Toy Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.77:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While I couldn't call the picture totally flawless, I can say it came pretty close; this was an excellent DVD.
Sharpness looked virtually immaculate. With the slightly odd exception of the end credits, at no time did I discern any signs of softness or fuzziness, as the image seemed very crisp and accurate throughout the film. Jagged edges and shimmering caused no problems, and I failed to see any signs of edge enhancement. No print flaws were present, probably because Toy didn't come from a print; it was a direct digital transfer from the original computer data, so there are no defects that could come with it. As such, I saw no problems whatsoever in this film; it looked absolutely clear and fresh.
Colors were a highlight of Toy. The movie featured a nicely-varied palette that offered lush, vibrant tones at all times. From the bright primary colors of many of the toys to more subtle hues such as the lovely sunlight featured in the sunset scenes, the DVD presented tones that always looked accurate and clean.
Black levels seemed deep and dark, with no signs of murkiness or muddiness, and contrast appeared strong. Shadow detail also looked clear and smooth, with appropriate opacity but no excessive darkness. The best examples of this occurred when Buzz and Woody were beneath the truck at the gas station; these presented just the right level of shade without any heaviness or thickness. Ultimately, the image of Toy Story seemed nearly ideal; it was a joy to watch.
I got the definite impression that this was the same transfer found on the original DVD released in 2000. The package touted it as offering “the highest digital bit rate ever used for a Disney/Pixar film”, and that may well be the case; I don’t plan to check all of my Disney DVDs to verify it. I didn’t see any improvement over the prior disc on my system, but perhaps folks which giganto-screens will notice an improvement.
On the other hand, the 10th Anniversary Toy Story definitely alters its audio. The packaging states that it includes a “newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track” along with “Disney/Pixar’s first ever DTS 5.1 audio track”. I don’t know if any remixing occurred for either or both of these, but I thought they were notably more active than the original disc’s Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The DTS version was also superior to this set’s Dolby mix. I’ll discuss the DTS track first and then relate what differences I heard.
One way in which both improved upon the original related to the activity level of the soundfield. The prior one lacked much pep through the movie’s first half, but this one seemed more involving right off the bat. At all times, the forward spectrum displayed a nicely broad experience. Audio was placed specifically and precisely located. We even got a lot of solid directional dialogue.
As for the surrounds, they showed very good use of all five channels. The audio provided a nicely active and convincing environment that complemented the action onscreen and added a lot to the experience. Granted, the last third continued to be the “highlight reel” since it included most of the real action, but the first two acts offered plenty of good material as well. The surrounds contributed a nice layer of depth to the package.
Sound quality also seemed very good. Dialogue appeared warm and natural and always was easily intelligible. Edginess wasn’t an issue. Randy Newman's score and songs came across as clean and smooth. “Strange Things” remained a little thin – it lacked substantial low end - but the music always seemed crisp and detailed, and the other songs appeared more dynamic than on the earlier DVD. Effects sounded similarly rich and detailed, with no signs of distortion. Bass response seemed quite strong. That was another improvement over the original DVD, as it occasionally appeared slightly anemic, particularly during the first half. The new DTS mix offered strong low-end from start to finish. All of this added up to a very fine audio experience.
I explained the ways the DTS track improved on the original DVD’s audio; how did it better this package’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix? I thought the DTS was clearer and more involving. Bass was a little richer, and the soundfield appeared moderately more seamless. Also, some of the Dolby track’s dialogue exhibited mild edginess, an issue I didn’t discern in the DTS version. The new DVD’s Dolby mix was still very good and it improved on the prior DVD’s audio; bass and activity level were noticeably stronger. The DTS track was a step up from the Dolby track on this disc, though, and stood as the best way to experience the movie.
In the past, you could get Toy Story on DVD in any of three ways. In 2000, a Toy Story/Toy Story 2 two-pack presented both movies in one set with few extras. At the same time, the “Ultimate Toy Box” featured both films together with scads of supplements in a three-disc package. Finally, Disney released a one-DVD version of Toy Story in 2001, about five months after the other releases hit the shelves. It simply featured the Toy Story platter from the two-pack on its own.
This 10th Anniversary Edition offers the first individually-available special edition DVD of Toy Story. Some of its supplements originally appeared in the “Ultimate Toy Box”. I’ll note those retreads with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, that component is new to this set.
First we find an excellent *audio commentary that originally appeared on the deluxe 1996 laserdisc set. It offers remarks from director John Lasseter, producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold, co-writer Andrew Stanton, supervising animator Pete Docter, supervising technical director Bill Reeves, and art designer Ralph Eggleston. All of the participants were recorded together in one session.
