|Title:||Toy Story & Toy Story 2: The Ultimate Toy Box (1999)|
Disc One: Toy Story
Disc Two: Toy Story 2 Joining the original voice cast in Toy Story 2 is a roundup of unforgettable new characters including Jessie the cowgirl and Stinky Pete the prospector! Winner of the Golden Globe award for Best Picture, this box office smash is full of laugh-out-loud humor, wonderful music and eye-popping animation!
Disc Three: Supplemental Features
|Cast:||Tom Hanks-Woody; Tim Allen-Buzz Lightyear; Joan Cuasack-Jessie; Kelsey Grammer-Stinky Pete the Prospector; Don Rickles-Mr. Potato Head; Jim Varney-Slinky Dog; Wallace Shawn-Rex; John Ratzenberger-Hamm; Annie Potts-Bo Peep; Wayne Knight-Al McWhigging; John Morris-Andy.|
|DVD:||3-Disc set; widescreen 1.77:1/16x9, fullscreen 1.33:1; audio English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX; THX; subtitles English; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 65 chapters; rated G; 546 min.; $69.99; street date 10/17/00.|
|Supplements:||Disc Three: Supplemental Features: Introductions by the Filmmakers; The History Of Toy Story and Toy Story 2; Character Design; Location Design; Story Development; Moviemaking Secrets; Music & Sound Design; Deleted Animation; Abandoned Concepts; Early Tests; Original Treatments; Storyboard Pitch; Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons; Animation Production Progression Demos; Trailers; TV Commercials; Posters; Guide To Hidden Jokes; Music Videos; Original Song Demos; 3-D Flyaround Tours of Different Sets from the Films.|
|Purchase:||DVD 2 Pack | The Ultimate Toy Box DVD|
Picture/Sound/Extras: Toy Story A/B+/A+ | Toy Story 2 A+/A/A
As DVDs grow in popularity, earlier-adopters constantly bemoan the dreaded arrival of "Joe Six-Pack". Many of these people think that an infusion of allegedly less-sophisticated video consumers will inevitably "dumb down" the format. According to these thought processed, these slack-jawed yokels will eliminate many of the best aspects of DVDs, such as films presented in their original aspect ratios - Joe don't want none of them stupid black bars! - as well as audio options - DTS is what ya get when ya drink too much! - and supplemental features.
All these Chicken Littles ignore one fact, however: even as the format has sold more and more players and discs, virtually no signs of regression have appeared. Original aspect ratio presentations are almost a given, and although it continues to lag far behind Dolby Digital 5.1 in terms of retail presence, DTS has grown as well; most new Dolby Digital 5.1 receivers also include DTS, and more studios include DTS soundtracks as an option.
In addition, supplements continue to appear on DVDs and some releases have taken the format to new levels. 2000 has been a terrific year in that regard; there've been at least three or four contenders for the title of "Best DVD Ever".
Add to that pile the "Ultimate Toy Box". Actually, put it at the top of that pile, as the "UTB" is unquestionably the finest DVD product yet produced. Granted, it has one unfair advantage: it features two excellent movies, which makes it more difficult to beat. Nonetheless, even if both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 appeared separately, they'd still be high on my list of top-notch DVDs; the combination of wonderful films, excellent picture, fine sound and compelling extras puts them in the upper echelon of the best DVDs.
Previously I reviewed the 2-disc edition of these movies; it includes both films plus a few minor extras. To read about them, click the links for Toy Story and Toy Story 2. In addition to descriptions of what's on the DVDs, those articles relate my lengthy opinions of the movies themselves. To sum up those thoughts, I love TS and TS2; they're both about as good as films get.
So without any further ado, let me jump into my discussion of what we find in the 3-DVD "Ultimate Toy Box". Make yourself comfortable - this will take a while!
DISC ONE - TOY STORY:
This DVD offers Toy Story in its entirety plus a few extras. Toy Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.77:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While I can't call the picture totally flawless, I can say it comes pretty close; this is an excellent DVD.
