Toy Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.77:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While I couldn't call the picture totally flawless, I can say it came pretty close; this was an excellent presentation.
Sharpness looked virtually immaculate. At no time did I discern any signs of softness or fuzziness, as the image seemed crisp and accurate throughout the film. Jagged edges and shimmering caused no problems, and I failed to see any signs of edge enhancement. No print flaws were present, probably because Toy didn't come from a print; it was a direct digital transfer from the original computer data, so there are no defects that could come with it. As such, I saw no problems whatsoever in this film; it looked absolutely clear and fresh.
Colors were a highlight of Toy. The movie featured a nicely-varied palette that offered lush, vibrant tones at all times. From the bright primary colors of many of the toys to more subtle hues such as the lovely sunlight featured in the sunset scenes, the disc presented tones that always looked accurate and clean.
Black levels seemed deep and dark, with no signs of murkiness or muddiness, and contrast appeared strong. Shadow detail also looked clear and smooth, with appropriate opacity but no excessive darkness. The best examples of this occurred when Buzz and Woody were beneath the truck at the gas station; these presented just the right level of shade without any heaviness or thickness. Ultimately, the image of Toy Story seemed nearly ideal; it wasn’t quite as stunning as more recent CG animated films, but it still looked great.
When I headed to the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Toy Story, I found another delightful experience. At all times, the forward spectrum displayed a nicely broad array. Audio was placed specifically and precisely located. We even got a lot of solid directional dialogue.
As for the surrounds, they showed very good use of all five channels. The audio provided a nicely active and convincing environment that complemented the action onscreen and added a lot to the experience. Granted, the last third became the “highlight reel” since it included most of the real action, but the first two acts offered plenty of good material as well. The surrounds contributed a nice layer of depth to the package.
Sound quality also seemed very good. Dialogue appeared warm and natural and always was easily intelligible. Edginess was only a minor issue. Randy Newman's score and songs came across as clean and smooth. The music always seemed crisp and detailed, and the songs appeared reasonably dynamic. Effects sounded similarly rich and detailed, with no signs of distortion. Bass response seemed quite strong. All of this added up to a very fine audio experience.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to the film’s DVD version? Both showed improvements, though these were more mild in the auditory range. The lossless soundtrack boasted a bit more heft and smoothness.
While the 10th Anniversary DVD – and the original 2000 version – looked great, they still suffered from the limitations of SD-DVD. With the extra Blu-ray resolution, the movie got a real chance to shine. Bar none, the Blu-ray offered a definite step up in visual quality over earlier DVDs.
The Blu-ray mixes new elements with old ones. I’ll go over the repeat supplements first and then cover the Blu-ray exclusives. If you want to leap straight to the fresh stuff, just look for the special blue print.
Most of the repeat materials appear under the banner of “Classic DVD Bonus Features”. Though it was originally recorded in 1996 for a laserdisc – and also showed up on the prior DVDs – an excellent audio commentary winds up lumped with the new components. It offers remarks from director John Lasseter, producers Ralph Guggenheim > and Bonnie Arnold, co-writer Andrew Stanton, supervising animator Pete Docter, supervising technical director Bill Reeves, and art designer Ralph Eggleston. All of the participants were recorded together in one session.
Although I often don't like commentaries that pack in multiple participants at the same session - they can become chaotic - this one is an absolutely wonderful track that provides a very solid look at the making of the film. The discussion seems animated and lively, and the filmmakers' ebullience comes through at all times. Not surprisingly, Lasseter dominates the conversation, but all of the players insert useful information.
Though commentaries for animated films often dwell on technical issues, this one looks at the flick from the creative end. We get many fine notes about the cast, the characters, and the story. The track delves into inspirations and influences for various aspects of the movie, and it also talks about the way these areas developed. Some technical matters appear as well, but even those tend toward the creative side, as they usually pop up in the form of production design and visual issues. The commentary presents an excellent summary of many interesting subjects.
