Toy Story 2 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. Can it get any better than this? Maybe, but it's hard to imagine - TS2 presented an absolutely fantastic picture.
Sharpness appeared flawless throughout the film. The movie always seemed perfectly crisp and detailed with no signs whatsoever of any softness or haziness to be found. I also detected no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, and edge enhancement seemed absent. As with the original Toy Story, this transfer came from the actual computer data. Because of this, it didn't have any flaws since no print was ever used, and the result was a tremendously clean and fresh image.
TS2 used a varied palette, and the colors came through with exquisite richness and boldness. From start to finish, all of the hues seemed gorgeous. From the lovely red of Jessie's hair to the warm browns of Woody's clothes to the sumptuous purples of Zurg's body, the whole magilla looked great. At no point did I discern any problems related to colors; they appeared absolutely scintillating.
Black levels also were deep and dense. They offered no signs of murky or muddy qualities, and I also saw excellent contrast. Shadow detail appeared clear and appropriately opaque throughout all of the related scenes. Best of the bunch were the shots in Al's apartment at night. Just the flickering light of a TV illuminated these and they presented excellent depth throughout the dimly lit scene. All in all, TS2 offered a tremendously fine image that showed virtually no complications.
When we moved to the audio, we found a similarly terrific experience. This new Toy Story 2 DVD offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 5.1 ES soundtracks. Both were pretty similar, but I preferred the DTS edition. I’ll discuss the Dolby one first and then relate why I liked the DTS take just a little bit more.
The mix for the first film was also quite good, but it had a few weaknesses. All of those have been rectified here, however. The soundfield seemed very broad and engaging. For the most part, the forward spectrum dominated, but the entire package was well-distributed and nicely balanced. It's a pretty seamless mix that spread the audio cleanly between the various channels. Effects and music often emanated from all five speakers, and the sound blended together neatly so that the environment seemed smooth and convincing.
Various auditory elements appeared precisely located in the spectrum. Even dialogue was focused in the correct locations across the front speakers, and we also heard some speech from the rear when appropriate. The surrounds contributed excellent reinforcement of the information and also used split-channel details quite effectively. Best of the bunch was probably the scene in which Buzz and the gang had to cross a busy street. The sound flew fast and furious and really engulfed the viewer in the action.
Equally solid was the quality of the audio. Some of the dialogue in the original movie came across as edgy and brittle, but that didn't occur here. All of the speech in TS2 appeared warm and natural, with no signs of shrillness or concerns related to intelligibility. Music sounded clear and smooth, with terrific range. The various songs were wonderfully rich and lush - especially the lovely "When She Loved Me" - and the score seemed appropriately brassy and bright.
Effects were the best part of the package. They appeared very accurate and realistic and showed absolutely no signs of distortion or harshness. The track boasted fine resolution and terrific depth; this movie offered some excellent bass. The aforementioned street-crossing scene provided one strong example, as did the segments in the apartment building vents and its elevator. Even Al's indigestion appeared deep and rich! Overall, it's a wonderful mix that barely missed out on an "A+" rating. I felt that the audio lacked the "wow!" factor that I require of films that qualify for the "A+", but it's such a smooth and well-integrated soundtrack that I considered that ultimate grade.
The DTS mix improved on the Dolby one just enough to qualify for the “A+”. You’ll find many similarities between the two, but I thought the DTS version was even smoother and better integrated. The elements combined a smidgen more tightly there and created a fine sense of location. The elements also packed a wee bit more punch, with firmer bass and a greater dynamic impression. I loved the DTS mix and felt it was stellar from start to finish.
How did the picture and sound of this version compare to the original DVD from 2000? I thought both offered virtually identical visuals, but because the 2005 edition included the DTS track, it presented the superior auditory experience. The old disc offered the same Dolby Digital mix found here. It’s excellent, but because I prefer the DTS track, this DVD gets the nod for movie presentation.
Since the Ultimate Toy Box came chock full of extras, fans will want to find out what’s different about the supplements in this 2-disc special edition. Answer: not much. I’ll denote any new elements with an asterisk, so if you don’t see a star, that means the component already appeared on the 2000 release.
Starting on DVD One, we get an *Introduction with director John Lasseter. In this 92-second piece, Lasseter tells us a little about the film and makes some jokes. It doesn’t seem particularly valuable, but it’s a cute addition.
