Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Toy Story: Special Edition
Release Date(s)1995 (March 23, 2010)
Studio(s)Buena Vista Home Entertainment
I’ve always held a special place in my movie-loving heart for Toy Story since its release in 1995. For me, it will always be the finest work Pixar ever produced, by virtue of the fact that it told the most coherent and endearing story that the newborn animation studio ever pulled out of their hats (being the magicians that they are)... or maybe just because it came first.
It’s one of the few family films that never speaks specifically to a certain portion of an audience. Whether that audience is made up of nostalgic adults, children, or just anyone in need of being told a really good story, Toy Story delivers in spades no matter who you are. Besides being the first full-length computer animated film, it was also one of the first that wasn’t based on a fairy tale or required its characters to break into song; it relied solely on character and story, without heavy-handed musical numbers, over-the-top comic relief or dead-end animation extravaganzas. Every moment in the movie is designed to move the story forward, without stopping to waste time by going off on tangents that ruin the pace of many of its 2D counterparts. The movie has certainly aged due to the leaps and advances in the ever-expanding field of computer animation, but the quality hasn’t deteriorated at all. It still holds firm, touching and entertaining us as much as it did 15 years ago. Brilliantly directed and designed, it stands as the benchmark for all that followed as one of the greatest animated films ever made.
For the movie’s debut in high definition, Disney has really put together a terrific package. This release is over-loaded with content that should make enthusiasts very happy. Not only have they included brand new content, but almost all of the material from previous releases on DVD has been carried over (with some exceptions, which I’ll get into a little later).
First of all, the video presentation is just gorgeous. These movies have never looked better, and with a digital-to-digital transfer, everything holds up really well. There are spots in the movie where some areas in the background appear to be a bit soft and some very light digital noise can be seen, but I think this has more to do with the rendering than the actual frames of the film. Some Digital Noise Removal might have been put to use, but it’s really difficult to tell. Regardless, it’s been given a fantastic looking treatment and it’s just as lush and textured as you would expect, especially from a 15 year old digital film. The soundtrack is just as fantastic. Expertly mixed and layered, it should give your home theatre system an excellent workout. You get 5 audio options here: English DTS-HD 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, English DTS-HD 2.0 and English DVS 2.0. With that many options, there should a minimal amount of room for complaint (as if there could be). It also contains 3 sets of subtitles: English, French and Spanish. There’s also an additional option to Maximize Your Home Theatre, which allows you to run tests to calibrate your system’s video and audio. Now, if you’ll just bare with me, we’ll dig into the extras (this may take a while).
Straight away, it’s obvious that this package was geared very heavily toward Blu-ray enthusiasts and serious fans of the film. The animated menus feature concept artwork that slides by while you’re browsing through the options, which is a very lovely touch and gets you in the right mindset for the plethora of content you’ll be exploring. To start the Blu-ray features off, you get the first part of the 2-part Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek: The Story (the other is on the Toy Story 2 Blu-ray). It’s brief, but it’s just enough to get you excited and ready for June when it gets released. Next up is an audio commentary featuring 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. This is a great commentary, and as you’ll see in the other extras, a lot of these guys are high energy and keep things interesting at all times. Next is the Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Blast Off featurette, which showcases Buzz’s trip to the International Space Station orbiting Earth. It was produced in cooperation with NASA and is a cute extra that more or less is a brief education on what it’s like for astronauts on the station (with Buzz floating around, of course). Next is the short featurette Paths to Pixar – Artists, which features several of Pixar’s animators talking about their experiences with the studio. Following all that up are three brief Studio Stories featurettes: John’s Car, Baby AJ and Scooter Races. They are more or less tiny tidbits of things that took place during the production of the movie. Buzz Takes Manhattan is another brief segment documenting Buzz Lightyear’s recent appearance at the Macy’s Day Parade. Perhaps the most interesting new extra is the Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw featurette. It gives new insight into the original storyboard reel of the movie that was a direct product of studio meddling, which gave it a much edgier and darker tone. Only a few minutes of the actual reel is shown, which is a shame because I personally would like to have seen the entire 30 minute reel played down. Perhaps they’ll hold that one over for a future release. One can only hope. Ending these features is a short segment on Disney DVD and Digital Copy, along with a BD-Live option.
