Toy Story 3 3D Blu-ray comes close to perfection with top scores all around making it one of the best Blu-ray's ever
When their owner clears out his bedroom in preparation for starting college, Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toy-box gang are dumped in the donations box at a local nursery school and find themselves at the mercy of a horde of wild, sticky-fingered toddlers. As they struggle to stay together while coping with the chaos, the gang meet a new bunch of toys led by pink teddy bear Lotso, while Barbie is at last united with her male counterpart, Ken. The yearning to return home cannot be ignored, however, and many comical adventures ensue as the toys make a series of elaborate escape attempts.
For more about Toy Story 3 3D and the Toy Story 3 3D Blu-ray release, see Toy Story 3 3D Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 19, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
It's strange: with each passing Pixar release, I walk into the theater without trepidation or expectation. Deep down, I know whatever I'm about to watch will be amazing. Even the studio's worst stands shoulder to shoulder with other animation studios' best. (Point to A Bug's Life and Cars, ye cantankerous cynics. Both films only suffer by comparison to their greater Pixar brethren.) Even deeper down, I squash any and every expectation that begins to take form. For fifteen years now, Pixar has taken my inner child on animated adventures I never dreamed possible; flights of thrilling fantasy replete with masterful, at-times poignant storytelling, indispensable characters, gorgeous worlds, groundbreaking animation and charming laughs primed and polished for kids of all ages. When I sit down to watch a Pixar film for the first time, I can honestly say I have no desire to know what I'm about to experience. And I have yet to regret it. Still, I'm sure many of you felt the pangs of trepidation or the surge of expectation at the announcement of Toy Story 3. Once doomed to direct-to-video hell, the film was saved from an ungodly end by newly appointed Disney animation Chief Creative Officer and father of all things Toy Story, John Lasseter. But to what end? Sequels are already notoriously dangerous propositions, and animated sequels have long been slave to the law of diminishing cinematic returns. Could a third theatrical Toy Story possibly compare to its 1995 and 1999 predecessors, both beloved classics treasured by countless fans the world over? More importantly, would aging audiences and young newcomers care about a franchise that had been dormant for a decade? A deluge of critical praise and a billion box office bucks suggests the answer to both questions is a resounding "yes."
Lotso makes promises he doesn't intend to keep...
Audiences have waited ten long years to see spirited toys and faithful friends Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) reunited on the big screen. But ten years have passed for Buzz and Woody as well. Discarded in a dusty closet, the dutiful duo lead a small remnant of surviving toys -- old pals their now seventeen-year-old owner, Andy (John Morris), has held onto for sentimental reasons -- and dream up elaborate ways to win even a second of Andy's attention. Which toys remain after years of yard sales and trash bags? Feisty cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack), piggy bank Hamm (John Ratzenberger), timid dino Rex (Wallace Shawn), Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris), the ever-loyal Slinky Dog (Blake Clark), fearless Green Army Men soldier Sarge (R. Lee Ermey) and Barbie (Jodi Benson), a perky, dim-witted toy who sought refuge with Buzz and Woody after Molly (Beatrice Miller), Andy's sister, began to ignore her. But when there are talking toys, trouble is never far behind. As Andy prepares to leave for college, his mother (Laurie Metcalf) mistakes a bag full of toys for trash and sets them on the curb. Woody, having seen the miscommunication transpire, desperately tries to explain the situation to Buzz, Jessie and the other distraught toys, but as is often the case, they refuse to listen. Hopping in a donation box bound for Sunnyside Daycare Center, they arrive to a place of promise and potential: a colorful world where they'll be played with every day for as long as their ball joints and stitches will last. Woody is convinced they all belong with Andy, even if it means sitting in a box in an attic, and sets out for home.
Unfortunately, Sunnyside quickly devolves into a nightmare for Buzz, Jessie and the others. The daycare center is ruled by a gang of plush and plastic thugs -- embittered pink teddy bear Lotso (Ned Beatty), self-centered diva doll Ken (Michael Keaton), cooing giant Big Baby, insectoid action figure Twitch (John Cygan), rubber octopus Stretch (Whoopi Goldberg), face-flipping muscle Chunk (Jack Angel), hot-headed yes-man Sparks (Jan Rabson), resident genius Bookworm (Richard Kind), reluctant insider Chatter Telephone (Teddy Newton) and the dreaded Cymbal-Banging Monkey (no voice actor, just pure, terrifying evil) -- many of whom have little concern for the safety and well-being of their newest recruits. After resetting Buzz and tricking him into joining their gang, Lotso and his henchmen imprison Jessie and her friends, force them to serve time in the pre-kindergarten ward (where toys are abused without mercy) and take full advantage of their captives. But Andy's toys refuse to go down without a fight and soon start devising an escape plan. Meanwhile, Woody is found en route to Andy's house by a little girl named Bonnie (Emily Hahn) and taken to her room for a tea party. There he meets sarcastic rag doll Dolly (Bonnie Hunt), stuffed method actor Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton), chatty triceratops Trixie (Kristen Schaal), straight-shooting unicorn Buttercup (Jeff Garlin) and sad clown Chuckles (Bud Luckey), who tell him exactly what awaits new toys at Sunnyside. Determined to save his friends from Lotso, Woody heads back. But can he rescue his family, convince each of them they're wanted and get home before Andy leaves for college?