Many of the remarks praise the film, which is also something I generally dislike; during most commentaries, this practice comes across as self-aggrandizing. However, in this instance, everyone seems so excited about the final product that I didn't mind all of the compliments; much of the time they acted more like fans of Toy Story than its makers, and that chipper and witty attitude makes this commentary a joy to experience.
Next we get an 11-minute and 41-second featurette called The Legacy. It presents comments from Robots director Chris Wedge, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, Star Wars director George Lucas, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, Roy E. Disney, animation historians Charles Solomon and John Canemaker, animators Peter Sohn, Misha Zabranska, Kureha Yokoo, and Jason Boose, animation students Jojo Ramos, Austin Madison and Josh Look, Incredibles director Brad Bird, Walt Disney Studios’ Thomas Schumacher, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Spirited Away director Hayao Miyazaki, and actors Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. All involved talk about what they love about Toy Story and what makes it special. We get some decent notes about the movie’s qualities as well as some fun anecdotes like the actors’ encounters with kids, but this ends up feeling too self-congratulatory for my liking.
A documentary called Making Toy Story runs 20 minutes, 19 seconds and includes comments from Lasster, Stanton, Eggleston, Guggenheim, Schumacher, Hanks, Reeves, Docter, Arnold, executive producer Ed Catmull, story supervisor Joe Ranft, editor Lee Unkrich, sound designer Gary Rydstrom, and associate technical director Eben Ostby. All of their comments come from mid-Nineties interviews. We get a basic overview of the evolution of Pixar, the movie’s development and story, the actors and characters, the selection of toys, visual design, computer rendering issues and animation, the work of the voice actors, getting movement as good as possible, music and audio, and thoughts about the future of computer animation.
The show rushes through things and lacks great perspective; a modern creation would be better. Nonetheless, it gives us a good summary of many production elements. We’ll already know about many via the commentary, but this one adds lots of nice behind the scenes footage to make it a winning little show.
For something more modern, we head to Filmmakers Reflect. It presents statements from Lasseter, Stanton, Docter, and Ranft. They sit together in a “round table” format and chat. They go over childhood toy experiences, what it was like in Pixar’s earlier years and making the flick, Disney’s influence and related problems, character and story development, and reactions to the movie’s success. Some of the information appears elsewhere, but we get a mix of new bits like the problems with the Disney suits. We find enough fresh material to make this show worth a look.
Under the Deleted Scenes banner, we get two kinds of pieces. “Deleted Animation” starts with a one-minute and 45-second “Introduction” from Unkrich who discusses why animated sequences occasionally get the boot. It then leaps into two different excised clips: “Torture Scene” provides 46 seconds of unfinished animation that adds to the scene in which Sid "interrogates" Woody; “Rain Scene” also came from an existing scene, and this one-minute and 22-second clip uses completed animation to show more of the chat between Buzz and Woody while Sid sleeps.
Also under “Deleted Scenes” we get six “Deleted Storyreels”. These open with a one-minute and 21-second “Introduction” from Lasseter, Unkrich, and Stanton that gives us a little background on the sequences. We then find six different story reels that show the scenes proposed for the film but never animated: an alternate opening, “Buzz Lightyear Show (two minutes, 43 seconds); another alternate opening, “Shootout” (1:48); “Woody's Nightmare” (1:20) further depicts his fears after the arrival of Buzz; “Eastern Gate” (3:03) involves some devious plotting by Woody against Buzz; “Shakes the Rattle (1:52) takes the story into more nightmarish territory in this segment that echoes Quint's "USS Indianapolis" speech in Jaws; and “Sid's Comeuppance” (2:47) provides an alternate version of that scene.
All of the material is interesting to see, but the storyreels prove the most valuable. The deleted animation still resembles clips in the final film, but the storyreels branch into new directions. That makes them especially useful.
Designing Toy Story provides remarks from Eggleston, character designer Bud Luckey, story artist Jeff Pidgeon, lead digital painter Tia W. Kratter, and designer/illustrators William Cone and Bob Pauley. As expected, they go over the inspirations and execution of how things look in the film. We hear a little about characters, sets and other elements. The show zips along nicely and gives us a solid overview.