Sharpness looked virtually immaculate. At no time did I discern any signs of softness or fuzziness, as the image seemed very crisp and accurate throughout the film. I detected a few instances of moiré effects from objects like the grille of a truck and the side of a house, and I saw minor artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV. No print flaws were present, probably because TS didn't come from a print; it was a direct digital transfer from the original computer data, so there are no defects that can come with it. As such, I saw no problems whatsoever in this film; it looked absolutely clear and fresh.
Colors were a highlight of TS. 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 DVD 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 was a joy to watch.
Also terrific was the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Although it started slowly, the soundfield gradually swelled to the point where it became quite involving and engaging. During the early parts of the movie, the forward spectrum was active and displayed a nicely broad experience; audio was placed specifically and precisely located.
The surrounds seemed less engulfing during the film's first act; I heard sporadically activity from the rear but nothing terribly compelling. However, that changed once we reached the scene in which Buzz's "accident" occurred; that scene showed terrific use of all five channels and this trend continued through most of the remainder of the movie. The audio provided a nicely active and convincing environment that complemented the action onscreen and added a lot to the experience.
Sound quality also seemed very good. For the most part, dialogue appeared warm and natural and always was easily intelligible. During some of the first scenes that included Buzz, I detected some edginess and brittle qualities to the speech, but these essentially went away after a few minutes and the remainder of the dialogue sounded accurate and clear.
Randy Newman's score and songs came across as clean and smooth. It often lacked substantial low end but the music always seemed crisp and detailed, with strong clarity. Effects sounded similarly rich and detailed, with no signs of distortion. They also didn't present a lot of bass during the early parts of the movie, but as with the soundfield, this area changed roughly around the part of the film where Buzz's "accident" happened. Prior to that, the best example of low end occurred when Sid blew up Combat Carl; the explosion offered a nice thump. However, that was a fairly isolated incident until Buzz had his problems. During the scene in question and much of the remainder of the film, bass response seemed quite strong and the audio became much more dynamic. Despite some slightly limited fidelity during the early parts of the movie, Toy Story ultimately presented a very fine audio experience.
The version of Toy Story on the 2-DVD set included just a couple of supplemental features, all of which also appear here. We get a Pixar short called "Tin Toy". From 1988, this piece lasts five minutes and 10 seconds and provides a cute and moderately witty experience. It's also interesting from a historical point of view, as a) we can see the roots of Toy Story in this cartoon, and b) we can also view just how far computer animation has come in the intervening years.
As first seen on the Fight Club DVD - and also available with Supergirl and a number of Anchor Bay DVDs - Toy Story includes the "THX Optimode" program to set up your TV. This provides you with information to correctly configure various audio and video aspects of your home theater. I don't think it fully replaces something like Video Essentials, but then again, "Optimode" comes as a free addition to a DVD, so it's clearly a bargain. If you haven't already used VE or some similar product, you should find "Optimode" very helpful.
Speaking of THX, TS also includes the popular "Tex" trailer for it. In case you don't know what I mean, many THX-certified DVDs have that "digitally mastered for optimal video and audio performance" ad that features a loud hum. In the "Tex" edition, the promo breaks down and this little robot dude - that'd be Tex - flies out to fix it. It's a cute addition to the set that also appears on the 2-disc package's version of TS.
That concludes the features duplicated from the 2-disc set's Toy Story. Disc one adds a few other extras as well. First we find an excellent audio commentary that originally appeared on the deluxe 1996 laserdisc set. 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 usually don't like commentaries that pack in multiple participants at the same session - they often become chaotic - this one is an absolutely wonderful track that provides a very solid look at the making of the film. The discussion seems very 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.
Many of their 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 TS than its makers, and that chipper and witty attitude makes this commentary a joy to experience.
The TS DVD also includes a second audio feature. We get an isolated track that displays only the film's sound effects. The effects are presented in good old Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. While this may not have the broad appeal of an isolated score, it's still a pretty cool little extra that gives us a closer listen at all of the different sound work done for the movie. (One of these days I'll get my wish and someone will include an isolated dialogue track for a movie such as this!)
"The Story Behind Toy Story provides a 27-minute and 10-second overview of the creation of the film. Although it's a little brief and dashes through some subjects too quickly, I found the program to give us a surprisingly complete look at how the movie was made. We hear interview snippets from a variety of cast and crew - though director Lasseter gets the most airplay - and we see quite a few shots from recording studios, storyboard conferences, and other situations related to the production. We also are shown a lot of "work in progress" material, and all of this adds up to a very fun, breezy and engaging show. It's a nice "warm-up" for all the more-detailed information we'll receive from the rest of the DVD's extras.
