Toy Story Review

You have to impress an audience to get away with bad puns. Mr. Potato Head looks at a piggy bank named Hamm and calls him an uncultured swine. Little Bo Peep states to Woody she is only a few blocks away while passing some letter blocks on the floor.

In another film, those are painful lines. In Toy Story, their charms are undeniable. They are actually critical, establishing the living toys world, and making sure the audience is aware that the toys are, well, aware. They know their place and purpose, to entertain a 10-year old boy.

They have rules, although the film wisely avoids any explanations. When the kids come running, they head back to where they were left and sit still. They should not reveal themselves, as doing so would take away the imagination of play, or something like that. You could probably insert your own train of thought into how all of that came about.

When Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) comes onto the scene, he doesn’t “get it.” He learns in his own way that he is in fact a toy, although how he follows the sit down rule and gets played with yet still does not figure it out remains a mystery.

Toy Story is a technical achievement. Think back briefly to 1995, where home computers were just moving away from the dinosaur that was Windows 3.1, and video gamers were just getting into 3-D with the PlayStation. Along comes this animated film that is so beyond (to infinity?) what everyone is experiencing at home, it is completely baffling.

After the initial shock, which Pixar takes care of almost immediately during the credits (a spinning, flying, ride down the steps being especially stunning), the story takes over and you forget. Sure this was a new style of animation, but the imagination of it all is the success, not the technology. It could have been so easy to thrive on the power of their hardware, but Pixar chose to properly focus on telling a whimsical, colorful, and lively tale that young and old could relate too. No matter how it ages, Toy Story will continue to entertain because of its quality.

Movie ★★★★★ 

As usual, a Pixar Blu-ray presentation becomes another benchmark for hi-def. Disney’s staggeringly beautiful AVC encode bursts with vibrant, saturated hues. A bright contrast and rich blacks generate enormous depth and dimension in every frame. There are no artifacting issues to take note of.

The transfer is stunningly sharp to where animation flaws and mistakes become visible. Watch closely around 15:05, Woody’s first look at Buzz. As the camera pans back, the bed’s blanket shows a noticeable dip in texture quality closer to Woody. During the rocket chase near the end (1:10:44), a form of dithering is applied to take the place of motion blur as Buzz zips towards and away from the screen (sparks carry this same effect a few minutes later). This is now clearly visible.

Other details that were lost in any DVD edition are revealed. Slinky has small spots on his face that were never before seen, or at least at this level. The coarse plastic used on Mr. Potato Head is clearly defined, and the now primitive level of detail on clothing (including Woody’s pants and shirt) is stunning. Walls, blankets, chairs, grass, and the street all carry fully resolved detail, even at a distance where the animation allows. Look at Woody’s note during the meeting near the beginning of the film. All of them are clearly legible.

Some aliasing is a bit of a bother, likely a flaw from the source. Buzz’s circular space suit, where the clear helmet attaches, is a regular problem. However, this is not as severe as the issue with Sully’s fur in Monster’s Inc., and most will likely not even notice.

Video ★★★★★ 

A DTS-HD EX mix presents the Oscar-winning Randy Newman tune “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” as clear as possible. The song over the credits now carries a fullness that was never before available. A smooth bass line is mixed wonderfully, and the lyrics come through with amazing fidelity.

That is only the start (and the end considering the final credits, actually) of a flawless audio presentation. Everything is distinct and well prioritized. Listen during one of the first toy panic scenes as RC begins zipping around the sound field. He hits every channels at some point, and the individual speakers perfectly capture his movement.

Spacious fronts capture positional dialogue or any necessary panning to the sides. Deep, powerful bass cues are numerous, from the explosion of Combat Carl to the globe falling from its stand as Woody tries to knock Buzz out of the window. Each provides an enormously satisfying rattle with no distortion. Dialogue does not sound aged even a day.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Extras are both new and carried over the Ultimate Toy Box DVD collection. New features begin with a preview for Toy Story 3 focusing on the plot. This is a two-minute promo piece. A crowded commentary begins with director John Lasseter joined by (deep breath) writer Pete Docter, art director Ralph Eggleston, technical animator Bill Reeves, and co-producers Bonnie Arnold and Ralph Guggenheim.

Buzz’s Mission is a short piece for kids on the basics of space travel. Paths to Pixar is a short but nice look at how the animators ended up at Pixar and their influences. Three studio stories are animated little snippets that tell of some funny happenings inside the studio. Buzz Takes Manhattan looks at the Macy’s Day Parade balloon of Buzz Lightyear and how it came about. Black Friday talks about a darker path the film was originally on.

The DVD features include four featurettes, totaling around an hour in length. Your basic making-of stuff is included, but with an enjoyable side the Pixar guys always bring with them. Five additional featurette sections include Design, Story, Production, Sound, and Publicity. They explain themselves, and run around another hour total. Some deleted scenes, trailers, and BD-Live access remain.

Extras ★★★★★ 

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