PictureNow this is a comparison test, so we not only want to know how good the image is, but which of the two regions produce the better one. Both exhibit a superbly sharp, detailed image which has very few artefacts present. But there is a peculiar detail I noticed about the Region 2 version with regard to the image; The bitrate on the Region 1 averages 8.26 Mbps which is pretty good, the Region 2 version only manages 7.59 Mbps. Not that shocking in itself I hear you say, but this is the Special Edition Region 2 version and is even less than the original standard Region 2 version which managed 8.14 Mbps yet this is supposed to have a “Sparkling new picture”. How much this actually influences the quality of the image I will look at in a moment, but it does strike me as unusual that they use a lower bitrate for this disc which is supposed to have an improved image than they did on their previous standard Region 2 release.
I viewed both these movies on my widescreen TV and also on my DLP projector, on the TV, differences where negligible but apparent all the same, on my projector the differences where much more noticeable. The Region 1 version when blown up to an image size of 80 inches across appeared slightly sharper especially around edges than the Region 2 example. Also, detail retrieval seemed marginally better on the Region 1 copy most notably on areas of hair and cloth such as those seen on toy store owner, Al. The Region 2 being a PAL disc has a slightly higher resolution than the Region 1's NTSC format. This in theory should result in a small advantage in image quality so I can only imagine that the slightly lower bitrate and possible lack of attention to disc quality that is apparent on the Region 1 version is to blame.
Now this is just my own opinion and is by no means fact, but I believe that in the USA, much more importance and significance is placed on both image and sound quality than over here in the UK. Maybe because in the States they already have High Def TV, DVD manufactures know that image quality has to be right up there. Just my opinion, but what is apparent is that the Region 1 has a better image than the Region 2. On a TV, this may not be too noticeable, viewed on a large screen display I would definitely opt for the Region 1. But like I said, the image quality on both is superb and unless you where doing a side by side comparison as I have, you would be happy with either save you wanting the last word in quality. If you already own the original Region 2 version, you probably won't gain the jump in quality you may be expecting from this Special Edition.
SoundNow where the image differences where small, the sound differences are much, much bigger. I will first take a look at the Region 1 version.
The Region 1 disc benefits from an all new sound remastering carried out by four-time Academy Award winner, Gary Summers. Plus, we also get a new Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 5.1 ES surround soundtrack, not quite the 6.1 discreet soundtrack I would have liked to have seen (or heard) but a vast improvement over the original all the same. The sound has always been great on this movie but now it has even more of a visceral impact in all areas. Separation has been improved and surround effect placement especially is now much more pronounced. The scene where the toys cause carnage on the road whilst trying to cross it and a lamp post falls onto the road is now considerably enhanced and you really think you can feel it falling down onto you from behind your seat. Bass is also better than previously and carries more impact. This is emphasised with the DTS soundtrack which has a slightly better dynamic range than the Dolby Digital version. This bass also makes its presence felt in voicing which now carries enhanced warmth and substance.
If you are able to take advantage of the EX/ES option (matrixed rear centre channel) then you are definitely in for a treat. Now the sound totally encapsulates you and places you slap bang in the middle of the action. Surround effects now play a major role in the movie's enjoyment and you hear effects you miss when listening in standard 5.1. Definitely an improvement over the previous version and worth purchasing for these improvements alone.
Despite what it may say on the packaging, the Region 2 version does NOT have the DTS 5.1 ES soundtrack found on the Region 1 disc but it does have Dolby Digital 5.1 EX. Apparently this was due to technical restraints and the packaging was produced before they realised they couldn't include the DTS option. That's their excuse, but to us UK customers, it just seems that yet again, we miss out to our Stateside cousins. The DTS soundtrack is better than the Dolby Digital one by a small margin so the lack of it does count against the Region 2 version from the off. Saying that, the Dolby Digital soundtrack is still very impressive and a vast improvement over the previous Region 2 release so is definitely worth having. Almost identical (to my ears) to the Region 1 disc, the sound also has improved dynamics, separation and clarity and the inclusion of the EX option makes it a must have for fans of the movie.
If not for the lack of the DTS 5.1 ES soundtrack on the Region 2 DVD, there would be nothing to separate these two versions but this not insignificant omission makes the Region 1 DVD a clear winner.
ExtrasPlenty to entertain everyone both young and old. Disc one has besides the movie itself an Audio Commentary which features few of the production team including Director John Lasseter. This is not that bad and unlike most commentaries based around the production team which tend to be technical and informative rather than entertaining, this is a real laugh thanks mainly to Director John Lasseter who is a scream. Shame there isn't one with the cast but this is fun all the same. There is also a new Trailer for forthcoming animated movie Cars. Trailers for this movie have been appearing on various Pixar movies for about a year now, but this is definitely the longest and most entertaining one to date. Then we move onto Disc 2:
This is where the bulk of the extra material is to be found and the material is divided into sections. We have firstly the 'Toy Box' then the 'Making of Toy Story 2' followed by 'Deleted Scenes' and finally the 'Behind the Scenes' section. Click on 'Toy Box and top of the list is Outtakes. These are the outtakes found at the end of the movie and as such maybe something you have already seen but nonetheless are still great fun. Next we have Who's the Coolest Toy? which features brief interviews with cast and crew members asking them which toy the most prefer. Mine is the pig by the way! After this is the game Which Toy are You? where you are asked questions by Hamm and Rex and then they tell you which toy you most resemble in character at the end. A crazy game from Japan is next. Ponkickies is basically a game of 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' played with Woody. What makes it crazy is the mad Japanese voice given to Woody which you will not understand unless of course you speak Japanese! Riders in the Sky Music Medley follows which is a music video by the country band who supply the score for Woody's Roundup Gang. Finally in this section is the Autographed Pictures section which shows a collection of black and white photos of the toys autographed by their respective selves.
