Blu-ray Review: Toy Story

Disney / Buena Vista | 1995 | 81 mins. | Rated G

Animation can be divided into two generations—before Toy Story and after Toy Story. By the mid 1990’s, computer animation was regularly used in traditionally animated films to aid in the creation of particularly complex scenes, but the idea of creating an entire animated feature with computers rather than pen and ink seemed farfetched. In 1991, a company based in Emeryville, California named Pixar Animation Studios, made a $26 million deal with Disney to produce three computer-animated feature films, the first of which was Toy Story. Released in 1995, the film went on to gross more than $350 million worldwide and change the face of animation forever.

Toy StoryWhile the computer animation is very impressive, what makes Toy Story a true classic is the story. Writer/director John Lasseter and the rest of the Pixar crew deserve a lot of cre3dit for understanding the value of a good story; resisting the urge to let the newness of the computer animation be the films main draw.

No matter how many times I see it, I find Toy Story delightful. The film suggests that toys have their own magical world which comes to life any time the lights are out or people aren’t around. The two main characters are toys: cowboy Woody (voice of Tom Hanks), the old-time favorite, and space ranger Buzz Lightyear (voice of Tim Allen), the battery-operated newcomer. The supporting cast includes a dinosaur (voice of Wallace Shawn), Mr. Potato Head (voice of Don Rickles), a piggy bank (voice of John Ratzenberger), a slinky (voice of Jim Varney), Little Bo Peep (voice of Annie Potts), and an army of tiny plastic soldiers who scout out the new arrivals on birthdays and Christmas. The humans who appear in Toy Story are intentionally rendered to look artificial. In this movie, people are “unreal”; all the vividness and multi-dimensionality is saved for the toys.

Things begin with Buzz’s arrival. Woody is upset that this high-tech newbie has usurped his rightful place on the bedspread and in Andy’s (John Morris), his owner’s, play time. The cowboy comes up with a plan to eliminate Buzz, but it backfires, and soon the two rivals are out in the real world, forced to help each other in their struggle to escape the hands of a toy-torturing kid.

Everything about this film is fun. Older adults are bound to recognize all the different toys here, from the Etch-a-Sketch to those little green molded plastic army men that little boys lined up for pretend battles. For the younger members of the audience, Toy Story has a nice message about the importance of friendship and loyalty. And the toys have such as sense of humanity; it’s easy to forget you’re watching toys.

The AVC/MPEG-4 transfer is flawless. The 3D effect is wonderful, with sharp edge delineation and scene after scene that pops out at you. If there’s any artifacting I didn’t notice any. Colors are consistently saturated, and while there isn’t as much texture or detail in this film as there is in the sequel, what’s here is rendered precisely. Toy Story is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For me, this is reference quality material.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mix is phenomenal, exploiting every possible element of the soundscape. The overall balance of the mix among the six channels seems effortless, and the surround action is aggressive but not overwhelming. These soundtracks are a combination of entirely studio-recorded dialogue, music, and created effects. Thus, the dynamic range and fidelity of the audio is superior. Clean, clear, and perfectly balanced, these are expertly produced tracks. Bass is strong, especially during the more dramatic sequences, and the contrast between the louder and quieter sounds is superb.

Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks are included, as is a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio English mix, as well as English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

The Blu-ray edition of Toy Story ports all the features over from its earlier DVD release, and offers some new goodies.

Audio Commentary: Director John Lasseter, co-writer Andrew Stanton, art director Ralph Eggleston, supervising animator Pete Docter supervising technical director Bill Reeves, and producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold thoroughly dissect Toy Story and its production. The group takes on the story, script, characters, voice performances, animation, strides in technology, technical challenges, and filmmaking process that made the film the classic that it is today.

Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek: The Story (HD, 2 minutes): The first of two new TS3 featurettes (the other can be found on the Blu-ray edition of Toy Story 2), “The Story” clues fans in on what to expect this summer when Woody and Buzz invade theaters yet again.

Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Blast Off (HD, 3 minutes): Buzz, Hamm, and Rex introduce NASA, the space shuttle, and space exploration to their younger viewers in this animated/live-action short.

Paths to Pixar: Artists (HD, 5 minutes): Several Pixar artists reflect on their introduction to Disney’s worlds and characters, their early infatuation with animation, the time they spent at art school, and their experiences at Lasseter’s acclaimed studio.

Studio Stories (HD, 5 minutes): A trio of animated shorts gives the Pixar team a chance to reminisce about “John’s Car,” a Halloween contest that inspired a studio mainstay to become “Baby AJ,” and the “Scooter Races” held in the original studio offices.

Buzz Takes Manhattan (HD, 2 minutes): Lasseter chats about Buzz Lightyear’s massive Macy’s Day Parade balloon.

Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw (HD, 8 minutes): Exactly what its title suggests, this featurette presents a version of Toy Story that was scrapped in favor of the film we’re all familiar with.

Filmmakers Reflect (SD, 17 minutes): Lifted from the standard DVD, this roundtable discussion between Lasseter and his Pixar colleagues delves into the film and its production.

Making Toy Story (SD, 20 minutes): This EPK gives Lasseter and his Toy Story team ample opportunity to examine the development, design, and animation of Buzz and Woody’s first adventure.

The Legacy of Toy Story (SD, 12 minutes): Lasseter, his voice actors, notable critics, and a number of filmmakers (including Peter Jackson and George Lucas) share their thoughts on Toy Story, as well as the many ways it shook up and revitalized the animation genre.

Designing Toy Story (SD, 6 minutes): Although it starts to tread on ground covered elsewhere, this solid featurette delves into the technical realm of CG animation and Toy Story’s design.

Deleted Scenes (SD, 19 minutes): Ten unfinished deleted scenes, many of which feature alternate versions of beloved sequences.

Design (SD, 28 minutes): Character and environment galleries, 3-D visualizations, and color tests abound in this generous section.

Story (SD, 14 minutes): View a “Green Army Men” pitch, an “Andy’s New Toy” storyreel, and a “Chase” storyreel-to-film comparison.

Production (SD, 14 minutes): Take a pair of “Production” and “Animation” tours, learn about several “Layout Tricks” used in the film, and queue up a “Multi-Language Reel.”

Music & Sound (SD, 26 minutes): Along with a “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” music video and a “Designing Sound” featurette, supplemental junkies can listen to six Randy Newman audio tracks.

Publicity (SD, 24 minutes): A slew of advertising materials — a “Character Interview” short, two “Theatrical Trailers,” four “TV Spots,” twenty-five domestic and international “Posters,” merchandise photos, and fifteen “Toy Story Treats” — complete the package.

Maximize Your Home Theater: Use this basic video/audio calibration tool to get the most out of the presentation.

BD-Live Functionality

Standard DVD

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