing boy next door. Woody and Buzz must work together to escape, realizing along the way that they’ve got a friend… in each other!
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.
Toy Story may be slightly offensive to the sights now with so many other Pixar films making much grander splashes, but for me it’s the story in this film that beats out any other Pixar outing since. It’s a simple tale of friendship, sure, but there’s just a lot of adventure to be had here. While going out into the real world seemed like no big deal in the sequel, this first film made it a much more daring and scary thing. It was a much more unknown and bigger world back in the first film and while I’m certainly not faulting the sequel for removing that element (it’d been used once, no reason to stick with it for a second film), it just worked so well in the first film. It ultimately led to the friendship between Woody and Buzz who, despite spending two short films together (as of this writing), for some reason always stuck out in my young mind as the ideal example of what two friends should be.
This all sounds very corny of course, but when you grow up with a film it has a much different impact on you than just watching it when you’re older (although I imagine Pixar’s latest effort, Up, will probably provide quite the dropkick to the tear ducts for audiences when they get older too). While the human and animal animation may be a bit wonky in this first film (especially the dog, Scud, as his model had more than a few…oddities to it), the animations of the toys themselves look just as good here as they did in the sequel. I expect a bit of a cleanup in the newest outing, of course, but honestly they could just re-use these models over again and I wouldn’t mind.
Overall Toy Story still holds up to be a Must See film. It’s simply one of the best animated films out there…period.
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. Of course this also brought into light the animation flaws that occasionally crop up in this film (like fuzzy or aliased textures in the background), but there’s no denying that this isn’t an incredibly beautiful transfer from start to finish. It just drips clarity and is the very definition of what makes the Blu-ray format so exceptional. When you can pair an all-digital affair like this with high-definition Blu-ray A/V, then it all just makes that massive home theater investment worth it. The colors, fluid animation (Scud not included), and environmental settings are just absolutely brilliant; even in the dark gloom of Sid’s room there are some fantastic bursts of color and lighting that just further help this film pop off the screen.
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. Randy Newman’s terrific soundtrack came through crystal clear and clean and environmental sound effects (like the thunderstorm later in the film) filled the surround speakers to the point I thought it was actually raining outside my window. The subwoofer was also quite forceful (a lot more than I thought it’d be too, much to the dismay of those in my vicinity…at 2am in the morning), with characters like Rex the Dinosaur thudding and roaring around the room (on the two occasions he did, at least) with excellent clarity. Honestly the subwoofer didn’t speak up that often, but when it did you took notice; the greatest example of the mix came at the end though with the firing of the rocket; zooming cars flying by in the speakers, subwoofer booming from the rocket firing (and subsequent explosion) and the eventual glide down was just made all the better with the surround system.
Extras for this release are a mix of the old and the new. Those new to this release:
• The Story: An Exclusive Sneak Peek at Toy Story 3
• Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs:
o Episode One: Blast Off – Buzz reports back about his adventure to the International Space Station.
• Paths to Pixar: 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 “John’s Car” recounts how Toy Story director John Lasseter refused to stop driving his beat-up car even after the film’s success.
o “Baby AJ” tells the hilarious story of how important Halloween is to the Pixar team and how one Pixar employee dressed up as the oversized baby from the short Tin Toy to win a prize.
o “Scooter Races” takes the audience on a rousing scooter race around the studio with John Lasseter and other employees.
• Buzz Takes Manhattan – Spectacular footage from Buzz Lightyear’s premiere as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.
• Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw – The Toy Story filmmakers discuss the early cut of the film that very nearly shut down production entirely.
The above extras are all presented in HD; they’re also really quite brief for the most part. They only add up to about twenty-five minutes of extras, but it’s the other ninety minutes from the previous DVD releases that are probably going to keep you occupied the most (including a crowded Audio Commentary with Director John Lasseter, co-writer Andrew Stanton, art director Ralph Eggleston, supervising animator Pete Docter, supervising technical director Bill Reeves, and producers Ralph Gugenheim and Bonnie Arnold). 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 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 is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.