Toy Story 2 3D Blu-ray delivers truly amazing video and audio in this exceptional Blu-ray release
The adventures of toys Woody and Buzz Lightyear continue when their owner Andy goes off to
summer camp, leaving them to their own devices. Things take a bad turn when an obsessive
toy collector kidnaps Woody because he is a highly valuable collector's item. Buzz Lightyear,
Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Rex and Hamm, all leap into action to rescue Woody and get
home before Andy returns from camp.
For more about Toy Story 2 3D and the Toy Story 2 3D Blu-ray release, see Toy Story 2 3D Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 19, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
It shouldn't have worked. An animated sequel? Releasing in theaters? In 1999? It was unheard of, and many braced themselves for the worst. The trailers were amusing, sure, but with so many new characters and returning favorites being crammed under one roof, everyone began murmuring. Would the wizards of Pixar, somewhat disappointed with A Bug's Life's middling reception, simply retread old ground? Could the studio that birthed Buzz and Woody really strike cinematic gold twice in just four years? Would audiences care? As it turns out, the answer to all three questions was a resounding "yes." Toy Story 2 not only left a lingering mark in theaters with an astounding $80 million dollar opening weekend (in 1999 no less), it went on to make $500 million at the worldwide box office, receive enormous critical praise, earn a devoted home video fanbase, and effectively hurtle Pixar toward the 21st century. Oh, did I forget to mention it also turned out to be a fantastic movie? One that outclasses its rightfully acclaimed 1995 predecessor in every way and remains one of Pixar's best films to date?
You've got a friend in me...
Since last we left them, Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen) and Woody (Tom Hanks) have become good friends, and Andy (John Morris) has continued to give them equal affection. Together, the pair lead their devoted family of toys -- piggie bank Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), stumpy limbed Rex (Wallace Shawn), Bo Peep (Annie Potts), Sarge (R. Lee Ermey) and his Green Army, and dozens of others -- over any obstacle. Until, that is, a torn arm leaves Woody stranded in the dusty wasteland of Andy's top shelf. While his fellow toys try to talk him down, Woody realizes an old friend, Wheezy the Squeaky Penguin (Joe Ranft), is about to meet his fate at a yard sale. Hurrying outside to rescue his doomed pal, the dutiful cowboy is spotted and stolen by a greedy toy collector (Wayne Knight) desperate to complete an invaluable four-figure collection. When he arrives at the man's apartment though, he slowly begins to grow fond of Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer), and Bullseye the Faithful Steed, three cowboy-themed dolls who tell Woody he was fashioned after a famous marionette on a once-popular '50s TV series; one that produced a limited run of increasingly rare dolls before it was canceled. As Woody struggles to choose between immortality in a museum with his new family and his waning loyalty to Andy, Buzz mounts a daring rescue, leads his fellow toys toward the collector's store, and encounters far more trouble than he bargained for.
Once again, Pixar scores an animated trifecta with a charming cast of delightful characters, exceptional voice performances, and a masterclass script that offers spirited humor and absorbing parallel storylines. Dropping three new toys and a slew of additional characters, all of which demand significant screentime, into a world that was already overflowing with worthy personalities could have ended in failure. But by separating Buzz and Woody and catapulting them in two, entirely different directions, writer/director John Lasseter, co-writers Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton, and the rest of the Pixar team make it an exceedingly accessible two-pronged tale of friendship and loyalty. They effectively tinker with themes that were seemingly exhausted in the original Toy Story, and only repeat themselves when the material absolutely demands it. (And even then, Lasseter and his cohorts find exciting new ways to tackle old ideas.) Jessie, Pete, and Bullseye quickly earn equal standing with their long-established castmates, and lend a sense of maturity and resonance to a film that could have easily been an action-oriented, Buzz-focused roller coaster ride. To that end, Hanks, Allen, and their impassioned brethren inject urgency and sincerity into their performances, tackling their plastic heroes as if they were full-fledged, meticulously developed human beings. Even twelve years later, it isn't often that an animated film's characters live and breathe as believably as Andy and Al's toys.
Still, the sequel's greatest feat is that it surpasses its forefather. Each theme is more completely dissected and offers more rewarding revelations, every toy is given a more complex role to embrace, both plotlines are as weighty and meaningful as the original film's singular tale, and everything -- the laughs, the drama, the emotions, the joy, the tears (Jessie's song always rips me apart) -- pierces deeper, hits harder, and leaves a more lasting mark. There will always be those who place Toy Story above Toy Story 2, but for me the pair represent a near-flawless evolution of character, story, and animation, as well as a powerful, two-part testament to Pixar and mastermind John Lasseter's filmmaking prowess. Toy Story 2 could have simply been a direct-to-video aside (at one point, Disney even saw it as nothing more than a secondary project). It could have been an uninventive rehash or, worse, a derivative cash-in designed to fill Toys R' Us aisles with action figures and Happy Meals with cheap promotions. But Lasseter had grander plans, all of which his Pixar team brought together into one cohesive whole. It remains one of the few animated sequels to make a box office splash, one of the fewer animated sequels to rise above its first film, and the lone animated sequel to deserve a followup as powerful and heartfelt as Toy Story 3.
