Toy Story Blu-ray Review
The transfer of any Pixar animation has always been top notch on DVD and the few we have seen on Blu-ray have confirmed our suspicions that these will be discs you can demo your beautiful system with. Let me say from the outset that this is by far the best I have ever seen Toy Story, and that includes at an initial theatrical release as well. Presented here in its original ratio of 1.78:1 using the MPEG-4/AVC codec at 1080p, it's technically flawless and will be receiving full marks from me but, oh there's always a but isn't there, it's too good for its own sake. Let me explain. The animation does now look a little more dated than the DVD version, why... because now you can see it's essentially a group of geometric shapes glued together. Also there are one or two scenes where Buzz's feet doesn't quite seem to hit the glossy floor he's standing on, It's very slight but it's there and because Blu-ray offers us these higher definitions then we can now see some anomalies in the actual source animation. Well very minor gripe over with but thought I would mention it, let's get onto the good stuff.
Colours are absolutely pristine: the multi faceted colours of the robotic toy, the games, Mr Potato Head's lips and the bed quilts for example are solid and absolutely contained, and why should they not be? Any encoding errors in this transfer would be difficult to achieve, as it's a straight digital to pure digital transfer. The blacks, few that they are, are well rendered, deep and offer a good level of shadow detail, say at the outside gas filling station on the way to Pizza Planet. Whites are gloriously rendered with no bloom and enough detail to be seen in bright skies, or even the bright city lights of Pizza Planet itself.
What stands out head and shoulders here over any other release that we have ever seen is the incredible amount of detail on show; it's simply mouth watering. Each and every texture on our favourite toys can now be examined in minute detail, the slight craters on Mr Potato Head's skin, the more knobbly features of Rex, the smooth sheen of Bo and, remarkably, the ears on good ol' Slinky. When Slinky was first in profile my jaw literally did hit the floor, and trust me the floor of my cinema room is not something you wish upon your worst enemy. Dirt, wear and tear, the text now readable on the back of Etch and on the boxes of games, it's all wonderful folks. Detail does not stop there: Woody's burn mark on his head after evil Sid has played with him actually has depth, no longer is it just a little black spot; it's now a tiny little crater. The extra bits of plastic which encase our green plastic troops is more easily seen, the scuffs and chips on the bottom of doors or cardboard boxes easily identified and even the books on Andy's shelves now offer up more detail.The titles of which refer back to the earlier animations Pixar have produced.
That detail adds to an incredible depth of image, the foreground is sharp and in the main the backgrounds further back still as sharp, allowing you to look well into the frame, forget the story and let your eyes wander form one little piece of detail to the next. This transfer is definitely the best it has ever been and whilst it was initially rendered at a much higher resolution I'm finding it difficult to understand how this could ever be beaten. If you want a disc to show off your system then have this one to hand.
Now the video comes out with top of the class marks, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio doesn't let the side down. If Spinal Tap had reviewed this feature then I am sure they would have pulled out all the stops and given this one a straight eleven, it's that good, seriously. If you thought the video was a step up then wait till you hear this beautiful audio.
Dialogue has always been decent but it seems a little sharper here. Not one conversation is lost in the mix, and there are a couple of phrases I heard this time round which I never caught before: Buzz introducing his two drinking buddies for instance, 'Marie Antoinette and her younger sister', as he mumbles through his own dementia. Panning from left and right speaker is seamless and a perfect affair and the steerage from front to rears is equally as stunning. The best opportunity to experience this is when Buzz first falls with style around Andy's room; you'll know the scene as soon as it hits you. Similarly, balls, footsteps, and cars all travel from one speaker to the next with absolute timed precision.
So that's pretty good then eh, well it gets better and better. Toy Story 2 always had the opening scenes which were demo material for your sub. Well move over because now the whole of Toy Story does the same; well perhaps an exaggeration but there's much more LFE usage than I remember from my somewhat pale and insignificant original Region 1 DVD now. The Luxo Jr. bouncing ball has weight and tone, the explosions emanating from Sid's back yard have you quivering, and you can hear the thunder of the approaching truck at the gas station from miles away, once it reaches the frame you had better hold onto your seats. Footsteps have a discernable, pleasing thud and even the echo of Woody's voice as he offers the group meeting chat is cavernous and realistic.
Like the video earlier there's nothing I can really say to fault this track, My heart goes out to our European cousins who have not been blessed with this full on, lossless variety.