Making of Toy Story 2 is a featurette lasting 8.10 minutes and features clips from the movie, interviews with the stars and makers along with candid clips of the actors voicing their parts. We also get to learn about the advances they made in the animation compared to the original and how scenes cut from Toy Story where incorporated into Toy Story 2. I found this featurette very interesting and is a great addition to this disc.
then we have Deleted Scenes which consists of just two scenes; one which was completely deleted from the movie and concerns how Woody first ended up in the yard sale and the second was just changed in the final cut and not entirely deleted. This second scene is where the toys are trying to cross the busy highway under the road cones and in this deleted scene, only the location of the road changes and not much else.
The final section revolves around the 'Behind the Scenes' aspects of the movie. We begin with a 3.02 minute John Lasseter Profile which is a collection of interviews and short clips from the movie that examines how John Lasseter was the perfect man to make this movie and how his passion for the story (he was one of the original story writers) produced such a great film. Then comes the Cast of Characters section. This is a 3.30 minute featurette which looks at how the actors fitted the characters so perfectly and includes interviews with Hanks, (Woody) Allen, (Buzz) Don Rickles (Mr Potato Head) Wayne Knight (Al), Joan Cusack (Jessie) and Kelsey Grammer as Stinky Pete. Then we have the Design feature which is a picture based section and shows us both static images of the characters and sets as well as 3D 'turnaround' pieces which allow you to view many locations within the movie in much greater detail. The 'sets' 3D turnaround section especially is fascinating. Story is next and consists of a storyboard 'pitch' where we see Joe Rampht showing the scene titled 'Woody's Nightmare' via storyboards to John Lasseter and the second is a storyboard to finished sequence comparison of a scene from the movie, 'Jessie's Song'.
Following on is the section titled 'Production' which starts with Creating Woody's Past this is a 2.50 minute featurette looking at how the ideas for Woody's past as a popular 1950's toy came about. Then is Making Woody's Roundup which examines how the old TV footage of the gang as puppets was digitally created and not as some have queried, real puppets. (2.00 minutes). The we have a 2.31 minute featurette titled Production Tour which shows how Toy Story 2 grew from storyboard to finished piece with examples of all aspects shown. Production Progression examines one specific scene (the opening scene with Buzz) and allows you to switch between various stages of the scene using your remote from storyboard to finished piece. (3.29 minutes) Early Animation Tests (3.04 minutes) looks at how they tested whether an animated piece would work using very basic animation techniques. Second to last is the Special Effects section (1.38 minutes) which takes a very brief look at how additional effects are added by a dedicated team to various scenes to enhance such things as explosions and lasers. Finally we have International Scene This shows how a particular scene which displayed the American flag was changed to appeal to a more global audience by using a revolving earth instead of the flag and also shows us the finished scene.
That's it for Production, next is the section titled 'Music and Sound' which as the title suggest looks at the songs in the movie as well as containing interviews with Randy Newman and Sarah Mclachlan features the full music video for Woody's Roundup. The Sound section features the sound effects and how they are achieved. Remember every single sound in the movie has to be created separately from the acting. We also have a Mixing Demo part which allows you through a virtual mixing desk to adjust the sound elements of a particular scene which is fun.
The very last section is given to 'Publicity'. Here we have a Character Interview which cleverly pits a real life interviewer against animated Buzz and Woody in an interview. Then we have a selection of Trailers (2) and TV Spots (4) and the very last added extra is a montage of Posters from all around the world advertising the movie. That is it but for two Easter Eggs the first of which can be found on the very first page. Click on the yellow star at the bottom and you'll see a hilarious extended scene from the movie which involves a car which should just drive off into the distance but instead careers off over the grass and launches off the brow of the hill only to come skidding back again. The second is found on the very last page at the bottom of the 'Publicity' page is another yellow star which when clicked shows a short animated clip of Woody bowling a baseball at the camera! Phew, told you there was plenty didn't I. Both Regions have the same extras so the score applies to both.
VerdictToy Story 2 is a rarity in the world of sequels, it betters the original. Now not only does the movie better the original, but both these versions better their respective original release by quite a margin. The animation, though not cutting edge, is still very impressive but it is the story itself which stands the test of time. Toy Story 2 is a gem which should be in everyone's collection. Fans of the movie wanting the very best version available will want to purchase one of these and those wanting the ultimate will opt for the Region 1.
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