Although I often don't like commentaries that pack in multiple participants at the same session - they can become chaotic - this one is an absolutely wonderful track that provides a very solid look at the making of the film. The discussion seems animated and lively, and the filmmakers' ebullience comes through at all times. Not surprisingly, Lasseter dominates the conversation, but all of the players insert useful information.
Though commentaries for animated films often dwell on technical issues, this one looks at the flick from the creative end. We get many fine notes about the cast, the characters, and the story. The track delves into inspirations and influences for various aspects of the movie, and it also talks about the way these areas developed. Some technical matters appear as well, but even those tend toward the creative side, as they usually pop up in the form of production design and visual issues. The commentary presents an excellent summary of many interesting subjects.
Many of the remarks praise the film, which is also something I generally dislike; during most commentaries, this practice comes across as self-aggrandizing. However, in this instance, everyone seems so excited about the final product that I didn't mind all of the compliments; much of the time they acted more like fans of Toy Story than its makers, and that chipper and witty attitude makes this commentary a joy to experience.
Footnote: in an unusual but cool move, this commentary comes with two English subtitle streams. One tells you the name of the current speaker, while the other transcribes the entire discussion. By the way, if you wonder why a woman occasionally reminds us of the names of the speakers, that’s a relic leftover from the old laserdisc presentation; she would pop up to reintroduce the commentators whenever they first spoke on any of the LD’s sides.
An Introduction from Lasseter runs 70 seconds. He tells us how he remains proud of the film and lets us know how great this new DVD will be. This seems like a pointless extra, but it’s quick and painless.
Next we get an 11-minute and 41-second featurette called The Legacy. It presents comments from Robots director Chris Wedge, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, Star Wars director George Lucas, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, Roy E. Disney, animation historians Charles Solomon and John Canemaker, animators Peter Sohn, Misha Zabranska, Kureha Yokoo, and Jason Boose, animation students Jojo Ramos, Austin Madison and Josh Look, Incredibles director Brad Bird, Walt Disney Studios’ Thomas Schumacher, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Spirited Away director Hayao Miyazaki, and actors Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. All involved talk about what they love about Toy Story and what makes it special. We get some decent notes about the movie’s qualities as well as some fun anecdotes like the actors’ encounters with kids, but this ends up feeling too self-congratulatory for my liking.
At the start of DVD One, we find a mix of ads. This area includes promos for Cars, Toy Story 2, and Cinderella. Actually, the clip for Cars acts as a minor look behind the scenes; director Lasseter talks about his ideas for the flick, so it’s better than the average trailer. Inside the Sneak Peeks domain, we get all the above-mentioned pieces along with previews for Chicken Little, Tarzan, Lady and the Tramp, Old Yeller and Studio Ghibli product.
For an *Easter Egg, click to the right from any part of the main menu. Then press “enter” to watch the uncut Buzz Lightyear commercial glimpsed in the movie.
Finally, DVD One features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.
When we move to DVD Two, we get a large collection of extras. A new documentary called *Making Toy Story runs 20 minutes, 19 seconds and includes comments from Lasster, Stanton, Eggleston, Guggenheim, Schumacher, Hanks, Reeves, Docter, Arnold, executive producer Ed Catmull, story supervisor Joe Ranft, editor Lee Unkrich, sound designer Gary Rydstrom, and associate technical director Eben Ostby. All of their comments come from mid-Nineties interviews. We get a basic overview of the evolution of Pixar, the movie’s development and story, the actors and characters, the selection of toys, visual design, computer rendering issues and animation, the work of the voice actors, getting movement as good as possible, music and audio, and thoughts about the future of computer animation.
The show rushes through things and lacks great perspective; a modern creation would be better. Nonetheless, it gives us a good summary of many production elements. We’ll already know about many via the commentary, but this one adds lots of nice behind the scenes footage to make it a winning little show.
(Note that I believe this program includes virtually everything from “The Story Behind Toy Story” on the old “Ultimate Toy Box”, though that show ran about seven minutes longer. I didn’t have access to the earlier program, but I found it hard to think of substantial changes made for the shorter one. I’m pretty sure they’re from the same source.)
For something more modern, we head to Filmmakers Reflect. It presents statements from Lasseter, Stanton, Docter, and Ranft. They sit together in a “round table” format and chat. They go over childhood toy experiences, what it was like in Pixar’s earlier years and making the flick, Disney’s influence and related problems, character and story development, and reactions to the movie’s success. Some of the information appears elsewhere, but we get a mix of new bits like the problems with the Disney suits. We find enough fresh material to make this show worth a look.