- Toy Story 3 - Sneak Peek. - 0:02:06 - 1080p/MPEG-4
Lee Unkrich introducing us to Toy Story 3. We all know these discs are marketing material for the new film, just accept it and go with the flow.
- Audio Commentary - John Lasseter Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Ralph Eggleston, Bill Reeves, Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold.
This is an engaging chat track with a multitude of people having their say on the initial designs, the world they had to create, the must have toys they wanted in the feature and many other aspects of this movie. It rattles along at a fair rate of knots and occassionaly another disembodied voice creeps in introducing the next talking head to have his or her say. There's a few in-jokes from the crowd that have worked together over the years and we get lots of snippets of information as to all the little references to other films they tried to squeeze in... just in case you missed them whilst watching the film. Excellent stuff!
- Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Blast off. - 0:03:28 - 1080p/MPEG-4
A short with Rex and Ham being instructed by Buzz on NASA and recent space missions.
- Paths to Pixar - Artists. - 0:04:47 - 1080p/MPEG-4
Another short this time, brief interviews with artists, how they started art as a career in the first place and how they ended up at Pixar.
- Studio Stories: John's Car. - 0:01:28 - 1080p/MPEG-4
A history of John's humble car, commonly known as the death box. From the description it sounded more like the delivery van from Pizza Planet. After the success of Toy Story Steve Jobs actually buys John a new car, cool.
- Studio Stories: Baby AJ. - 0:01:40 - 1080p/MPEG-4
The brief retelling of a Halloween costume party held at Pixar. The eventual winner, A.J. Riebli went dressed as the baby from Tin Toy, complete with full body shave.
- Studio Stories: Scooter Races. - 0:02:18 - 1080p/MPEG-4
Another short showing us some insight into the Pixar workplace, this time a scooter rave around the empty building they moved into in Point Ridge. After watching this and the aforementioned costume part you just really wished you worked there.
- Buzz Takes Manhattan. - 0:02:12 - 1080p/MPEG-4
Lasseter on Buzz's appearance in the Macey's parade in New York. A giant inflatable was towed through the streets, much to John and everyone else's delight.
- Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw. - 0:07:35 - 1080p/MPEG-4
The storyboard of an early rendition of where Toy Story was heading, a darker, more mean spirited Woody and Lasseter himself admitting it was not heading in the right direction. It's excellent that this is included though so we can see the full history behind this particular production.
Classic DVD Features.
- Filmmakers Reflect. - 0:16:35 - 480i/MMPEG-2
John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Joe Ranft sit around drinking coffee discussing their time on Toy Story. This is a laugh a minute, how they came up with the original idea, when they went shopping for toys, how Andy and Sid are composites of the people involved in the production.
- Making Toy Story. - 0:20:20 - 480i/MPEG-2
The original team this time discussing how Toy Story came to life, the trials and pitfalls they had to go through, the negotiations with Disney, John seeing Tron and knowing there and then that this was the way animation would be conducted in the future. He still knew though that no matter the animation style, no matter the tools used to create the end product, the heart and soul would always rest in the characters and the story.
- The Legacy of Toy Story. - 0:11:44 - 480i/MPEG-2
George Lucas, Brad Bird, Peter Jackson, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and many others discussing the impact Toy Story had on the world of storytelling and animation. They all regard it as groundbreaking, a modern day Snow White and rightly so. You can see the enthusiasm in their eyes and voices, but essentially it's telling you what you already know.
- Designing Toy Story. - 0:06:12 - 480i/MPEG-2
How the geniuses at Pixar worked behind the scenes in coming up with the look and feel of the world our favourite toys live in. The nuts and bolts in Buzz, the rag doll look of Woody, Pizza Planet, the environment of Andy's suburbia and even employing one person as an 'imperfectionist'; her job to make a perfectly rendered CGI world look real with scuffs and knocks. An interesting look into another aspect of bringing this world to our screens.
- Deleted Scenes. - 0:18:50 - 480i/MPEG-2
9 removed scenes from Toy Story. The animation is a little rough around the edges but the characters and story is still what we know and love. There's Woody and Buzz being tortured by Sid. The majority of scenes though are told in storyboard fashion so it's touch and go to say if they were deleted or not. Still they are all enjoyable to watch; some would have worked in the film, others perhaps not. Still an invaluable piece in this extensive extras collection.