Next we get an audio commentary with Lasseter, co-writer Andrew Stanton, and co-directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. And a fine one it is, as they touch on many things connected to the film.
We get many notes about the story and various inspirations. We also learn about the new characters and their development as well as growth in the old ones. The crew toss out info about visual design, different gags and references, challenges related to a sequel, music, audio effects, and their interaction, technical areas and the work of the cast.
The piece adopts a nicely casual but enthusiastic tone. I especially like the emphasis on character and story. Most commentaries for animated flicks – especially CG ones – focus largely on technical elements. We get those bits here, but they’re balanced with a great deal about the creative side.
Normally I hate to hear lots of praise in a commentary, but as was the case with the track for the original Toy Story, here I don’t mind. All involved seem so genuinely proud of their work that the attitude becomes infectious. This is a fun and useful track.
For another alternate audio experience, we get a special effects mix. This isolates the movie's effects for us in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. I'd prefer an isolated dialogue program, but this one's pretty cool anyway. It's fun to check out the killer "street crossing" scene with just the effects on display.
The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Cars, Lady and the Tramp, and Chicken Little. These also appear in the *Sneak Peeks domain along with previews for The Little Mermaid, Bambi II, Toy Story, and the Incredibles: The Rise of the Underminer video game.
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. We open in an area called the “Toy Box”. This launches with both sets of Outtakes that appeared during the movie's theatrical run. As with A Bug's Life, the film added some faux-bloopers during the end credits, and both pictures also had two separate sets of clips; one appeared when the film first hit screens, and the second replaced the first after a few weeks in theaters.
Unlike the Bug's Life DVD, none of the outtakes can be found during the presentation of the movie itself. Instead, they're all shown fullscreen and they run for a total of five minutes and 27 seconds. Personally, I think this concept is getting a bit tired. The first batch in Bug’s Life was fun because it so neatly lampooned the lame bloopers that we sometimes find added to movies. At this point, they're losing their wickedly mocking tone and are becoming more ordinary. Still, they're kind of fun and deserve a look.
Who's the Coolest Toy? is a cute but insubstantial piece in which a slew of participants debate the topic. We find interview clips with Lasseter, actors Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, John Ratzenberger, Joe Ranft, Joan Cusack, R. Lee Ermey, Jodi Benson, Don Rickles and Wayne Knight, musicians Sarah McLachlan and Riders in the Sky, Pixar chief Steve Jobs and producers Karen Robert Jackson and Helene Plotkin. in this three-minute and 17-second program.
A new game called *Which Toy Are You? comes hosted by Hamm and Rex. This asks a number of questions and then tells you which character you most closely resemble. (I’m Hamm, by the way.) It’s more fun than most of these, a factor aided by the use of Wallace Shawn and John Ratzenberger as the voices. It even has replay value, as you’ll get different questions each time.
The feature with the oddest title, *Ponkickies comes from a Japanese kiddie show. It allows you to play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” with Woody, Jessie and Buzz. It shows a few animated clips, all performed in Japanese. If nothing else, this is a darned weird segment.
We find a three-minute and 10-second Riders In the Sky Music Medley. Riders In the Sky play an amalgam of tunes. In addition to the "Woody's Roundup" theme, it tosses in bits of "Act Naturally", "You've Got a Friend in Me" and other songs. The video is a pretty standard affair that combines lip-synch shots of RITS with scenes from the film.
The “Toy Box” ends with Autographed Pictures. It shows 18 publicity photos with phony signatures of the toys. (Not that I suppose you could have real signatures from them.) The DVD presents it in a filmed manner that lasts 45 seconds.
Making Toy Story 2 fills eight minutes and 13 seconds. It features notes from Lasseter, Unkrich, Stanton, Brannon, supervising animator Glenn McQueen, technical director Oren Jacobs, and Disney executive Thomas Schumacher. We get details about the origins of the sequel, influences and the story, themes, and a few technical notes. A few good notes pop up here, but the show stays a little too general to be terribly valuable. That’s especially true since we already know so much from the commentary.
With that we move to Deleted Scenes. This area starts with a 47-second "Introduction" from co-director Brannon that sets up the two scenes to follow. "Crossing the Road" exists in the final film, but the version here places in an alternate location; during the one minute and 53 second clip, we see the toys cross a suburban street, not the urban one we eventually witnessed in the completed movie. "Godzilla Rex" lasts one minute and 25 seconds and was originally to be the way that Woody would end up in the garage sale. While I agree that the scene in the final film worked better, this is still a funny segment that I enjoyed.