Now that covers the NEW features. In a separate menu titled Classic DVD Bonus Features, you get four documentaries: Filmmakers Reflect, Making Toy Story, The Legacy of Toy Story and Designing Toy Story. It all equals out to about an hour of material and is well worth a look. Following all that up is a set of 10 deleted sequences with a couple of intros. 2 of them are almost fully animated while the other 8 are from the storyboards. There are definitely some interesting moments that came under the knife (including material that went into Toy Story 2), but nothing the film can’t do without. Next up are a long set of Design Gallery slideshows divided up into three categories: Concept Designs, 3-D Visualization and Color). Several featurettes follow, including those for Story (“Green Army Men” Pitch with an intro, “Andy’s New Toy” Storyreel and “The Chase” Storyreel/Film Comparison), Production (Production Tour, Layout Tricks, Animation Tour and Multi-Language Reel) and finally Music & Sound (“You’ve Got a Friend in Me” Music Video, Designing Sound and a set of 6 Randy Newman Song Demos). Following all of that up is a section for all of the Publicity materials including: Character Interview (Woody and Buzz), trailers, TV spots, posters, Toys & Stuff and Toy Story Treats, which contain 15 ABC bumpers (Hobbies, Dreams, Space Rangers, Games, Rex at Play, Hamm Salesman, Night Time, Thrill Ride, TV Time, Professor Rex, Fast Food, Alien Encounter, Go Fish, Mrs. Nesbit and the entire Buzz Lightyear Commercial. At long last, it all concludes with a Sneak Peeks section featuring a Disney Movie Rewards commercial, Toy Story 1 and 2, The Princess and the Frog, James and the Giant Peach: Special Edition, a Disney Parks commercial, Toy Story 3, an On Blu-ray Disc segment and Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition. As for the DVD version that’s included, it features the NEW extras only, along with additional Sneak Peeks for Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Phineas and Ferb and fewer audio and subtitle options. Whew. On a side note, you may want to set aside a day or even a couple of days to cull through all of this material.
Now the question that most people have been asking is “has all of the extra material from the previous DVD releases made it onto this one?” The answer is “no.” While they have done an enormous amount of work to cram as much as they can into this set, some things have been left over from previous releases, most notably from the Toy Story: Ultimate Toy Box set. The Isolated 5.1 Sound Effects-Only Track, the Story Behind Toy Story featurette, the Tin Toy animated short and the preview for Buzz Lightyear: The Adventure Begins are not present. As are the following from Disc Three of that set: the Introduction to the Supplemental Features, most of the ABC bumpers (there were around 50 included and only 15 on the Blu-ray set), the entire History section (History and Development – Interviews with the Filmmakers, Early Test Footage, Original Story Treatments, Production Notes and Cast Biographies), a couple of Story segments (Editing and Abandoned Concepts), several Computer Animation segments (Character Animation, Shaders and Lighting, Building a Shot, Production Progression Demonstration – Multiple Angles and Special Effects), a Randy Newman Biography and Render Bugs: Rendering Errors.
Now you may look at that list and think ‘Wow, that’s an awful lot of material that they left out!’ The truth is that you’re right, but you have to understand that you can only fit so much material on these discs, and what they have managed to include is a LOT. So my advice would be to hold on to your copy of the Toy Story: Ultimate Toy Box set, but definitely upgrade to the high definition release. More than likely, we’ll see another release in the future – sometime after Toy Story 3 gets a home video release (perhaps in a large ultimate package containing all 3 movies and all of the missing material). For now though, this is a definite must-buy, along with the sequel that’s being released the same day. Be sure to check both of them out.
- Tim Salmons