Visually and aesthetically, Toy Story 2 3D soars higher and reaches greater heights than Toy Story 3D, even if both 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 video presentations are comparable in terms of technical precision and proficiency. Exceedingly mild, almost non-existent ghosting and brief, altogether negligible aliasing make a few blink-and-you'll-miss-em appearances (not that I care to spoil anyone's experience by pointing out too many specific shots), but none of it amounts to anything resembling a serious problem. Far from it. Toy Story 2 dazzles, delights and delivers, again and again and again, without exception. From Buzz's opening assault on Emperor Zurg's fortress (an absolutely stunning adventure in 3D) to Woody's daring ascent of Mt. Snoring Al (a showcase scene, no matter how thick its shadows grow) to a harrowing chase through a bustling airport (a spectacular sequence made even more spectacular in 3D), the sheer depth and dimensionality of the image allow you to step into Andy's room, dive out the window and race to save Woody from a lumbering toy collector. Streets stretch to an oh-so-distant horizon, skyscrapers tower over the city and the viewer, Toy Barn shelves go on forever, pull strings and popping wings jut out of the image, the Roundup Gang push through the screen, robots surround a not-so-helpless Space Ranger, Andy's yard sits far below his room's window... all in convincing, commanding 3D. Watching Rex, Hamm and Mr. Potato Head cram into an air vent is one thing; watching them cram into your home theater is another thing entirely. And I have to say, it's a lot of fun. It's almost as if Toy Story 2 was conceived with a future 3D release in mind. It all looks that good. Not unequivocally perfect, mind you -- Toy Story 3 3D takes home that coveted prize -- but it's as encompassing and effective as it possibly could be.
Toy Story 2 3D is more than the sum of its 3D parts, though. Buzz and Woody's second adventure continually grabs hold of videophiles and casual filmfans alike with bold, beautiful colors, flawless blacks, and beautiful contrast leveling. Whether cooling off in a dimly lit apartment, baking on Andy's sunny front lawn, or buried within Zurg's neon-infested lair, each element of Pixar's animation demands attention. You can read every tiny word on Andy's book bindings and wall posters (even if some crosstalk hinders the smallest letters on occasion), count the specks of dust collecting on Wheezy's head, trace the path of every stitch on the Roundup Gang's Golden Age costumes, and practically pluck the errant bits of stubble from Al's ungainly jowls. More importantly, fine detail is clean, stable and pixel-for-pixel perfect, edge definition is laser-sharp, and every texture (from Mr. Potato Head's bumpy skin to Buster's bristly fur to Rex's reptilian hide) has been painstakingly rendered with the utmost care. Artifacting? Not a blip. Ringing? None that I saw. Noise? Nope. Banding? Not much at all. Aliasing? The only thing I noticed are instances that will escape even the most stone-cold videophiles. As if the excellent Blu-ray release of Toy Story 2 weren't enough, along comes Toy Story 2 3D; yet another marvelous Pixar release, this time with a near-perfect 3D presentation.
Make no mistake: Toy Story 2 means business. I could write three paragraphs about the sonic wonders awaiting listeners in the first five-minutes of the film alone -- my entire house shook as the opening credits roared overhead, as Buzz rocketed across a seemingly desolate landscape, obliterated an army of emerging robot warriors, and descended into Emperor Zurg's underground fortress -- but I'd run out of gushing superlatives long before giving the rest of Disney's arresting, sternum-rattling DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track its proper due. As if the LFE channel didn't cause enough damage at the outset, the mix continues its bombardment, handily transforming approaching traffic into a deafening menace, mean-spirited humans into deadly giants, and shuddering luggage belts into rampaging rivers. Meanwhile, the rear speakers aggressively enter the fray. Toy store aisles become vast cities, high grass becomes a daunting forest, an air vent becomes a sprawling industrial shaft, and every car horn and Barbie squeal that punctuates the soundscape becomes a key component of the experience. Moreover, dialogue remains crisp and clear throughout, directionality is amazing (particularly for an animated film), pans seem to travel at the speed of light, the soundfield is incredibly immersive, Randy Newman's music swells from every direction... I could go on and on. But it all boils down to this: Toy Story 2 proves itself to be a visual stunner and a sonic powerhouse. Kudos, Disney.
