The very first feature-length CGI-animated movie, Toy Story has, over the past ten years, become a bona-fide family classic of the highest order. It yielded an equally brilliant sequel, and together they make for an absolutely perfect Friday night double feature, whether you're 5, 15, or 55 years old.
Basically, Toy Story is what happens when a bunch of brilliantly gifted technical artists spend just as much time on screenplay, story, and character development as they do on pixels, colors, and joyously colorful spectacle; it's a perfect marriage between art and technology, which means that you'll laugh, you'll gasp, you'll cheer, and you'll grow to love the various toys -- meanwhile your eyeballs are being treated to some of the loveliest sights ever created for the movies.
Any half-aware movie geek knows the drill by now, but here's a short plot recap for those who've not seen Toy Story in a little while: Woody the Cowboy is the self-appointed (yet very pleasant) leader of Andy's toy-box. Trouble arises when Andy receives a very swanky Buzz Lightyear action figure for his birthday, and the newcomer sparks the envy in Woody's heart. Buzz seems to have supplanted the gangly cowboy as Andy's go-to toy, which causes Woody to (semi-accidentally) toss Buzz out of a window, thereby setting off a gloriously cool adventure as Cowboy & Spaceman square off against a variety of roadblocks while desperately trying to get back into Andy's bedroom.
There's just no end to the treats to be found in Toy Story; the sights, the sounds, the songs; there's simply not a sour note in the whole kooky composition. The voice-over performances, particularly those of Tom Hanks (as Woody), Tim Allen (as Buzz), and John Ratzenberger (as a wise-acre piggy bank called Hamm), are top-notch across the board. It's clear that the Pixar wizards wanted to cast actors who could create characters -- and not just lend a fancy name to the poster art.
The concept alone (that your toys have their very own problems to deal with once all the humans have left the room) could make for 20 great stories, but this screenplay (credited to Joss Whedon, Andrew Stanton, Joel Cohen & Alec Sokolow) is loaded with wit, warmth, heart, and sincerity. It'll take only about 10 minutes of Toy Story before you stop seeing "CGI creations" and start seeing this mirthful menagerie as a group of actual flesh & blood characters. And if that's not the highest praise you can give to an all-CGI movie, well then, I don't know what would be.
In fifty years the Toy Story movies will be mentioned in the same breath as The Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka, and several of the old-school Disney classics like Snow White or Pinocchio. It's an almost sinfully entertaining piece of pitch-perfect family fun, that offers a little something for everyone and a whole laugh of laughs. I'd be willing to call it "Pixar's Best," but then again, these geniuses also delivered A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., and The Incredibles -- so let's just say that the original Toy Story resides with precisely the gang it deserves; frankly I find it amazing that the Pixar crew can crank out so many productions -- but you'll never hear me complain.
OK, so Toy Story has been released in (I believe) three separate versions thus far: the single-movie release, the 2-disc double feature collection, and the mega-swanky "Ultimate Toy Box" collection. None of these releases are in print any longer, which means that if you don't yet own Toy Story on DVD (and several semi-late DVD-adopters surely do not), then the 10th Anniversary Edition is what you're going to buy.
And if you're looking for stellar picture quality, drop-dead dazzling aural presentation, and just enough extra goodies to keep you smiling, well, this 10th Anniversary release should have you quite happy indeed.
Video: Billed as "the definitive home theater sound and picture experience," the Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition comes with (I'm not kidding) one of the most crystal-clear and achingly beautiful transfers I've ever seen. It's a Widescreen (1.77:1) Anamorphic transfer taken directly from the digital source -- and it's just awesome.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS 5.1 Surround ES, French / Spanish 2.0. I stuck with the 5.1, cranked it up loud, and had a freakin' ball. Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom had a hand in remastering the audio tracks, which means that even the most sticklery audiophiles should be salivating at what's offered here. Optional subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French.
Starting out on disc 1, we're treated to a promo for next year's Cars and trailers for Toy Story 2: Special Edition (12/26 release date) and Cinderella: Special Edition. There's also a one-minute introduction from Pixar chief John Lasseter in which he explains what's "new" in this edition.