The remainder of the DVD’s components show up in the “Behind the Scenes” area. A John Lasseter Profile provides clips from Hanks, Unkrich, Allen, Rickles, Disney executives Peter Schneider and Thomas Schumacher, actor Kelsey Grammer, producers Jackson and Plotkin, composer Randy Newman, Pixar chairman Jobs, singer McLachlan, actress Estelle Harris and Lasseter himself in this testimonial to his wonderfulness. Somehow, the three-minute and three-second program manages not to appear self-serving and sappy.
Cast of Characters offers a discussion of the various roles and the entire voice recording process from Schneider, Lasseter, Hanks, Allen, Rickles, Harris, Knight, Schumacher, Cusack, and Grammer. We also see some good shots from the recording sessions in this three-minute and 29-second piece. I was interested to note that unlike the usual process, Allen and Hanks apparently worked together at times, as did both Harris and Rickles.
In the “Design” category, we start with “Characters”. Six Galleries offer drawings in filmed collections. These present “Woody” (48 sketches, one minute, 52 seconds), “Buzz” (53, 2:03), “Andy’s Toys” (55, 2:09), “Woody’s Roundup” (80, 3:07), “Zurg” (25, 0:59), and “Al” (29, 1:10). We also get 3D Turnarounds for “Woody” (0:22), “Buzz” (0:22), “Andy’s Toys” (2:36), “Roundup Gang” (1:06), “Zurg” (0:22), “Al” (0:22) and “Tour Guide Barbie” (0:22). These show the characters as they "spin" for the virtual camera.
Continuing in “Design”, we go to “Sets”. Galleries break into "Zurg’s Planet" (23, 0:54), “Andy’s House” (15, 0:36), “Al’s Apartment” (27, 1:03), “Al’s Toy Barn” (43, 1:41) and “Airport” (30, 1:08). More 3D Tours pan around the areas for “Zurg’s Planet” (0:32), “Andy’s Room” (1:04), “Al’s Apartment” (1:04), “Al’s Toy Barn” (2:12) and “Airport” (1:04). These tours come with commentary from production designer Jim Pearson that discusses various elements involved with their design. We also learn how the filmmakers reused old digital props.
For the final “Design” component, we move to “Color”. An Introduction from Pearson lasts 33 seconds and tells us a little about what we’ll see here. Color Scripts (60, 2:18) are used to demonstrate the color design for each scene while Color Keys (42, 1:38) influence lighting.
Two elements appear under “Story”. Woody's Nightmare begins with a 45-second "Introduction" from story supervisors Joe Ranft and Dan Jeup and then launches into a "Storyboard Pitch". This two-minute and 12-second program shows Ranft as he pitches this scene to the directors. This displays the boards in the lower right, and video of Ranft in rest of the screen. You can also use your "angle" button to display "Storyboards Only", a feature that still includes audio from the pitch session;
Jessie's Song starts with a 37-second "Introduction" from Jeup and then provides a three-minute and 22-second "Storyboard to Film" comparison for the "When She Loved Me" scene. The "angle" button again switches between this view and "Storyboards Only". Both components are informative and interesting.
“Production” breaks into seven pieces. Designing Woody’s Past goes for two minutes and 50 seconds and includes notes from Lasseter and Brannon. They take us on a tour of the “Woody’s Roundup” items created specifically for the movie. It’s a fun look at these pieces in a more detailed manner than what we get in the flick.
Making Woody’s Roundup fills two minutes. Here effects artist Leo Hourvitz gives us an overview of how the "Woody's Roundup" puppet show was created. It offers another nice glimpse of this side of things.
Production Tour offers a basic video overview from Lasseter, co-editors Unkrich and David Ian Salter, and co-director Brannon. The two-minute and 31-second program uses a short Buzz and Woody clip from early in the film to demonstrate how thing go from storyboards to the final animation.
Production Progression does the same thing but in more detail through a variety of different components. It starts with a 56-second
"Introduction" from Lasseter, Stanton, Brannon and Unkrich and then launches into a look at various stages of animation. During this two-minute and 32-second piece, we watch Buzz's arrival at Zurg's fortress go through four stages: "Story Reel"; "Layout"; "Animation"; and "Shaders and Lighting". Yes, your "angle" button will switch between them.
