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Toy Story (1995)/Toy Story 2 (1999)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/23/2010

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/1/2010

Those of you who are familiar with this site know that I typically review the movie and then segue into a discussion of the Blu-ray Disc or DVD. Well, for the review of the Toy Story and Toy Story 2 Blu-ray Discs, I'm going to shake things up a bit and say "Upgrade!". I'll get into the technical specifics later, but for now, let me say that these movies look fantastic. They have always looked good on home video, but you will see things here which you've never seen before. It may be corny and cliched, but it was like watching the movies again for the first time.

Speaking of which, 1995 seems like a lifetime ago. Disney's traditional animated division was still on a roll, as The Lion King had been released in 1994, and Pocahontas arrived in 1995. At that point, today's other animated studios, such as Dreamworks, hadn't entered the game. So, when Toy Story arrived, it was literally something which we'd never seen before. As the first feature-length computer-animated film, Toy Story would have received attention, but actually being a good movie made it all the better.

Toy Story introduces us to Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), a cowboy doll who belongs to a boy named Andy (voiced by John Morris). He is Andy's favorite toy and he is in charge of the other toys, all of whom come to life when people aren't looking. However, things change when Andy receives an astronaut toy called Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) for his birthday. The toys are impressed by all of Buzz's bells-and-whistles, and the fact that he actually thinks that he's on an alien planet only makes him more interesting. Woody becomes very jealous and tries to discredit Buzz. When an accident places them outside of the house, they must team up to get back to Andy.

Again, going back to 1995, I saw Toy Story in the theaters twice, not only because the movie was funny and entertaining, but fascinating as well. Since the early 90s, we had seen CG effects and some minor CG characters in live-action films, but a full-length movie was something new. The 3-D qualities of the image and the imagination involved was delightful and the fact that the movie used familiar real-life toys made it easy to relate to the movie. True, the story has some road-bumps in the third act, but the movie's brief running time make these tolerable. Again, Toy Story could have easily been a novelty act, but the movie has heart and it's easy to walk away loving Woody and Buzz (even thought Woody is a jerk at times).

Nobody loves a sequel than Disney and Toy Story 2 was slated for release in 1999. But, did you know that the movie was supposed to go direct to video. However, after seeing the film and the amount of work which was put into it, Disney opted for a theatrical release. This was probably a wise decision, as the movie grossed nearly $250 million.

As Toy Story 2 opens, we see that all is well in Andy's room, as Buzz and Woody are now friends. But, when Andy is taken from a yard sale by toy store owner Al (voiced by Wayne Knight). Buzz must rally the other toys to stage a rescue mission. Meanwhile, in Al's apartment, Woody meets a cowgirl doll named Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack) and a horse named Bullseye. Through them, Woody learns about his past.

Toy Story 2 takes the typical "if you can't make it better, make it bigger" approach to sequels. While the toys ventured out and about in Toy Story, the second film places more of an emphasis on locations outside of Andy's room. The toys go across town to Al's toy store, where they meet many other toys, including Barbie. Toy Story 2 puts more of an emphasis on action and comedy, and while the movie may not have the heart of the first one, it's sill an exciting ride. (A footnote on that "heart" comment, the scene where we learn Jessie's backstory may be one of the most depressing in film history.)

Toy Story and Toy Story 2 say howdy, howdy, howdy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The films have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Discs contain AVC 1080p HD transfers which run at an average of 20 Mbps. Again, the image is pristine and must be seen to be believed. Just look at the texture on objects such as Mr. Potato Head. I would swear that I've never seen that before. The crispness of the image is breathtaking and the colors look fantastic. Even those in the room who normally don't notice AV issues commented on how good it looked. The Discs carry a DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The sound is very impressive (although not quite as much as the video). The stereo effects are nicely detailed and show good separation. The surround sound effects are excellent as well, and do a fine job of encasing the viewer in the action. We get excellent "thumps" from the subwoofer.

The Toy Story Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. For starters, we get a new AUDIO COMMMENTARY with Director John Lasseter, Co-Writer Andrew Stanton, Supervising Animator Pete Docter, Art Director Ralph Eggleston, Supervising Technical Director Bill Reeves, and Producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold. "Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Blast Off" (3 minutes) is a short which plays like a commercial for NASA. "Paths to Pixar: Artists" (5 mintues) allows some Pixar employees to discuss their positions at the company and their influences. "Studio Stories: John's Car" (90 seconds) is an animated short about Lasseter's questionable car. "Studio Stories: Baby AJ" (90 seconds) is another short about a costume contest. "Studio Stories: Scooter Races" (2 minutes) shows how the artists would ride scooters in their huge office. "Buzz Takes Manhattan" (2 minutes) discusses having Buzz in the Macy's Parade. "Black Friday" (8 minutes) is the best extra here, as it reveals an early story-reel for the film which had a much more morose tone. Lasseter and co. discuss how Disney executives kept pushing them to make an "edgier" movie and it only lead to unlikable characters. Essentially, a lot of this is fluff. The good info is included in the "Classic DVD Bonus Features", and as this is Toy Story's third home video release in the last decade or so, we've all seen these features by now.

The extras on the Toy Story 2 Blu-ray Disc are very similar to those found on Toy Story. We get an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director John Lasseter, Co-Directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon and Co-Writer Andrew Stanton. There is another "Buzz Lightyear: Mission Log" (4 minutes) episode. "Paths to Pixar" (4 minutes) introduces us to more Pixar employees. Three more "Studio Stories" entries show us how much fun the Pixar folks have. "Pixar's Zoetrope" (2 minutes) is a look at how animation works using sculptures. "Celebrating Our Friend Joe Ranft" (13 minutes) is a tribute to the late animator. Again, the real meat is in the "Classic DVD Bonus Features".

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long