Cards on the table. As far as I'm concerned, Toy Story 3 isn't just the best of the Toy Story films, it's the finest film in Pixar's canon. Much has been written about its dark, emotionally taxing storyline -- and rightfully so -- but director Lee Unkrich's fiercely clever trilogy capper isn't an overtly grim fairy tale, nor is it any more frightening or thematically challenging than some of the more unsettling, heart-wrenching animated films of the '80s (The Secret of Nimh, Watership Down, Charlotte's Web, the oft-forgot Brave Little Toaster and the original Land Before Time, just to name a few). There are powerful scenes sprinkled throughout Toy Story 3; profound, overwhelming sequences that left me shaken, stirred and lying in a quivering heap of man-tears. I was startled by the intense empathy I felt for Woody when he would stare longingly at Andy, a towering owner-god so consumed with his own affairs that he neglects his most loyal servants. I was caught off guard at the flood of emotions I experienced when Andy's toys, facing certain death, quietly accepted the inevitability of their fate in a serene moment of sobering silence. Jessie's fear of something all too familiar from her past, Buzz's soulful resignation, Andy's mother as she deals with the departure of her college-bound son, Bonnie's sweet embrace of a toy who hasn't felt the love of an owner in years... even Lotso's tragic origin drew me into the fabric of Pixar's toy-strewn world and demanded I contemplate mortality, friendship and loss. And the end? The last twenty minutes of the film are as devastating and moving as the heart-crushing, tear-jerking opening minutes of Up (Pixar's other recent masterwork). Even sitting here typing out carefully veiled descriptions of the film's most affective scenes, my eyes are beginning to burn; a telltale sign that tears aren't too far off.
Not that Toy Story 3 is a somber affair. Quite the contrary. I found myself laughing more than anything else, reconnecting with the imaginary worlds of my childhood, reliving the adventures I once concocted for my own action figures and falling in love with Buzz, Woody, Jessie and the entire Toy Story squad all over again. Unkrich and screenwriter Michael Arndt never retread old ground and rarely return to the franchise trough in search of old, fan-favorite gags. Even when they dabble in familiar territory -- Buzz isn't himself... again -- they devise brilliant new ways to play with classic franchise beats. Likewise, as Andy and the Toy Story audience have aged, so have the themes involved. Never so much that a wide-eyed 21st century tot can't enjoy the film as much as his dear old dad, but just enough to give older viewers plenty of fresh meat to chew on. And then there are the new toys, all of which turn out to be smartly deployed additions to an ever-expanding but ever-manageable cast of characters. Lotso emerges as the most fully realized Toy Story villain to date, and Beatty's smooth Southern drawl infuses the teddy bear's every promise and threat with a pinch of palpable malice. Ken is one of the funniest deconstructions Pixar has ever created, and Keaton elevates his smug simpleton's smarmy quips, naive arrogance and hilarious obsession with fashion into truly memorable scene-stealers. Bonnie and her toys are absolute delights as well, and young Hahn's enthusiasm and authentic delivery could easily shoulder a Bonnie-helmed Toy Story at some point in the near future. As it stands, every character has a purpose. Every toy has a function within the narrative. Every new personality, no matter how much or how little screentime they earn, has something to offer the ensemble.
I could go on -- I haven't even mention the lasting impact left by Pixar's jaw-dropping animation, the pitch-perfect addition of Randy Newman's music, the epic tone of Buzz and Woody's third adventure, Unkrich's impeccable pacing and rousing vision, how wonderfully the film's ending works as both a closing and opening chapter in the toys' lives, Arndt's sharply penned dialogue and brisk storytelling, the returning voice cast's electric performances or just how much the filmmakers prove another sequel was indeed an excellent idea -- but I'd rather not wear out my welcome. Needless to say, I was entranced from beginning to end. I adored it, my wife loved it and my five-year-old son can't get enough of it. I'm sure debates will continue to rage as to which Toy Story is the best of the best, but regardless of how you personally rank the films, it's important to note just how amazing each entry is. I can't wait for the next Toy Story tour de force. No trepidation, no expectation. Just pure, unadulterated anticipation.
