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The film that started it all: "Toy Story" stunned audiences with a remarkable combination of impressively detailed CG animation and a captivating, charming tale that the whole family could enjoy. The film also put Pixar on the map, and showed off the company's masterful skills with animation and storytelling, weaving emotional moments, great humor and adventure effortlessly into one film.

The main part of the film revolves around Woody (Tom Hanks) - a toy soldier - who finds himself deeply irritated (and just a bit jealous) by the new space ranger toy named Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) who's stolen the attention of their owner, Andy. Other members of the toy crew include Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Hamm the Pig (John Ratzenberger) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts). After finding themselves out in the real world, Woody and Buzz have quite the adventure trying to return home to their owner, and in the process realize that they both have a place in the toy box.

The toys get up and explore their own universe when their owner leaves, and then fall still once he comes back. The universe, whether it be the family room or the bedroom or the outdoors, is perfectly rendered and feels right in size in comparison to the mini-size of our main characters. The performances are absolutely wonderful - while Hanks and Allen are at their best as the leads, the supporting efforts are top-notch, especially Rickles.

After watching the Pixar team during the reviewing of their "Bug's Life" special edition and these new "Toy Story" sets, I can genuinely see where the creativity for the films come from. I don't think I've ever seen a group of people who seem to enjoy their work to this degree. And once you see the Pixar offices in an extra later on in this box, I think many will ask "where do I sign up?"

Overall, more than 10 years later, "Toy Story" still retains its magic: this is a charming, delightful classic from Pixar. The third film comes out Summer of 2010.


The DVD

VIDEO: Pixar's work is on full, beautiful display here with a transfer that's nothing short of breathtaking. Presented in 1080p (AVC), the animation practically jumps off the screen. Sharpness and detail are nothing short of remarkable - certainly a large step up from the prior DVD release. There is a clarity and depth to the image that is more than impressive.

The presentation looked clean and pristine, with a smooth, slick appearance that didn't show any noticeable concerns - no edge enhancement was seen, nor were any instances of pixelation or additional concerns. Colors looked pure, deep and bold, looking a bit more vibrant than in prior home video releases. Black level remained strong, as well. Overall, this was certainly a reference quality presentation from the studio.

SOUND: Sound designer Gary Rydstrom is brilliant here (and even more so in the film's sequel) at creating a universe of sounds out of the world of these characters. Although the presentation here doesn't seem quite as aggressive as the sequel, surrounds still do get a good deal of use throughout the film, especially as the film goes on.

Although the live-action films that Gary Rydstrom has worked on ("Haunting", "Saving Private Ryan", etc) have always transported us to those worlds, here he transports us to a world that's a realm of fantasy, which is even more impressive. One thing that I can say about the films that he works on is that there is almost no stone unturned in the sound. Not only does he not miss opportunities, but he takes us to places in the film we'd never expected with his wonderfully creative presentations. Audio quality is exciting and impressive, as effects sounded dynamic and well-recorded, while dialogue remained clean and clear. The DTS-HD presentation sounded richer and more dynamic than the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation of the prior DVDs.

EXTRAS: (Brought over from prior releases:) The commentary for the first Toy Story includes participants director John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon and others. It's even a bit more enjoyable and informative than the team's "Bug's Life" commentary, but they seem to be having just about as much fun this time around. The crew remain very informative about the process of animation, and often point out some technical aspects of how they accomplished some of the scenes, as well as the complexity of some of the sequences.

The group also chat about more general topics, such as their inspirations for the scenes in the movie - and also, the toys that they had growing up and how those contributed to ideas for what to include. They also talk about what it was like to work with Hanks, Allen and the rest of the cast as well as mentioning other animators whose work appears on-screen.

For those of you out there who are aspiring animators, this "Toy Story" box (including these commentaries) are a good place to go to learn more about the animation process and I think this commentary in particular provides some neat information and good laughs for those who even aren't thinking about a job in animation, although I must say these guys seem like they're having too much fun. This is not a new track, but it is an excellent one.

"The Legacy of Toy Story" offers a look back at the success of the movie, as well as how other artists, such as George Lucas, Chris Wedge ("Ice Age"), Peter Jackson (who lost a stunning amount of weight, and now looks somewhat similar to "Lord of the Rings" star Dominic Monaghan), Roy Disney, Hayao Miyazaki, Allen/Hanks and others appreciate the picture.

There's also a promo for the upcoming Pixar feature, "Cars", along with promos for other upcoming Disney titles.

A "making of" offers interviews from Lasseter and many of the other creative minds involved with the making of the picture. We hear about the development of the computer animation suitable for a feature film, story development and more. The interviews and clips are from the time of production, not newly recorded.

"Filmmakers Reflect" is a featurette that has Lassetter and his colleagues sitting around discussing some of their memories about working on the film all those years ago, chatting about the initial reaction to the movie, as well as dealing with the studio regarding some skepticism of a CG-animated feature.

A "behind-the-scenes" section starts off with the short new featurette, "Designing Toy Story", which looks at some of the technical innovations behind the picture. The "Design" subsection offers: a series of galleries, as well as 360 degree "turnarounds". "Story" includes the "Green Army Men" pitch featurette, storyreel for "Andy's New Toy" and a storyreel/film comparison for "The Chase".

"Production" includes: "Production Tour" featurette, a Multi-Angle presentation, "Layout Tricks", "Animation Tour" and "Multi-Language Reel". "Music and Sound" includes: "You've Got a Friend in Me" music video by Randy Newman, "Designing Sound" (the process of creating sound/sound design, with sound designer Gary Rydstrom) and Randy Newman demos.

Finally, we get "The Claw" game and a gallery of a little over 18 minutes worth of deleted scenes. There are also little easter egg clips scattered throughout, marked with stars in the menus. Some of the clips are definitely a lot of fun and they're all certainly worth checking out. Overall, a lot of these features have previously been included on the "Ultimate Toy Story" box set, but the scattered new material is enjoyable.

The material new to the Blu-Ray includes: a sneak peek of "Toy Story 3", three short animated stories from the production of the film ("Baby AJ", "John's Car" and "Scooter Races" - the last one is particularly amusing), "Buzz Takes Manhattan" (a look at the Buzz float appearing in the Macy's NYC Thanksgiving parade), "Path to Pixar: Artists" (a few minutes worth of interviews with a group of Pixar artists about their careers), "Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw" (a look into the darker approach that the filmmakers initially went for, then changed when it was clearly not working) and a short NASA piece ("Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Buzz Blasts Off").

Finally, we also get a series of trailers for other titles from the studio.

Final Thoughts: Overall, more than 10 years later, "Toy Story" still retains its magic: this is a charming, delightful classic from Pixar. The third film comes out Summer of 2010. The Blu-Ray edition offers a few new extras, as well as improved audio/video quality. Recommended.





Film Grade
The Film A
DVD Grades
Video A
Audio: A
Extras: A


DVD Information





Toy Story: Special Edition (Blu-Ray/DVD Combo)
Disney Home Entertainment
1.78:1
DTS-HD 5.1 (English)
Dolby Digital 5.1-EX (French/Spanish)
81 minutes
Subtitles: English SDH/French/Spanish
Rated PG
1080P
AVC
Available At Amazon.com: Toy Story: Special Edition (Blu-Ray/DVD Combo), Toy Story 2: Special Edition (Blu-Ray/DVD Combo)