In the “Design” category, Galleries offer drawings in filmed collections. These present “Woody” (48 sketches, one minute, 52 seconds), “Buzz” (47, 1:49), “Andy’s Toys” (44, 1:42), “Misc. Toys” (35, 1:21), “Mutant Toys” (49, 1:53), “Andy’s Family” (29, 1:07), “Sid’s Family” (47, 1:47), "Andy's Room" (17, 0:42), “Gas Station” (10, 0:29), “Sid’s Room” (18, 0:42), and “Pizza Planet” (18, 0:45).
We also get 3D Visualizations for “Woody” (0:22), “Buzz” (0:22), “Andy’s Toys” (1:28) “Alien” (0:22), “Andy’s Room” (0:52), “Gas Station” (1:09) and “Sid’s Room” (1:06). The three set tours come with commentary from Ralph Eggleston.
Also under “Design”, we move to “Color”. Designing Color offers a general overview of the various issues that confronted art director Eggleston. In this three-minute and 34-second piece, he discusses what he tried to do with the look of the film. Concept Art (32, 1:16) presents visualizations of different areas, while Color Scripts (69, 3:05) are used to demonstrate the color design for each scene. All of these collections of art offer a nice look at the design of the flick. It’s especially fun to see the different concepts for the characters.
Under “Story”, we get three elements. ”Green Army Men” Pitch runs five minutes and 55 seconds. It starts with an introduction from co-writer Andrew Stanton and story supervisor Joe Ranft. They provide a quick overview of the process before we watch an actual storyboard pitch conducted by Ranft. In this sequence, we see Ranft as he goes through the "Green Army Men" sequence; Ranft appears in the lower left corner of the screen. It gives us a fun look at this creative method. (Note that the intro appears only if you go with the “Play All” option.)
Andy’s New Toy provides filmed storyboards for Buzz's introduction to the gang accompanied by music and dialogue. Some of the lines are from the final actors, while others are not. There's also some deleted dialogue and even a little profanity in this four-minute and 40-second piece.
We get a look at part of the film’s climax in ”The Chase” Storyreel/Film Comparison. This three-minute and 21-second piece displays the boards in the top half of the screen and the movie in the lower half.
Four additional components appear in the “Production” area. We begin with a one-minute and 51-second Production Tour. It gives us a good general overview of the computer animation process. We hear from Lasseter, supervising layout artist Craig Good, and directing animator Ash Brannon.
Layout Tricks provides more footage of Good as he gives us a look at the ways layout problems are solved through this three-minute and 25-second program. Animation Tour fills one minute, 23 seconds as Brannon shows the progression of various steps. Finally, the Multi-Language Reel finishes “Production”. This four-minute and 30-second clip takes the scene in which Buzz enters the world of Andy's room and translates various snippets of it into (deep breath): French; Dutch; Italian; Japanese; Finnish; Castilian; Hungarian; Greek; Korean; Arabic; German; Slovak; Spanish; Thai; Polish; Norwegian; Flemish; Danish; Turkish; Brazilian Portuguese; Cantonese; Swedish; Czech; and Mandarin.
When we move to “Music & Sound”, we open with a music video for “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. This two-minute and 15-second clip shows Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett as they sing in the studio; it intercuts those shots with movie snippets. The word “yawn” comes to mind.
Designing Sound offers a nice demonstration of the various elements that go into this aspect of filmmaking. We hear a lot from sound designer Gary Rydstrom plus a few words from Lasseter in this six-minute and 33-second program.
Finally, we find a collection of Randy Newman Demos. This area includes six numbers: “Plastic Spaceman 1” is a three-minute and 18-second tune that eventually mutated into "I Will Go Sailing No More", though only a little of that song can be heard here; “Plastic Spaceman 2” lasts three minutes and 16 seconds and features a more elaborately-produced version of the preceding demo; “Strange Things” features just Newman and piano accompaniment, but the two-minute and 58-second song is very close to final form; “The Fool” is a two-minute and nine-second tune that has no relative in the finished movie; “I Will Go Sailing No More” is another Newman piano demo. The three-minute and 32-second song closely resembles the final product; “You've Got a Friend In Me” appears as a two-minute and 18-second instrumental (piano) version.