- Design. - 0:14:29 - 480i/MPEG-2
Galleries of all the major characters in the film. A show-reel and not something you can navigate through at your leisure other than use the pause button. It's interesting to see how the characters themselves evolved on paper before entering the digital domain.
- Story. - 0:14:01 - 480i/MPEG-2
How the written word is first transformed into storyboards for the pitch to the directors. We get to see the initial pitch of the army men sequence. We see the presentation and, in another small window, the specific story board in question. The storyboard is remarkably like the final scene and provides an interesting watch showing how the dots join up in preproduction. We get more storyboards further into this short featurette and how one relates to the final finished scene.
- Production. - 0:11:20 - 480i/MPEG-2
Lasseter showing us how they actually do the whole animation process, the storyboards, building the layout in the computer for the first time, the actual animation then the final rendering of shading and lighting. Each one of these is investigated in a little more detail. If you're an animation buff, or wish to be at some point then this is a good watch. I loved the trenching aspect and the paratroopers, look for them yourself; it's a fascinating insight into some animation techniques. There's also some snippets from the apparently 30 international versions of Toy Story but these are no more than simply the same frames with different languages applied, although the text on the back of Buzz's crashed ship does change to suit also. Impressive.
- Music and Sound. - 480i/MPEG-2
We get Randy's You've Got a Friend In Me video. Designing sound discusses how they went into creating the sounds on the individual characters. Like everyone else on this team they are dedicated to their work and their results do pay off. On top of this we get a full 17 minutes of Randy Newman demos if that's your thing, but unless you're a big Randy fan then I would give these a wide berth.
- Publicity. - 0:10:15 - 480i/MPEG-2
Ten minutes of some publicity material used for the marketing of Toy Story. Interviews with Buzz and Woody, TV Spots and the like. An amusing little piece.
- Sneak Peeks. - 480i/MPEG-2
8 trailers for up and coming Disney / Pixar features.
Refused to connect saying it was only available in certain territories. I wasn't overly concerned.
An incredible, and deserved, set of extras for this little movie. The extras from the earlier DVD have been ported over so you're not losing anything there, and on top of this they have found the time and space to include some new material for your viewing pleasure. I have always found Disney Blu-ray releases to have a good and wide choice in the extras department and this is no different in that regard. As a bonus you get the original DVD as well, locked to regions 2, 4, and 5 so you can palm this off onto the kiddies so they don't get their mucky paw prints over your pristine Blu-ray edition. There have only ever been a few releases that I have given top marks to for extras and this release has now to be added to that short list. These snippets are enjoyable, entertaining and informative.
Well a very rare occurrence, straight tens across the board; anything less would be doing this release an incredible injustice. Toy Story has lasted through the years, never dated, entertains young adults now as it once did when they were small kiddies. In the years to come I have no doubt that this will entertain their own kids, and still entertain them as aged adults. It's a timeless film, and can be watched time and time again.
In some ways I felt this review could never do this film the justice it truly deserves; where do you start and where do you end? Enough talk about the actors who made the roles their own, from Tom Hanks to R. Lee Ermey as the Army Sarge? Enough discussion on the technology used to create this now iconic piece, or the troubles they initially had with Disney before they just decided to take a leaf out of ol' Blue Eye's book and do it their way? Whichever way you look at it there's so much to say about this relatively short film. From my own point of view praise can never be enough as far as this is concerned.
As a disc set I don't think I've seen much better. The video is absolutely pristine and only limited by the technology in use at the time. The audio is delicious and a joy to finally hear in all its uncompressed glory; the only downside to that is that you get to hear each and every tone of Randy's sometimes sickly sweet tones. The extras are everything you could have wanted, it's region free so there's no limitation there if you opted for an early purchase on a US PS3, and you get a DVD of the same movie thrown in for the kiddies.
If you don't have this yet then I am sure you will at some point, I do know of one, and only one, person who doesn't give this all the thumbs up, but seriously has there ever been a better fun, family movie? We've seen the quality that Pixar can create when moving to Blu-ray, Wall-e, Cars and Monsters Inc all look and sound stunning. Toy Story now joins them and I for one cannot wait for each and every Pixar release to hit our shelves. In the meantime make sure you get this one as soon as you can, you know it's well worth it. A must purchase in my book.
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- Toy Story 3 - Sneak Peek. - 0:02:06 - 1080p/MPEG-4