The Legacy runs just about 11.5 minutes and features interviews with Tom "Woody" Hanks, Tim "Buzz" Allen, film critic Leonard Maltin, animation historians Charles Solomon & John Canemaker, Disney executive Thomas Schumacher, filmmakers George Lucas, Chris Wedge, Brad Bird, Hayao Miyazaki & Peter Jackson, animators Peter Sohn, Kureha Yokoo, Josh Look, Austin Madison, Jojo Ramos, Jason Boose & Misha Zabranska, astronaut Buzz Aldrin (!), and Mr. Roy E. Disney himself! Only thing wrong with this "loving look back" featurette is that it's not longer!
Aside from the movie itself, the main course on Disc 1 is an *all-new* feature-length audio commentary with John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Ralph Eggleston, Bill Reeves, Ralph Guggenheim, and Bonnie Arnold. The Pixar gang delivers one truly smooth and entertaining track here as they deliver 80 straight minutes of Toy stories.
Rounding out the first disc's supplemental material is a Disney trailer gallery boasting promotional clips for Cars, Toy Story 2 Special Edition, Cinderella: Special Edition, Chicken Little, Tarzan: Special Edition, Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition, Old Yeller: Special Edition, and a promo for various Studio Ghibli DVDs.
Moving on to disc 2...
Making Toy Story is a behind-the-scenes interview featurette that runs just over 20 minutes. Lasseter, Stanton, Eggleston, Guggenheim, Schumacher, Docter, Hanks, Reeves, Arnold, Ed Catmull, Lee Unkrich, Gary Rydstrom, and the late Joe Ranft. This is an older promotional piece, recorded (it seems) just prior to Toy Story's theatrical release. And while it's kinda fun to look back and see the Pixar gang before they made it big...
Filmmakers Reflect is even better. This featurette runs about 16.5 minutes and features Lasseter, Stanton, Docter, and Ranft as they sit in a lounge and lob memories and anecdotes back and forth. Fun stuff from four certified (and very talented) geeks.
You'll also find a 19-minute deleted scene gallery that can be watched all in one piece or as individual clips (each one comes with filmmaker intros, too!). Most of these clips are of the early storyboard variety, but they all make for interesting little tidbits nonetheless.
Under the "Behind the Scenes" heading you'll find the 6-minute Designing Toy Story featurette, which deals with the original design concepts for our favorite characters and settings, plus a rather massive gallery of goodies, broken down as follows:
Character Galleries (11:31)
"Green Army Men" Pitch (5:55)
Production Tour (1:31)
Music & Sound
"You've Got a Friend in Me" Music Video (2:15)
Character Interview (1:29)
Sounds like a lot of clicking, but most of these galleries come equipped with the handy-dandy "play all" option, plus there are some solid mini-featurettes buried within.
Rounding out the second disc is a goofy little Claw Game in which you try to pick some of your favorite toys out of the canister. I got Mr. Potato Head on both of my first two attempts.
(There are tons of little stars nestled within the disc 2 menus; click on these for some great little mini-adventures from Buzz, Woody, and all the other toys.) Plus it's also worth mentioning that all of the extra features come with optional subtitles in English, Spanish or French -- so there, I just did.
If I got to meet all of the Pixar gurus, I don't know if I'd greet them with a handshake or a big, blustery hug. That's how much I adore what they've done with the magic of computer animation. It may have been only their first full-length feature, but Toy Story still stands as a perfect encapsulation of what Pixar's all about: flashy animation, witty dialogue, heartfelt emotion, entertaining stories, and a work ethic that attracts only the coolest voice actors under the sun. Call me a hopeless kid-at-heart if you like (I don't mind), but Toy Story still stands as one of the most blissfully entertaining animated films I've ever seen. You wanna know what real "movie magic" looks like? Rent yourself the entire Pixar collection and try not to spend the next eight hours grinning from ear to ear.