Toy Story 2 Blu-ray Review
The format, codec and resolution remain the same as the previous release, those being 1.78:1, MPEG-4/AVC and 1080p respectively, and much like that earlier review of Toy Story this is an incredible transfer and quite deserving of the full marks I just have to attribute to it.
Colour and texture continue to amaze, and everything that I said about Toy Story can be attributed to this next instalment. There's one exception though. This time the technology has moved on and some of the very minor animation faux pas encountered earlier are nowhere to be seen on this superb transfer. The greens of Rex, the lush pinks of Ham's almost waxy skin, and again the red lips of Mr & Mrs Potato Head immediately pop out at you as being the biggest step up from earlier DVD editions. That's not to say though that the myriad of other colours on display here have been given a back seat because it's just not the case. Jessie's hair now has a deeper and more satisfying red tone, the cheesy snacks spilled over the floor have some rather dubious green tinges to them (that'll teach Al to remain single and not get looked after!) and the paints used on Woody are so real you can almost feel the viscosity of the paint as The Cleaner (cue Leon and a world of mayhem!) restores him to his former glory.
Detail and textures are to the same high standard as Toy Story. Jessie's red hair has form and depth, Bullseye's rough hide has wonderful stitching and texture in the material. Our old hero's exhibit the same degree of depth and detail as in the previous release, although this time Slinky's ears don't seem to have the same level of texture, and might in fact be down to the angle he is being filmed at any one point in time. Not to matter though because everything else still has the effect of making you pick your jaw up off the floor. Never before has Toy Story 2 looked this good.
The wow factor remains; Buzz traversing Zurg's lair early in the feature has incredible pop as he steps daintily onto the floating discs or his hand wanders through the Zurg of Power battery hologram. The armoured robots, with robotic shoulders within shoulders have much more detail and that detail enters further back into the frame than earlier DVD releases. Detail continues to amaze though; the multitude of cars slamming to a halt to avoid walking cones, individual hairs on Al's face or indeed the better renderings of Buster the Christmas dog and of course the extra level of detail whilst our heroes meander their way through Al's own Toy Store. It's all there folks and it's all wonderful.
Similarly the encoding is first class, with not one of those 2,073,600 pixels even a nibble out of place. Digital to digital transfer again ensure blacks work well in the shadows of Zurg's lair, the elevator shaft and air conditioning ducts, and the whites top notch in the clear bright skies of Andy's new home town. Like the first Toy Story, I have no choice other than to give this top marks.
The audio follows the same path as the earlier Toy Story, using the DTS-HD MA 5.1 system. Non English speaking variants are included and they step well up to the mark but pale beside this full on, LFE heavy MA track.
Toy Story 2 was always a good DVD to grab off those shelves, so you could demo your latest chest thumping sub woofer to those friends who just couldn't quite understand the finer points of investing in the best kit you could afford. Throughout the film Toy Story 2 put forth some incredible examples of the lower tones and this continues here with this Blu-ray edition and not at the expense of anything else contained in the full range of this audio track.
First out the LFE: it's there, its low, it's prolonged and it's absolutely glorious. The opening scenes give you that "Is it live or is it Uncompressed Audio" moment and as Buzz flies to his doom below; get ready to hold onto the arms of your seats. Get your better halves to hold the ornaments in place because you want to be centre stage for this sequence. It continues with the robots fiery demise and the battle as Buzz finally duels his nemesis. Those lower tones though are not held at the expense of the crisp and lighter notes of the intro to 2001.
Panning at the front, and steerage to the surrounds are again timed to perfection. Hub caps sneaking into view, cars veering off to one side, voices as they enter and leave a frame are all perfectly placed from one speaker to the next. Dialogue in the main is up front and firmly locked to the centre channel but will move left and right as needed. Buzz sweeping in, in his attempt to flee Al's Toy Barn, makes good use of the surrounds as does the falling lamp post as it's trampled by a runaway concrete pipe. Ambiance comes from creaking elevators, the train like sounds as Woody rides the roof of the luggage transport, some artificial bird sounds and scattered toys as Buster or Andy play with the toys in Andy's bedroom.
The disc deserved perfect audio and it finally received the treatment it was crying out for.
- Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek - The Characters. - 0:03:12 - 1080p/MPEG-4
Lee Unkrich reintroducing us to the characters we know and love and also the new characters we can expect to see in Toy Story 3.
- Audio Commentary. - John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon and Andrew Stanton.