Easily one of the coolest supplements we find anywhere in this package appears during "Toy Story Treats". As explained during a 38-second intro from Lasseter and Stanton, these clips were produced by Pixar as "bumpers" for Saturday morning shows on ABC; these are those little bits you'd see before or after commercial breaks.
All in all, this DVD presents a whopping 52 of these pieces. Each lasts between five and 30 seconds, though most clock in at around 10 seconds. This adds up to a total of 15 and a half minutes worth of animation. All of them feature various members of the TS crew - with a particular focus upon Buzz, Woody, Hamm, Rex and the Little Green Men - though not all of the original voices appear. It sounded as though John Ratzenberger and Wallace Shawn reprised their roles as Hamm and Rex, respectively, and we also seem to hear as the Little Green Men, but Tom Hanks and Tim Allen definitely don't reappear as Woody and Buzz.
No matter who provided the voices, these clips are a tremendous amount of fun. The clever and witty tone that made the movie so wonderful carries over to these bumpers and they're a delight to watch.
Similar but less entertaining are the "On Set Interviews". "Conducted" by Disney animation expert John Culhane, these two clips show Culhane speak to Woody and Buzz via a remote hookup. The first segment lasts 85 seconds, while the second runs 110 seconds and includes a snippet from the movie. I found these moderately entertaining but nothing special. Unlike the "Treats", these pieces definitely suffer from the absence of both Allen and Hanks, though their impersonators do a pretty solid job.
Next up is the full version of the "Buzz Lightyear TV Commercial" we see parts of during the film. The 50-second ad is supplemented by a 37-second intro from Lasseter, Stanton, and editor Lee Unkrich. It's a nice addition to the disc since it allows us to get a better look at the segment.
Lastly, Disc One ends with a "Multi-Language Reel". This four-minute and 35-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; Mandarin.
That concludes the content of DVD 1. So now we move on to.
DISC TWO - TOY STORY 2:
Here is where you'll find the entire film of Toy Story 2 plus a smattering of extras. Toy Story 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.77:1 that has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Can it get any better than this? Maybe, but it's hard to imagine - TS2 presents an absolutely fantastic picture.
Sharpness appeared flawless throughout the film. The movie always seemed perfectly crisp and detailed with no signs whatsoever of any softness or haziness to be found. I also detected no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, and artifacts from the anamorphic downconversion on my 4X3 TV were minor. As with the original Toy Story, this transfer came from the actual computer data. Because of this, it doesn't have any print flaws since no print was ever used, and the result is a tremendously clean and fresh image.
TS2 used a varied palette, and the colors come through with exquisite richness and boldness. From start to finish, all of the hues seemed gorgeous; from the lovely red of Jessie's hair to the warm browns of Woody's clothes to the sumptuous purples of Zurg's body, the whole magilla looked great. At no point did I discern any problems related to colors; they appeared absolutely scintillating.
Black levels also were deep and dense. They offered no signs of murky or muddy qualities, and I also saw excellent contrast. Shadow detail appeared clear and appropriately opaque throughout all of the related scenes. Best of the bunch were the shots in Al's apartment at night; these were illuminated just by the flickering light of a TV and they presented excellent depth throughout the dimly-lit scene. All in all, TS2 offered a tremendously fine image that showed virtually no complications.
Almost as strong is the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack. The mix for the first film was also quite good, but it had a few weaknesses; all of those have been rectified here, however. The soundfield seemed very broad and engaging. For the most part, the forward spectrum dominated, but the entire package seemed well-distributed and nicely balanced. It's a virtually seamless mix that spread the audio cleanly between the various channels. Effects and music often emanated from all five speakers, and the sound blended together neatly so that the environment seemed smooth and convincing.
Various auditory elements appeared precisely located in the spectrum; even dialogue was focused in the correct location across the front speakers, and we also hear some speech from the rear when appropriate. The surrounds contributed excellent reinforcement of the information and also used split-channel details quite effectively. Best of the bunch is probably the scene in which Buzz and the gang have to cross a busy street; the sound flies fast and furious and really engulfs the viewer in the action.