Early Animation Tests include notes from supervising animator Glenn McQueen. He chats while we see tests of Woody, Bullseye, Jessie, Al, and Zurg. McQueen tosses out good notes like how Danny DeVito influenced Al, and I like the shots of talking Bullseye and “Krishna Jessie”.
Special Effects features associate technical director Oren Jacobs. In this 98-second program, he demonstrates how effects add to the scene in which Buzz confronts the massive army of robots.
International Scene starts with an introduction from Unkrich and
Lasseter. In this one-minute and 47-second piece, we see how the scene in which Buzz's inspirational speech was altered for non-US audiences. That segment showed a US flag waving behind him while the "Star Spangled Banner" played, and that segued into shot of the flag during a TV channel's evening sign-off.
Instead of the US-specific materials, the international version featured a globe with fireworks shooting plus a new song by Randy Newman called the "One World Anthem". While I understand the desire to make the film play better overseas, it means that the scene makes no sense. Part of the gag related to the transition between the speech and the TV sign-off, and since no one's ever seen a TV station that showed a globe and fireworks as they left the air, the joke flops. Well, it's still fun to see.
With that, we head to “Music & Sound” and its five components. Making the Songs runs three minutes, 25 seconds, and presents notes from Lasseter, composer Newman, Disney executive Schumacher, singer McLachlan, Riders In the Sky, and singer Robert Goulet. We also see some film clips and shots of the recording sessions in this short but fun piece.
For the Woody’s Roundup Music Video, we again find Riders In The Sky lip-synching a tune. In this two-minute and 16-second clip, they strum along with the "Woody's Roundup" theme song and we also see a variety of movie scenes.
Jessie's Song Demo offers Newman's two-minute and 48-second track of the song. After hearing this, I'm really glad he didn't perform the tune in the final movie. He wrote a nice tune but his voice clearly doesn’t suit it.
Designing Sound gives us a discussion from sound designer Gary Rydstrom. He focuses on the work done for the epic "street-crossing" scene during this five-minute and 38-second program. Mixing Demo starts with a 25-second introduction from Rydstrom and then lets you mix the segment in the elevator shaft where Buzz confronts Zurg. The 85-second snippet lets you activate dialogue, music and/or effects; you can play each on their own, combine them in various pairs, or play them all at once just like in the final film. It's not real mixing, since you can't alter the volume level of each element, but it's still fun.
“Behind the Scenes” concludes with “Publicity”. *Character Interview runs two minutes and five seconds. It presents a session between some slick schmoe and Woody and Buzz. It sounds like Tim Allen does Buzz, but I’m pretty sure another actor portrays Woody. It’s insubstantial but cute.
Two trailers fill a total of three minutes and 25 seconds. We get the 60-second "teaser" and the two-minute and 25-second "trailer #1". Interestingly, this clip uses Danny Elfman's music from Men In Black! We also find four TV Commercials, each of which last a little more than 30 seconds.
In the Posters area, we locate 20 images. The DVD films them for a 50-second collection. Some nice elements pop up here.
Easter Egg time! Highlight the star on the main menu and click “enter”. This allows you to see a 70-second snippet in which Lasseter and Brannon introduce a wacky alternate version of Jessie’s song. It was never intended to be seen, of course, and it’s amusing.
For another egg, go to “Publicity” and highlight the star. Hit “enter” to watch a 22-second clip in which Woody throws a baseball at the screen. I have no idea what purpose this clip serves; it’s very odd.
A rare sequel that possibly improves on its predecessor, Toy Story 2 is a winner in every way. The movie offers great humor, a fun tale, and real emotion to make it a lively and engaging piece. The DVD presents absolutely excellent picture and audio with a long and informative set of extras.
With Toy Story 2, the question doesn’t become if you should own it – the question becomes which version you should own. If you don’t already have a copy of the film, grab this new 2-DVD set. It includes almost all the extras from the prior release and offers a small improvement in audio quality as well.
If you already have the “Ultimate Toy Box”, however, it’s a trickier issue. You won’t find any significant new supplements here, as almost everything repeats from the “Box”. I like the 2-DVD set’s DTS track more than the original’s Dolby Digital mix, but not by enough to push a re-purchase. I wouldn’t steer you away from buying this package, but I can’t urge it for folks who have the “Box”. Anyway you look at it, though, this new Toy Story 2 is an excellent release.