Toy Story 2 3D barrels onto shelves with a bevy of special features, among them some recently produced high definition material and all of the supplemental content from the previously released DVD edition (albeit presented in standard definition). While Toy Story 3D has a deeper, more extensive package, Disney has assembled a nice collection of Toy Story 2 goodies that should still satisfy anyone who picks up the 4-disc 3D combo pack.
Audio Commentary: Director John Lasseter, co-directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, and co-writer Andrew Stanton deliver an engaging, shot-by-shot stream-of-consciousness commentary in which they point out countless small touches in the animation, the film's many themes, the evolution of the team's technical methodology, the development of the story and the characters, and the hurdles they had to overcome to reference Toy Story without repeating themselves. If you've never taken the time to listen to a Pixar commentary, this is a great place to start.
Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek: The Characters (HD, 4 minutes): While the "Sneak Peek" included with Toy Story introduced the story of Toy Story 3, this featurette explores the new characters in Buzz and Woody's third adventure.
Studio Stories (HD, 6 minutes): "TS2 Sleep Deprivation Lab" is an amusing animated short that examines Lasseter's axing of the first version of Toy Story 2; "Pinocchio" is another short that focuses on Pixar's then-humble offices; and "The Movie Vanishes" follows suit with a tale about a mistake of near-tragic proportions, and a baby named Eli who saved the day. Literally.
Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station (HD, 4 minutes): Aimed at the kiddies, this Buzz and friends-hosted tour of the space station entertained my son to no end. Well, for four minutes anyway.
Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists (HD, 4 minutes): A number of technical artists share personal stories about their early careers, their induction into the Pixar family, and their affection for CG animation.
Pixar's Zoetrope (HD, 2 minutes): Inspired by Studio Ghibli, the Pixar team sculpts a truly amazing three-dimensional zoetrope.
Celebrating Our Friend Joe Ranft (HD, 13 minutes): A touching tribute to story artist Joe Ranft, a man dubbed by Lasseter as "the heart and soul of Pixar."
Making Toy Story 2 (SD, 8 minutes): Culled from the original DVD release of Toy Story 2, this classy behind-the-scenes featurette explores the development of the sequel -- its story, scope, characters, and themes -- as well as the many challenges the filmmakers faced in creating a followup to the first Toy Story.
John Lasseter Profile (SD, 3 minutes): Learn how Lasseter, following in the footsteps of Walt Disney himself, inspires his team and continues to push Pixar into the future.
Cast of Characters (SD, 4 minutes): A succinct roundup of all the characters, new and old, who make Toy Story 2 as memorable as it is.
Toy Box (SD, 14 minutes): View the "Outtakes" that roll during the end credits of the film; chuckle at an easter egg from the original DVD called "Jessie's Gag;" tap your foot through a rootin-tootin "Riders in the Sky Music Medley;" check out a stack of golden-age "Autographed Pictures," and watch Tom Hanks and Tim Allen argue over "Who's the Coolest Toy?"
Deleted Scenes (SD, 4 minutes): Three unfinished scenes in all, including a "Deleted Animation Intro," the aptly-titled "Godzilla Rex," and an early version of the "Crossing the Road" sequence.
Design (SD, 27 minutes): Dig through several galleries, 3-D visualizations, and color tests featuring your favorite scenes and characters.
Production (SD, 14 minutes): A series of self-explanatory DVD featurettes include "Designing Woody's Past, "Making Woody's Roundup, "Production Tour," "Early Animation Tests," "International Scene" (an alternate take of the American flag transition made specifically for international audiences), and "Special Effects."
Music & Sound (SD, 14 minutes): Yet more material from the original DVD, all of which are as informative and low-key as the majority of content on the disc. The featurettes include "Designing Sound," "Making the Songs," "Woody's Roundup Music Video," and a Randy Newman demo-recording of "Jessie's Song."
Publicity (SD, 9 minutes): A decent collection of advertising materials -- a "Character Interview" short, two "Trailers," a half-dozen "TV Spots," twenty domestic and international "Posters," and a brief animated stadium ad titled "Baseball Woody" -- round out the package.
Maximize Your Home Theater: A basic video/audio calibration tool.
Toy Story 2 3D is nothing short of a blast. With a 3D presentation that grabs hold and doesn't let go and a DTS-HD Master Audio track that doesn't take any prisoners, the sequel's 3D re-release is designed with devoted Toy Story fans in mind and it doesn't disappoint. A few new special features would have been a nice touch, but I'm not complaining. Be sure to add Toy Story 2 3D -- and, really, the entire Toy Story 3D trilogy -- to your list of must-own 3D releases post haste.
Diney/Pixar's upcoming November 1st 3D versions of the Toy Story movies are now available for pre-order
on Amazon.com as the Toy Story 3D Trilogy in an 3-disc 3D BD box set for $69.99 The 3 movies are also available separately in their 3D versions.