Under the *Deleted Scenes banner, we get two kinds of pieces. “Deleted Animation” starts with a one-minute and 45-second “Introduction” from Unkrich who discusses why animated sequences occasionally get the boot. It then leaps into two different excised clips: “Torture Scene” provides 46 seconds of unfinished animation that adds to the scene in which Sid "interrogates" Woody; “Rain Scene” also came from an existing scene, and this one-minute and
22-second clip uses completed animation to show more of the chat between Buzz and Woody while Sid sleeps.
Also under “Deleted Scenes” we get six “Deleted Storyreels”. These open with a one-minute and 21-second “Introduction” from Lasseter, Unkrich, and Stanton that gives us a little background on the sequences. We then find six different story reels that show the scenes proposed for the film but never animated: An alternate opening, “Buzz Lightyear Show (two minutes, 43 seconds); another alternate opening, “Shootout” (1:48); “Woody's Nightmare” (1:20) further depicts his fears after the arrival of Buzz; “Eastern Gate” (3:03) involves some devious plotting by Woody against Buzz; “Shakes the Rattle (1:52) takes the story into more nightmarish territory in this segment that echoes Quint's "USS Indianapolis" speech in Jaws; and “Sid's Comeuppance” (2:47) provides an alternate version of that scene.
All of the material is interesting to see, but the storyreels prove the most valuable. The deleted animation still resembles clips in the final film, but the storyreels branch into new directions. That makes them especially useful. Oddly, this DVD appears to lose an alternate climax called “The Chase”; that storyreel appears on the “Ultimate Toy Box” disc but I can’t find it here.
When we move to the “Behind the Scenes” domain, we get a mix of components. Designing Toy Story provides remarks from Eggleston, character designer Bud Luckey, story artist Jeff Pidgeon, lead digital painter Tia W. Kratter, and designer/illustrators William Cone and Bob Pauley. As expected, they go over the inspirations and execution of how things look in the film. We hear a little about characters, sets and other elements. The show zips along nicely and gives us a solid overview.
In the “Design” category, we start with “Characters”. Seven *Galleries offer drawings in filmed collections. These present “Woody” (48 sketches, one minute, 52 seconds), “Buzz” (47, 1:49), “Andy’s Toys” (44, 1:42), “Misc. Toys” (35, 1:21), “Mutant Toys” (49, 1:53), “Andy’s Family” (29, 1:07) and “Sid’s Family” (47, 1:47). We also get *3D Turnarounds” for “Woody” (0:22), “Buzz” (0:22), “Andy’s Toys” (1:28) and “Alien” (0:22). These show the characters as they "spin" for the virtual camera.
Continuing in “Design”, we go to “Sets”. *Galleries break into "Andy's Room" (17, 0:42), “Gas Station” (10, 0:29), “Sid’s Room” (18, 0:42), and “Pizza Planet” (18, 0:45). More *3D Tours pan around the areas for “Andy’s Room” (0:52), “Gas Station” (1:09) and “Sid’s Room” (1:06). These tours come with commentary from Ralph Eggleston.
For the final “Design” component, we move to “Color”. *Designing Color offers a general overview of the various issues that confronted art director Eggleston. In this three-minute and 34-second piece, he discusses what he tried to do with the look of the film. Concept Art (32, 1:16) presents visualizations of different areas, while *Color Scripts (69, 3:05) are used to demonstrate the color design for each scene.
All of these collections of art offer a nice look at the design of the flick. It’s especially fun to see the different concepts for the characters. Note that although all of these materials appear on the “Ultimate Toy Box” set, they are often brought to us in a different way; instead of the filmed galleries, the “Box” used stillframes. It also usually featured more images, as the “Box” included a number of drawings not found here.
Under “Story”, we get three elements. *”Green Army Men” Pitch runs five minutes and 55 seconds. It starts with an introduction from co-writer Stanton and story supervisor Joe Ranft. They provide a quick overview of the process before we watch an actual storyboard pitch conducted by Ranft. In this sequence, we see Ranft as he goes through the "Green Army Men" sequence; Ranft appears in the lower left corner of the screen. It gives us a fun look at this creative method.
*Andy’s New Toy provides filmed storyboards for Buzz's introduction to the gang accompanied by music and dialogue. Some of the lines are from the final actors, while others are not. There's also some deleted dialogue and even a little profanity in this four-minute and 40-second piece.
We get a look at part of the film’s climax in *”The Chase” Storyreel/Film Comparison. This three-minute and 21-second piece displays the boards in the top half of the screen and the movie in the lower half.
An additional five components appear in the “Production” area. We begin with a one-minute and 51-second *Production Tour. It gives us a good general overview of the computer animation process. We hear from Lasseter, supervising layout artist Craig Good, and directing animator Ash Brannon.