Equally solid is the quality of the audio. Some of the dialogue in the original movie came across as edgy and brittle, but that doesn't occur here; all of the speech in TS2 appeared warm and natural, with no signs of shrillness or concerns related to intelligibility. Music sounded clear and smooth, with terrific range; the various songs were wonderfully rich and lush - especially the lovely "When She Loved Me" - and the score seemed appropriately brassy and bright.
Effects were the best part of the package. They appeared very accurate and realistic and showed absolutely no signs of distortion or harshness. The track boasted fine resolution and terrific depth. The first film lacked significant low end at times, but that's never a concern during TS2; this movie offered some excellent bass. The aforementioned street-crossing scene provided one strong example, as did the segments in the apartment building vents and its elevator. Even Al's indigestion appeared deep and rich! Overall, it's a wonderful mix that barely missed out on an "A+" rating. I felt that the audio lacked the "wow!" factor that I require of films that qualify for the "A+", but it's such a smooth and well-integrated soundtrack that I considered that ultimate grade.
As with TS, the DVD of TS2 we find in the "Ultimate Toy Box" replicates the modest extras found on the version in the two-disc set.. We get a Pixar short called "Luxo Jr." From 1986, this was the first cartoon produced by the studio and it lasts for two minutes and 20 seconds. It's a cute little piece that won't set your world on fire but it makes for an endearing viewing that deserves a look.
In addition, the TS2 DVD includes both sets of "Outtakes" that appeared during the movie's theatrical run. As with A Bug's Life, the film added some faux-bloopers during the end credits, and both pictures also had two separate sets of clips; one appeared when the film first hit screens, and the second replaced the first after a few weeks in theaters.
Unlike the Bug's Life DVD, none of the outtakes can be found during the presentation of the movie itself. Instead, they're all shown fullscreen with 5.1 sound and they run for a total of five minutes and 25 seconds. Personally, I think this concept is getting a bit tired. The first batch in ABL was fun because it so neatly lampooned all of the lame bloopers that we find added to some movies. At this point, we've seen so many with the two Pixar films that they're losing their wickedly mocking tone and are becoming more ordinary. Still, they're kind of fun and deserve a look.
Next we find a "sneak peek" at the next Pixar feature film, Monsters Inc., which apparently is slated for a November 2001 release. This one minute and 55 second piece is really just a trailer; I thought it might provide some "behind the scenes" info but instead we just find a promo, albeit an interesting one. By the way, am I the only one who immediately starts to hum Springsteen's "Murder Inc." when I see the title of this film?
This ad appears in the "Sneak Peeks" section as well, along with a promo for Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. The 2-DVD set's TS2 also included trailers for Disney's Christmas 2000 theatrical release of The Emperor's New Groove and the video appearances of Fantasia 2000 and Dinosaur. These are here as well, but they' re hidden. To see them, click on "title 4" with your remote; you'll then be able to view these trailers. (Oh, the irony; so many people whine about the "forced trailers" on Disney DVDs, but I'll bet many of the same people will actively seek out these so-called "Easter eggs".)
Finally, as with the Toy Story disc, TS2 includes the "THX Optimode" program to set up your TV. Use it, don't use it - it's your life!
This version of TS2 tosses in a few extras that didn't appear on the 2-DVD set. Most significant is another running group audio commentary, though this one includes fewer participants. We hear from director Lasseter, co-writer Stanton, plus co-directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon. All in all, this track seemed pretty similar to the first one, though it wasn't quite as good. The participants provided a very solid overview of the making of the film plus a slew of issues that affected production, and the piece adopted a nicely casual but enthusiastic tone. The first commentary was so great that I suppose it was inevitable this one wouldn't live up to it, but it comes fairly close; it's another excellent track that will be a valuable listen for fans of the film.
The second DVD also includes another audio track. Again we find the movie's effects isolated for us in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. I'd still prefer an isolated dialogue program, but this one's pretty cool anyway; it's fun to check out the killer "street crossing" scene with just the effects on display.
