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Ultimate Toy Box: Part One (Toy Story 1)

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 24, 2000 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Often, I will read message boards dealing with movies. A while ago, one poster talked about how he thought the "Toy Story" movies were simply for kids. I couldn't agree less. In 1995, "Toy Story" became an enormous hit not only because the animation was stunning - but it was a film that crossed all lines - age, etc. Kids love the idea of playing with toys, and adults fondly remember when they were that age, and the toys that were most important to them. And with the film itself, there were enough jokes that both sides could laugh at.

It also helps that the film had been cast to perfection. The main part of the film revolves around Woody, a toy soldier(Tom Hanks) being angered by the new space ranger toy named Buzz Lightyear(Tim Allen) who's stolen the attention of their owner, Andy. Also included in the toy cast are Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Hamm the Pig (John Ratzenberger) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts). The toys get up and explore their own universe when their owner leaves, and then fall still once he comes back. The universe, whether it be the family room or the bedroom or the outdoors, is perfectly rendered and feels right in size in comparison to the mini-size of our main characters.

After watching the Pixar team during the reviewing of their "Bug's Life" special edition and these new "Toy Story" sets, I can genuinely see where the creativity for the films come from. I don't think I've ever seen a group of people who seem to enjoy their work to this degree. And once you see the Pixar offices in an extra later on in this box, I think many will ask "where do I sign up?"

On with the story, although I don't want to give away too much for those who haven't seen the film. Woody and Buzz have quite the adventure trying to return home to their owner, and in the process realize that they both have a place in the toy box. Again, I think that "Toy Story" was really the film released by Disney that hit that perfect line between kids and adults where they could both equally find something to enjoy about the film, which remains an animation classic.


VIDEO: Pixar's work is on full, beautiful display here with a transfer that's nothing short of breathtaking. Anamorphic and in the film's original 1.77:1 aspect ratio, the animation practically leaps off the screen. A digital transfer, sharpness and detail are nothing short of remarkable, really far and beyond any previous home video edition in terms of image quality. There is a clarity and depth to the image that is wonderful.

And there's a lack of flaws in this presentation that makes it even more thrilling to watch. There are absolutely no print flaws - no marks, no scratches, no nothing. None of the other usual problems we've seen, either - no pixelation, no shimmering. It's really amazing how animation has been presented lately; Dreamworks' "Prince Of Egypt", Disney's "Tarzan", and Pixar's "A Bug's Life". The work here on "Toy" stands up with those efforts and actually, is somewhat more striking in its beauty.

That could be in part to the range of colors on display here, all of which look positively eye-poping. Colors have a richness and shine that is unbelievable. The pictures are impressively smooth, and black level is strong, as well. There is also a THX trailer on this disc, although I like the "moo-cow" trailer that opens "Toy Story 2".

SOUND: Sound designer Gary Rydstrom is brilliant here (and even more so in the film's sequel) at creating a universe of sounds out of the world of these characters. Although the presentation here doesn't seem quite as agressive as the sequel, surrounds still do get a good deal of use throughout the film, especially as the film goes on.

Although the live-action films that Gary Rydstrom has worked on ("Haunting", "Saving Private Ryan", etc) have always transported us to those worlds, here he transports us to a world that's a realm of fantasy, which is even more impressive. One thing that I can say about the films that he works on is that there is almost no stone unturned in the sound. Not only does he not miss opportunies, but he takes us to places in the film we'd never expected with his wonderfully creative presentations.

And back to general comments about the audio, Randy Newman's popular score sounds crisp and clear, and the general quality of the audio is very pleasing and comfortable to listen to as well. A great soundtrack, although the sequel's audio takes the whole universe one step further in the sound presentation.

MENUS:: The opening menu is nicely animated, and although the sub-menus aren't animated, they still were very pleasing. With their creative use of images from the movie, they are still fun to look at.


Commentary: The commentary for the first Toy Story includes participants director John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon and others. It's even a bit more enjoyable and informative than the team's "Bug's Life" commentary, but they seem to be having just about as much fun this time around. The crew remain very informative about the process of animation, and often point out some technical aspects of how they accomplished some of the scenes, as well as the complexity of some of the sequences.

The group also chat about more general topics, such as their inspirations for the scenes in the movie - and also, the toys that they had growing up and how those contributed to ideas for what to include. They also talk about what it was like to work with Hanks, Allen and the rest of the cast as well as mentioning other animators whose work appears on-screen.

For those of you out there who are aspiring animators, this "Toy Story" box (including these commentaries) are a good place to go to learn more about the animation process and I think this commentary in particular provides some neat information and good laughs for those who even aren't thinking about a job in animation, although I must say these guys seem like they're having too much fun.

The Story Behind "Toy Story": Although at first it looks like a "promotional" documentary, "The Story" actually provides a lot of good informationl. "The Story" is a behind-the-scenes look at not only "Toy Story", but provides looks at computer-generated animation in general, including some of the earlier works from Pixar, like "Tin Toy". As the documentary progresses, we learn more about the history behind "Toy Story", such as how the characters evolved into the final characters that we see in the film, as well as what the actors thought of the stunning computer animation.

This documentary also takes us through the process of creating "Toy Story", from the early concepts to the different processes that went into the animation to scoring by Randy Newman to the sound design that, again, was expertly done by Gary Rydstrom.

Toy Story Treats: Around the time of the film's release, there were a wealth of mini ads that featured the characters from the movie. These were played during Saturday morning cartoons on ABC. All of them are included here, and all-in-all there are a few over 50 included. There is also an intro from the director and crew talking about what these are.

Buzz Lightyear Commerical: The complete version of the commerical we see in the film - with intro from the Pixar crew.

Toy Story Around the World: A clip that gives a sampling of 30 different languages that "Toy Story" was presented in.

On-Set Interviews: 2 clips that were promotional "On-Set" interviews with Buzz and Woody being interviewed.

Tin Toy: Pixar's award winning short film is also included here.

THX Optimode: The audio/video optimizing tests that were included, for example, on "Fight Club", return here.

Isolated Effects: An isolated sound effects track in Dolby Digital 5.1. A lot of fun to listen to, although unfortunately the disc does not allow switching between tracks with the remote.

Final Thoughts: So far, so good. Fans of the films (and specifically this one, in this review) will be thrilled with what Pixar has provided here, going 10 steps further from the already great job they were able to do with "A Bug's Life" special edition. Audio and video quality are top-notch and I'm very pleased to see that the great extras are not just on the 3rd disc, but that this first disc includes a lot of fun material, as well.

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