Disney / Buena Vista | 1999 | 92 mins. | Rated G
Four years after Pixar changed the face of animation with Toy Story, they came roaring back into theaters with Toy Story 2. Certainly expectations were high, but rarely does a sequel manage to exceed expectations the way this one did. Similar to the first Toy Story, the key to the film’s success lies not just in its fantastic computer generated images, but in its family-friendly story that has the ability to make viewers laugh and cry. It’s also worth noting, Toy Story 2 plays as well today, eleven years after its release, as it did when it first came out in 1999.
Things pick up where the original left off, and tells an enjoyable story without retreading everything that has gone before. Buzz (voice of Tim Allen) and Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) are now friends. One day, Andy’s mother decides to have a yard sale, and she collects a few old toys from her son’s room. After Woody suffers a broken arm in an earlier adventure, his worst nightmare of being thrown into a trash heap of broken toys comes true. Since one of the toys Andy’s mother collects is one of the gang, Woody decides to leave the safety of the house to execute a rescue mission. Although his mission is successful, he is unknowingly in danger when a toy collector, and owner of Toy Barn, named Al (voice of Wayne Knight) spies Woody while hunting through the wares available at the sale. The cowboy toy represents the final collectible needed to complete his collection of merchandise from the old TV series, “Woody’s Roundup.” If he can acquire Woody, Al can ship everything to a toy museum in Japan for a lot of money.
After the mother refuses to sell Woody, Al decides to steal him. Now, it’s up to the other toys to find their way to the city and save their buddy. Meanwhile, as Buzz, Rex (voice of Wallace Shawn), Hamm (voice of John Ratzenberger), Mr. Potatohead (voice of Don Rickles), and Slinky (voice of Jim Varney), find themselves confronting the busy (somewhat overwhelming) outside world, Woody learns that he was a TV celebrity in the 1950’s, and has a family—a cowgirl named Jessie (voice of Joan Cusack), a horse named Bullseye, and a father figure called the Prospector (voice of Kelsey Grammar), who understandably don’t want him to go back to Andy and his friends.
Toy Story 2 provides plenty of humor. During their trek to rescue Woody, the toy gang is faced with several obstacles–crossing the street (they cause a pile up), opening the sliding doors to Al’s Toy Barn and driving to the Airport. But the film also has some surprisingly emotional moments; can Woody leave the family he never knew he had? Can he leave the people and toys who have been his family all these years? Toy Story 2 is truly a wonderful film, and watching it again on Blu-ray has only made me more excited about Toy Story 3.
The AVC-MPEG-4 transfer is flawless, with zero artifacts and no hint of DNR or edge enhancement. The film’s clarity comes from the original CGI work, and it’s something to behold in Hi Def. In the scene where Buzz battles a multitude multi-headed creatures you can really see how Pixar cranked it up. Colors are brilliant, detail is incredible, and there’s an over-arching effect of pleasing three-dimensionality. Toy Story 2 is presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio.
The audio is also flawless, with a dynamic English DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack that’s as lively as it comes, with a full range of rich tones. The bass has real presence, and the directionality of sound channeled across the effects speakers sounds natural. There’s a nice wide spread across the front speakers, so the sound doesn’t hang near the speaker source.
Disney-Pixar also provides an English DTS-HD, English DVS 2.0 Dolby, and Spanish and French Dolby Digital EX 5.1 tracks, with subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Toy Story 2 comes with a solid slate of special features. Among them some newly produced high definition material and all of the special features from the previously released DVD (albeit presented in standard definition).
• Audio Commentary: Director John Lasseter, co-directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, and co-writer Andrew Stanton deliver a shot-by-shot commentary in which they point out countless small touches in the animation, the film’s many themes, the evolution of the team’s technical methodology, the development of the story and the characters, and the hurdles they had to overcome to reference Toy Story without repeating themselves.
• Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek: The Characters (HD, 4 minutes): While the “Sneak Peek” included with Toy Story introduces the story of Toy Story 3, this featurette explores the new characters animation fans can expect to meet this summer when Buzz and Woody make their return.
• Studio Stories (HD, 6 minutes): “TS2 Sleep Deprivation Lab” is an animated short that examines Lasseter’s axing of the first version of Toy Story 2; “Pinocchio” is another short that focuses on Pixar’s then-humble offices; and “The Movie Vanishes” follows suit with a tale about a mistake of near-tragic proportions, and a baby named Eli who saved the day. Literally.
• Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station (HD, 4 minutes): Aimed at the kids, this Buzz and friends-hosted tour of the space station entertained my son to no end. Well, for four minutes anyway.
• Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists (HD, 4 minutes): A number of technical artists share personal stories about their early careers, their induction into the Pixar family, and their affection for CG animation.
• Pixar’s Zoetrope (HD, 2 minutes): Inspired by Studio Ghibli, the Pixar team sculpts a truly amazing three-dimensional zoetrope.
• Celebrating Our Friend Joe Ranft (HD, 13 minutes): A touching tribute to story artist Joe Ranft, a man dubbed by Lasseter as “the heart and soul of Pixar.”
• Making Toy Story 2 (SD, 8 minutes): Culled from the original DVD release of Toy Story 2, this behind-the-scenes featurette explores the development of the sequel — its story, scope, characters, and themes — as well as the many challenges the filmmakers faced in creating a followup to the first Toy Story.
• John Lasseter Profile (SD, 3 minutes): Learn how Lasseter, following in the footsteps of Walt Disney himself, inspires his team and continues to push Pixar into the future.
• Cast of Characters (SD, 4 minutes): A succinct roundup of all the characters, new and old, who make Toy Story 2 memorable.
• Toy Box (SD, 14 minutes): View the “Outtakes” that roll during the end credits of the film; chuckle at an easter egg from the original DVD called “Jessie’s Gag;” tap your foot through a rootin-tootin “Riders in the Sky Music Medley;” check out a stack of golden-age “Autographed Pictures,” and watch Tom Hanks and Tim Allen argue over “Who’s the Coolest Toy?”
• Deleted Scenes (SD, 4 minutes): Three unfinished scenes in all, including a “Deleted Animation Intro,” the aptly-titled “Godzilla Rex,” and an early version of the “Crossing the Road” sequence.
• Design (SD, 27 minutes): Dig through several galleries, 3-D visualizations, and color tests featuring your favorite scenes and characters.
• Production (SD, 14 minutes): A series of self-explanatory DVD featurettes include “Designing Woody’s Past, “Making Woody’s Roundup, “Production Tour,” “Early Animation Tests,” “International Scene” (an alternate take of the American flag transition made specifically for international audiences), and “Special Effects.”
• Music & Sound (SD, 14 minutes): Yet more material from the original DVD, all of which are as informative and low-key as the majority of content on the disc. The featurettes include “Designing Sound,” “Making the Songs,” “Woody’s Roundup Music Video,” and a Randy Newman demo-recording of “Jessie’s Song.”
• Publicity (SD, 9 minutes): A decent collection of advertising materials — a “Character Interview” short, two “Trailers,” a half-dozen “TV Spots,” twenty domestic and international “Posters,” and a brief animated stadium ad titled “Baseball Woody” — round out the package.
• Maximize Your Home Theater: A basic video/audio calibration tool.
• BD-Live Functionality
• Standard DVD
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