One single word of amazement best defined the reaction audiences shared in response to the 1995 film, Toy Story; “Wow.” Complete and total joy mixed with jaw-dropping awe. The movie breathed new life into animation with the then-new CG technology, while bringing cartoons, as a whole, to an entirely new level with complex emotion and multi-layered stories that could appeal to anyone, of any age, at any stage of life. Yeah, “wow”. It’s no wonder audiences were stunned, and forever hooked, when Disney and Pixar not only matched the original reaction with it’s 1999 sequel, Toy Story 2, but surpassed it. And now, all these years later, as we anxiously wait for Toy Story 3‘s theatrical arrival this summer, we finally get the ultimate Toy Story gift; The Special Edition Toy Story and Toy Story 2 Blu-ray. And after watching both in depth, all we can think is “wow.”
In 1995, “Pixar” was not a household name. “CG” was not a commonly known term. And cartoons, save some rare exceptions, were often cited as a limited medium. With Toy Story, and later Toy Story 2, Disney changed everything. The films revolutionized the industry, forever altering the landscape, boosting expectations from fan reaction, box office, story depth, and animated quality. The beautiful visuals of Toy Story, alone, make the film a tremendously memorable stand out – but it’s the depth of the stories, the complexities of the characters, the mixture of emotions, and the hauntingly beautiful tale that, along with the visuals, bring everything together in one wonderfully amazing piece of “wow”. These are the movies, they are the companies, and it is the franchise that changed this world forever.
Beyond their legendary status, the films have seen astonishing theatrical success at the box office, critical and fan acclaim beyond compare, and a number of authentically must-have take home components, from VHS cassettes, to DVD stand-alones, and even re-mastered DVD box set packages. But, not until now, with the release of the pair on Blu-ray, has the quality and world of amazement reached the peak it deserves. Aligning the phenomenal films with unmatched visual and audio quality, behind the scenes extras, and a whole world of bonus features, the Special Edition Blu-ray discs are a perfectly rated, 10-out-of-10, must-have item for any fan of the films, fan of the field, or fan of anything that is this ultimately perfect.
And all this for a ragdoll cowboy, and plastic Space Ranger.
Woody, the old school cowboy voiced by Tom Hanks, is Andy’s favorite toy. At least, until the arrival of Buzz Lightyear, the futuristic Space Ranger voiced by Tim Allen. With the question of “top toy” now up in the air, the world of toys living in Andy’s room is thrown into chaos, with tension and drama rising amongst the group. Each of the characters – Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Hamm the piggy bank (John Ratzenberger), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) and dozens of others – choose sides, debate points, and try to go on leading their toy lives. But it’s Woody’s fear, of losing Andy forever, that sets a plan in motion to get rid of Buzz.
From there, the film works it’s magic. The pair of opposites are forced to learn about one another, inevitably softening their hurt feelings, and forming a mutual respect and bond; it’s the love of a toy that brought them together, after all. There’s a complex depth and three-dimensional nature in the toys that the audience can relate to; in the fears, in the joys, in the goals, and in the hopes.
Toy Story 2 features a similar depth, as Woody is forced to choose between Andy’s room full of old pals, and helping a new set of friends live a life they could only dream of; a true theatrical dilemma — “theatrical” being an important note, as the sequel was intended to head straight to DVD, until the reviews and tremendous quality forced Disney to bring it to theaters. Toy Story 2 features a real application of human decision in all of Woody’s expressions and words, that kids and adults alike can really feel tug at their own emotions and complexities. Jessie’s moments, notably “Jessie’s Song” are easily amongst the most powerful emotion moments in movie history. There are moments in both films where you will be laughing hysterically and scenes where you will find yourself crying softly. That full range of emotions can only be brought out by truly powerful theatrical performance
That’s one of the true beautiful triumphs of these films – the characters are so vulnerable, relatable, and enjoyable, you forget (or ignore) that they’re “merely” toys; they’re just one of us. Whether that’s in Woody’s insecurities at losing his spot, Buzz’s realizations that his dreams can’t be reached, or Jessie’s tearful farewell to her best friend, these are characters you care about, and care about deeply. That is magic rarely seen in films, animated or otherwise, and the Toy Story franchise does it to an incredible degree. If you haven’t yet seen the films, or even if you’ve seen them hundreds of times, there are a number of powerful moments that will sit fondly in your heart forever.
And then, there’s these Blu-ray editions. Every aspect of the movie’s beauty is heightened and perfected, bringing to light new clarity and splendor never before possible in the older mediums or even the original theater releases. The films are taken directly from the original source, in the 1.79:1 aspect ration, and presented in the gloriously perfect 1080p, far higher than what DVDs are capable of. Everything you see looks so realistic or 3D that you could reach out and touch them.
All told, these films are amazing and this Blu-ray package takes them a step higher. They are absolute must-haves, a phenomenal production by Pixar and Disney, and true examples of cinematic brilliance. If there were scores higher than “10”, they’d get it.
“But wait, there’s more…!”
Each Special edition is actually a 2-disc combo pack, so 4 discs between Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2; a fully loaded Blu-ray disc and a DVD with bonus features of its own. Here’s the full rundown:
Toy Story Blu-ray:
* Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek: “The Story”
* Audio Commentary
* Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Blast Off
* Paths To Pixar: Artists
* Studio Stories: John’s Car
* Studio Stories: Baby AJ
* Studio Stories: Scooter Races
* Buzz Takes Manhattan
* Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw
* Digital Copy
Toy Story DVD:
* Filmmakers Reflect
* Making Toy Story
* The Legacy of Toy Story
* Designing Toy Story
* Deleted Scenes
* Music & Sound
Toy Story 2 Blu-ray:
* Toy Story 3 sneak Peek: “The Characters”
* Audio Commentary
* Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station
* Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists
* Studio Stories: Toy Story 2 Sleep Deprivation Lab
* Studio Stories: Pinocchio
* Studio Stories: The Movie Vanishes
* Pixar’s Zoetrope
* Celebrating Our Friend Joe Ranft
* Digital Copy
Toy Story 2 DVD:
* Making of Toy Story 2
* John Lasseter Profile
* Cast of Characters
* Toy Box
* Deleted Scenes
* Music & Sound