Fewer people this time and the commentary is a little better for it. You don't tend to get lost in the mix. It's a scene by scene discussion from the opening titles to the end credits. People mention their favourite moments, the styles of animation and some of the new techniques used. It's interesting to see some of the mistakes which were left in and the film was all the better for it. Note the floating rocks in the opening scene. References to other films are mentioned and the commentary flows well, again with all participants getting along well and generally having a great laugh. Like the commentary on Toy Story 1 this is a must listen if you're a fan of this movie.
- Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station. - 0:03:45 - 1080p/MPEG-4
Ham and Rex again instructed by Buzz, this time the topic's “The International Space Station”. Solar energy, exercise, gravity and distance from the Earth are just a few brief snippets you'll get here.
- Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists. - 0:04:24 - 1080p/MPEG-4
Similar to the last but this time we get to see some of the technical artists who have been employed by Pixar. The routes which took them to their ideal position, the computers they used, and for some, the mathematical algorithms used to create the software which powers the films we simply laugh at.
- Studio Stories: Toy Story 2 Sleep Deprivation Lab. - 0:01:27 - 1080p/MPEG-4
Lindsey Collins informing us that a four year process had to be completed in 7 or eight months, and how the employees lives at Pixar were often fraught with long periods of work with little to no sleep. An excellent physiological experiment it seems.
- Studio Stories: Pinocchio. - 0:02:16 - 1080p/MPEG-4
The origins of the animation department, the location, the games they used to play and how a Pinocchio type doll was used and abused, including how it was continually thrown up to the ceiling to try and stick in the insulation that resides there. Don't you just want to work at Pixar?
- Studio Stories: The Movie Vanishes. - 0:02:34 - 1080p/MPEG-4
The machines used to create the animations and then the command used which deleted all of the animation files they had created. All because of three little characters entered erroneously. Go to backup, perhaps but in this instance the backups were bad. Let this be a lesson to all of you out there, take and test your backups.
- Pixar's Zoetrope. - 0:02:00 - 1080p/MPEG-4
A brief discussion on animation and how it tricks the eye so that eventually you see moving images. Pixar decide to build their own, not with individual frames though but with models of the characters in the films.
- Celebrating our Friend Joe Ranft. - 0:12:47 - 1080i/MPEG-4
The Pixar team discussing Joe who worked with Pixar and who passed away towards the end of the production of Cars at only 45 years of age. We see some archive footage of him giving interviews, some of which can be seen here or on the extras of the original Toy Story. Everyone has a good word to say about Joe and on camera he comes across as an amiable guy. We get to see some of the animations he created in college and some of the people he worked with. Undoubtedly Joe loved his work, and we in turn have loved the work that he has produced throughout the years.
Classic DVD Bonus Features.
- Making Toy Story 2. - 0:08:11 - 480i/MPEG-2
How the sequel was tackled and how John respected the first: the look, the feel, the design and music. He realised that they had to create the same world. Taking this on board they had to fit the new characters into that world, give them the same wackiness, the same charm and the same longevity. Technological advancements enabled them to create new scenes or camera positions, and they obviously made use of this. From his own experience John freely admits that the essence of Toy Story 2 is the same as its predecessor, the fact that toys are there to be played with; it has obviously worked.
- John Lasseter Profile. - 0:03:03 - 480i/MPEG-2
John's colleagues discussing John the man and how he works. Some indicate that it is the closest they will actually get to working with the great Walt Disney himself. They respect his work attitude, his imagination and his commitment to making fun movies.
- Cast of Characters. - 0:03:30 - 480i/MPEG-2
The original and new characters we are introduced to in Toy Story 2. The people who create the voices, the energy they bring to their parts and the enjoyment that all had in creating their characters. We get to see the actors behind the scenes doing the voices and they all look to be having a blast. A great watch.
- Outtakes. - 0:05:43 - 480i/MPEG-2
A selection of 'outtakes' from this computer generated animation. You see all of these during the end credits of the main feature, but let's face it they're well worth looking out time and time again. Stinky Pete and his so called 'acting lessons' to the two Barbie twins must be regarded as comedy gold.
- Jessie's Gag. - 0:01:10 - 480i/MPEG-2
An Easter Egg on the original DVD with John Lasseter and Ash Brannon presenting a brief animated insert to the Jessie sorry back story. Not that amusing in all honesty.