With the *Multi-Angle Progression, you can finally use your remote's "angle" button. It starts with a one-minute and seven-second introduction by Lasseter and Stanton. After that, you can flip through various stages of the film's climax. There's the “Storyboard” portion, then “Layout” - which uses crude animation - and the “Final Scene” as well. Each segment lasts 62 seconds.
*Layout Tricks provides more footage of Good as he gives us a look at the ways layout problems are solved through this three-minute and 25-second program. *Animation Tour fills one minute, 23 seconds as Brannon shows the progression of various steps. Finally, the *Multi-Language Reel finishes “Production”. This four-minute and 30-second clip takes the scene in which Buzz enters the world of Andy's room and translates various snippets of it into (deep breath): French; Dutch; Italian; Japanese; Finnish; Castilian; Hungarian; Greek; Korean; Arabic; German; Slovak; Spanish; Thai; Polish; Norwegian; Flemish; Danish; Turkish; Brazilian Portuguese; Cantonese; Swedish; Czech; and Mandarin.
When we move to “Music & Sound”, we open with a music video for “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. This two-minute and 15-second clip shows Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett as they sing in the studio; it intercuts those shots with movie snippets. The word “yawn” comes to mind.
*Sound Design offers a nice demonstration of the various elements that go into this aspect of filmmaking. We hear a lot from sound designer Gary Rydstrom plus a few words from Lasseter in this six-minute and 33-second program.
Finally, we find a collection of *Randy Newman Demos. This area includes six numbers: “Plastic Spaceman 1” is a three-minute and 18-second tune that eventually mutated into "I Will Go Sailing No More", though only a little of that song can be heard here; “Plastic Spaceman 2” lasts three minutes and 16 seconds and features a more elaborately-produced version of the preceding demo; “Strange Things” features just Newman and piano accompaniment, but the two-minute and 58-second song is very close to final form; “The Fool” is a two-minute and nine-second tune that has no relative in the finished movie; “I Will Go Sailing No More” is another Newman piano demo. The three-minute and 32-second song closely resembles the final product; “You've Got a Friend In Me” appears as a two-minute and 18-second instrumental (piano) version.
Within “Publicity”, we start with an 89-second *Character Interview. "Conducted" by Disney animation expert John Culhane, he speaks to Woody and Buzz via a remote hookup. It’s moderately entertaining but nothing special. It suffers from the absence of both Allen and Hanks, though their impersonators do a pretty solid job.
In the *Trailers section, we get the film's 90-second "teaser" and its three-minute theatrical trailer. There are also four *TV Spots, each of which lasts 30 seconds. *Posters displays a 59-second montage of posters and other promotional materials, while the *Toys & Stuff area includes 62 seconds of goodies that were sold to toy-collecting dupes like me (and maybe even a couple of kids).
A new game called The Claw! finishes up the obvious parts of the DVD. It recreates the arcade machine featured prominently in the flick, as it gets you to try to fish out a toy. It falls firmly in the “fun but insubstantial” category, though you get some fun reward videos whenever you retrieve a toy.
Lastly, more Easter Eggs pop up on DVD Two. Find the first with a right click from any part of the main menu. Press “enter” and you’ll see a two-minute and 19-second short that shows what the toys do when Andy’s at school. It lacks some of the original voices but it’s an amusing piece anyway.
Actually, hunt for stars (Woody’s badge) throughout all the menus. Whenever you find one, you’ll get another clip of this sort. There are so many it becomes tedious for me to list all of their specific locations, especially since they’re very easy to find. Locate the star on the “Index” screen and you’ll get easy access to all 13 of these “Toy Story Treats”.
Toy Story is a “must-own” title. An innovative achievement in animation, the film remains a ton of fun. After 10 years, the movie continues to be delightful, witty and exceedingly entertaining. The DVD itself provides terrific picture and sound plus a fine roster of extras.
If you don’t own an earlier incarnation of Toy Story on DVD, I strongly recommend that you snag this 10th Anniversary release. In addition, if you have the old “movie-only” package, you might want to upgrade here to check out the informative supplements.
For those who already have the “Ultimate Toy Box”, though, I think there’s very little reason to pick up the 10th Anniversary release. Both offer terrific picture, and though the new one’s DTS track improves on the original Dolby Digital edition, I don’t feel it’s a substantial enough jump to warrant the extra money. The 10th Anniversary DVD adds a few tasty extras, but there’s not a lot of this material, so don’t expect to get much the Toy Box doesn’t already have. The 10th Anniversary set is a fine package – it’s just unnecessary for fans with the “Ultimate Toy Box”.