Within “Publicity”, we start with an 89-second Character Interview. "Conducted" by Disney animation expert John Culhane, he speaks to Woody and Buzz via a remote hookup. It’s moderately entertaining but nothing special. It suffers from the absence of both Allen and Hanks, though their impersonators do a pretty solid job.
In the Trailers section, we get the film's 90-second "teaser" and its three-minute theatrical trailer. There are also four TV Spots, each of which lasts 30 seconds. Posters displays a 59-second montage of posters and other promotional materials, while the Toys & Stuff area includes 62 seconds of goodies that were sold to toy-collecting dupes like me (and maybe even a couple of kids).
Toy Story Treats gives us 14 short bits with the characters. These are fun to see. We also get the complete 52-second Buzz Lightyear Commercial here.
Phew – that finishes all the “Classic DVD” extras. Now we head to the Blu-ray’s Exclusive Bonus Features. These open with a two-minute, seven-second Sneak Peek for Toy Story 3. I don’t want to know anything about the new movie before I see it, so I skipped this preview. I wanted to mention its presence, though.
Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Buzz Blasts Off runs three minutes, 28 seconds. This shows an educational reel for NASA that mixes some animated segments with footage to communicate about the International Space Station. The piece features the voices of Tim Allen, John Ratzenberger and Wallace Shawn, so that adds class. This becomes a fun bonus.
Next comes a piece called Paths to Pixar – Artists. It goes for four minutes, 47 seconds as it provides notes from longtime Pixar employees Tia Kratter, Sharon Callahan, Ralph Eggleston and Bill Wise. They talk about why they got into the business and their experiences at the studio. The program gives us a short but interesting look at the inspirations for these artists.
Under Studio Stories, we locate three clips. These include “John’s Car” (1:28), “Baby AJ” (1:40), and “Scooter Races” (2:18). Across them, we hear from Darla Anderson, Glenn McQueen, AJ Riebli, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter. Each clip combines crude animation with anecdotes about the early days at Pixar. These are very enjoyable, but “Baby” boggles the mind from this point of view: Riebli wins plane tickets to anywhere American flies and chooses to use them to go to Las Vegas, a city an easy drive from California?
Buzz Takes Manhattan lasts two minutes, 12 seconds and features notes from Lasseter, and Pixar creative director Roger Gould. We learn a little about the use of a Buzz Lightyear balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This is an insubstantial clip, but it’s enjoyable.
Finally, Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw fills seven minutes, 36 seconds. It provides statements from Lasseter, Docter, Ranft, Catmull, Schumacher, and Stanton. They tell us about the “darker” version of the movie that they reluctantly pitched. We hear some of this elsewhere, but the segment lets us see the original story reel pitched to Disney, so that makes it valuable.
The disc opens with ads for Toy Story 3 and Beauty and the Beast. These also show up under Sneak Peeks along with promos for Toy Story, Toy Story 2, The Princess and the Frog, James and the Giant Peach, Disney Parks, and Disney Movie Rewards.
A second disc offers a DVD Copy of Toy Story. This offers the same single-DVD version available on store shelves; this means it comes with the old audio commentary and features new to this Blu-ray but leaves off the stuff from the old DVDs. If you want to own Toy Story but aren’t yet Blu-ray capable, it’s a good compromise, though I’d guess most fans already have a DVD of the film.
Toy Story is a “must-own” title. An innovative achievement in animation, the film remains a ton of fun. After 15 years, the movie continues to be delightful, witty and exceedingly entertaining. The Blu-ray itself provides terrific picture and sound plus a fine roster of extras. All animation fans need to pick up this excellent Blu-ray; even those who already own the earlier DVDs will feel pleased with this solid upgrade.
To rate this film, visit the 10th Anniversary Edition review of TOY STORY