The only other feature on the second DVD not found on the 2-disc version of TS2 is its THX trailer. On the more basic set, you just get the standard THX ad, whereas this one precedes TS2 with the popular "Moo Can" clip. This one again features Tex plus a can that moos. Oh, you'll just have to watch it for yourself.
One omission from the 2-DVD set: in that package, there was also a fullframe version of TS2. However, it doesn't appear here. My guess is that it was dropped to accommodate the extra audio tracks and still ensure high quality. Anyway, if you want to see the fullframe rendition of TS2, you'll have to shell out for the 2-DVD package.
That concludes the contents of the second disc. Now it's time for the meat of the supplements, which we find on.
DISC THREE - THE SUPPLEMENTAL FEATURES:
This is a class production, which you'll notice from the very start. As soon as the DVD begins to whirl, we go into an introduction from director John Lasseter, co-writer Andrew Stanton, TS editor and TS2 co-director Lee Unkrich, and TS directing animator and TS2 co-director Ash Brannon. This humorous two minute and 15 second clip gets us into the right spirit before we delve into this treasure trove of material.
Once you get past this introduction, you're shown two TVs; the one on the left lets you enter the world of Toy Story, while the set on the right sends you to information about Toy Story 2. I clicked to the left and began to examine everything they told me about.
This area is marked off into different sections, each of which has a variety of subtopics. Going in order, we begin with.
Miraculously, that completes the extras for Toy Story. Now I can move on to the supplements for.
TOY STORY 2
The structure of all these programs seems very similar to what we see for TS.
That almost completes all of the materials in the "Ultimate Toy Box", and it's a good thing, because I'm about to pass out from exhaustion. We also find a booklet in the package that provides some brief notes about the DVD set; Lasseter and other shout their enthusiasm for DVD special editions here. Additionally, this booklet includes a "Navigational Overview" of the third disc's materials; this information is duplicated in somewhat smaller print on the card stuck inside the third disc's package.
A few general comments before I collapse: first of all, I want to note that almost everything from the fabulous Toy Story laserdisc boxed set appears here. As far as I can discern, the only missing elements are a few Pixar shorts. In addition to this package's "Tin Toy" and "Luxo Jr.", the LD offered "The Adventures of André and Wally B.", "Red's Dream", and "Knickknack". For reasons unknown, these don't appear on the DVDs.
However, the DVDs toss in a slew of features related to the first film that were not found on the LD set. Virtually every "introduction" I mention has been newly-created for the DVD, and a lot of other aspects of the package make their first appearances as well. For example, the "Toy Treats" are new. The absence of the Pixar shorts is a shame, but I think the DVD makes up for that loss with lots of other terrific material.
At initial glance, it probably appears that Toy Story includes many more supplements than does Toy Story 2, and it does, but that's not a slam on the sequel; it's virtually inevitable that the second film would have fewer opportunities for discussion. After all, most of the characters are already in place, and the way the film was executed was similar. Actually, it's astonishing that the TS2 materials were so interesting; the project could have inspired a strong case of déjà vu, especially since I experienced all of the TS materials immediately before I checked out the sequel.
That said, I do think the supplements for TS2 don't match up to those for the first film. They're excellent, but only Toy Story's extras merit an "A+" for supplements. I came close to giving Toy Story 2's bonus materials an "A+" but ultimately thought that an "A" made more sense; they're strong but just not up to "A+" levels.
However, as a package, I'd have to give the "Ultimate Toy Box" an "A+" for supplements and as a whole. Is it perfect? No, there's always room for improvement; I'd love to hear more from the voice talent about their work. But the set does an awfully good job of discussing its subjects.
As films, both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are almost as good as it gets. They're inventive, witty, heartfelt and exciting, and they also stand up extremely well to repeated viewings. The DVDs offer both movies with near-perfect picture, clear and dynamic sound, and - in this "Ultimate Toy Box" - enough supplements to almost kill me. While I think that Terminator 2: The Ultimate Edition remains the most comprehensive single-movie package out there, "The Ultimate Toy Box" is now the top dog as far as most desirable DVD set goes. Without question, it's the best DVD product I've ever seen, and I have a feeling that designation won't change anytime soon.