- Who's the Coolest Toy? - 0:03:18 - 480i/MPEG-2
A short discussing who's the best toy between Buzz and Woody. Tim Allen and Tom Hanks go head to head extolling their own respective virtues. I'm sure you've got your own personal choice as everyone else does... I know I do... the green aliens, no... Mr Potato Head, or perhaps Ham, maybe Jessie.. och they're all fantastic let's face it!
- Riders in the Sky Music Medley. - 0:03:10 - 480i/MPEG-2
The Rider in the Sky on stage singing the Woody's Round Up Gang theme song. They jump in with a couple of other brief tunes and it's a fair enough watch. Got to be better than Randy any day, but don't let it be said I'm getting Country on your ass.
- Autographed Pictures. - 0:00:44 - 480i/MPEG-2
A collection of autographed black and white photographs from our leading characters. Unusual if ever there was one.
- Deleted Scenes. - 0:04:11 - 480i/MPEG-2
2 deleted scenes, unlike the ones on Toy Story 1 these are all tough animations rather than just storyboards. They both work well but you can see that the scenes which eventually replaced them just had that extra edge and enabled the story to flow a little better.
- Design. - 0:16:41 - 480i/MPEG-2
Much the same as the galleries on the Toy Story 1 Blu-ray recently released, although obviously extended to incorporate some of the new characters we're introduced to in Toy Story 2.
- Production. - 0:13:52 - 480i/MPEG-2
Again much in the same vein as the production extras from Toy Story 1 but this time more applicable to this feature. Woody's history is explored and we get to see the Cowboy Crunchies, Woody's lunch box with thermos, the record player and even the copy of Life magazine, which was released on the same day as John Lassester's birthday. Woody's Round Up Gang TV show is discussed and how that was animated and this section is an interesting piece to dive into. The international cut of the American flag in the background is mentioned and why they chose to go universal for the world wide release. On the whole I would have to say that I preferred this additional over its equivalent from the earlier Toy Story 1 Blu-ray.
- Music & Sound. - 0:11:21 - 480i/MPEG-2
How the sound was designed and constructed for Toy Story 2. Good ol' Randy is back again with his sweet songs. So it's either more of the good stuff or more of the torture that Randy puts you through depending on your tastes. I have to admit though , I do have a soft spot for Jessie's song. What is interesting though is the actual Foley design of the toys making certain sounds. Sounds that you have grown up with are rendered here so perfectly.
- Publicity. - 0:08:32 - 480i/MPEG-2
General publicity material for this second instalment. There's further interviews with Woody and Buzz, trailers, TV Spots and posters. What I didn't realise until watching this though was the outtakes which we now take for granted were not included in the original release but only included a month later. Now that's marketing for you.
- Sneak Peeks. - 480i/MPEG-2
The same set of trailers that were included on the recent Blu-ray release of Toy Story 1.
This still says that this feature is not currently available in my location, like Catherine Tate... am I really that bothered?
So another bag full of goodies to whet your appetite and still another DVD thrown in for the tatter tots. Can't be bad really can it? I still give this one top marks for extras, like the earlier Toy Story they're fun to watch and listen to, informative and highly entertaining. For you lovers of BD-Live there's still a little of a let down because the connection is always refused. On the whole though not many discs are going to live up to these standards.
So this one like Toy Story sweeps across the board, all ten out of ten. During my first review I thought long and hard about giving a disc that level of accolade, let's face it, it has to be something special to go that distance. This time I gave in and once I started opening up all of the extras I knew this would follow suit.
Is this a better film than Toy Story? Perhaps, but that's not what is important. It's an hilarious, poignant, character driven, fun family movie and so was the first. In that regard they are equal and both deserving of the full marks attributed to them. The disc itself is another from a video and audio point of view that you won't want to give up on. Pristine video and audio the likes of which are rarely seen together in one package.
Obviously I have to recommend this as I did Toy Story, how could I not do? Perhaps one of the very few films that just slightly improved on its predecessor and to this day is an absolute joy to watch. The team at Pixar should pat themselves on the back for this one; after A Bugs Life, perhaps people thought they couldn't to the same thing again. This proved those neer sayers wrong and they have been proved wrong ever since, Pixar only ever going from strength to strength. They took us to infinity with this release, let's hope that the new Toy Story 3 takes us beyond. A must have purchase to sit along that space you already have reserved for Toy Story.
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- Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek - The Characters. - 0:03:12 - 1080p/MPEG-4