Three little letters, one little word: wow. It seems like only yesterday that I was suggesting that Cars 2 3D might just be the best 3D presentation of 2011. (Literally. My review of Cars 2 3D posted last night.) And now, less than twenty-four hours later, here I am with a new, more definitive statement: Toy Story 3 3D is hands down the 3D Blu-ray presentation of the year. Disney's 1080p/MVC-encoded trilogy-capping transfer serves up a veritable feast of delicate 3D delights, the least of which is a wholly engrossing three-dimensional world that boasts tremendous depth and exacting dimensionality. Behold the soft curve of a plastic face, the terrifying maw of an incinerator, an avalanche of shredded trash pouring into its fiery pits, the expanse of an enormous daycare center, the cavernous closet that is Ken's wardrobe, the enveloping spectacle that is the film's opening train rescue, the looming face of a hyperactive preschooler, the suburbs that spill away from Sunnyside, and the full breadth of Andy's room. It's impossible to talk about "showcase sequences" simply because every sequence is a showcase. Every scene is gorgeous. Every shot and frame makes the most of the 3D presentation. It's all inviting and immersive; a startlingly convincing 3D stunner that had my son stretching his hands toward the screen, beaming a grin to end all grins, and laughing out loud at the sheer wonder of it all. Hyperbolic? I'm actually trying to restrain myself, even if it isn't working out so well for me. So let me go one step farther: the 3D was so magnificent that I forgot I was wearing 3D glasses. No exaggeration. The film's emotional punches actually hit harder. The adventure was that much more enjoyable. The jokes seemed funnier, the drama more intense, the environments richer, the heart more palpable, the animation more striking, and the characters more alive than ever. Watching Toy Story 3 in 3D is a whole new experience.
I also didn't catch sight of any significant ghosting or crosstalk -- very, very few instances even occurred, come to think of it -- and, aside from the tiniest bit of easily dismissed, even more easily overlooked banding and aliasing, the presentation is as Pixar perfect as anyone could hope for. While the story itself is an increasingly dark trip down Buzz and Woody's once-colorful halls, there isn't a single frame of Toy Story 3 that suffers in any way. Primaries are incredibly bold and vivid, black levels are dark and savory, contrast is impeccable and the dazzling dreamscape of Sunnyside Daycare has been rendered with absolute care. Meanwhile, detail -- straight from the digital tap and polished with meticulous precision -- is immaculate as well. Every frayed tuft of Lotso's weathered fur, every discolored stitch and fading piece of plastic that adorns our faithful heroes, every texture that peppers Rex's tail and Jessie's hat, every fleck of glitter and speck of dust, every playroom scar, large and small... if Pixar animated it, it's alive, well and on full, wondrous display. Edge definition is sleek and sophisticated, fine textures are exceptionally well-resolved and clarity is, you guessed it, flawless. Artifacting, noise, digital clutter, ringing and other common anomalies are nowhere to be found, and the whole of the picture is as pristine as they come. In fact, if I weren't staring at every inch of the film's backgrounds, searching for the smallest hiccup (the same thing I did when originally reviewing the 2D release of Toy Story 3), I doubt I would have noticed a hint of the split-second banding and aliasing I mentioned earlier. Ultimately, the only way Toy Story 3 3D could look any better is if you hopped in a DeLorean and picked up a copy of the film's 25th Anniversary re-release (complete with sparkling lossless video). Prepare to be floored by Disney's 3D presentation, dear readers. I know my entire family was.
Having exhausted so many glowing adjectives on Disney's video transfer, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to conveying the sheer sonic strength of Toy Story 3's arresting DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. Simply put, Disney has outdone itself. Voices are sharp, clean, warm, perfectly prioritized and masterfully integrated into the mix. Lines are never lost, whispers are never buried beneath any ensuing action and every nuance of the cast's deliveries is present and accounted for. Which is a relief considering just how chaotic Toy Story 3's set pieces become. A bustling daycare center finds dozens of toys scurrying from channel to channel, a thundering charge of pre-K warriors shakes the very ground, a garbage truck rumbles and belches exhaust like a great steel beast, and a waste disposal facility roars with indignation as if the gates of hell have been flung open for our trembling heroes. Through it all, LFE output is decidedly powerful and prescient, lending convincing weight, heft and resonance whenever called upon. (In a world of eight-inch toys, where even the most common household item can suddenly present tremendous danger, that turns out to be quite often.) Rear speaker activity is aggressive and entertaining, teasing the ear with the tiniest elements, taking full advantage of a veritable sandbox of ambient effects, creating believable acoustics no matter the environment and further immersing the listener in an already immersive world. Directionality is precise, engaging and enveloping, pans are prison-break smooth and dynamics are both playful and punchy. My thesaurus doesn't have any more synonyms for "perfect." Toy Story 3 3D is an AV powerhouse, one you should be eager to invite into your home.
The 5-disc Blu-ray combo pack release of Toy Story 3 3D tumbles out of Pixar's overstuffed toybox with more than five hours of special features including a Picture-in-Picture filmmakers commentary, an audio commentary with lead members of their crew (both of which are found on the set's second disc), a full suite of high definition production featurettes and a slew of additional bonus materials (as well as standard DVD and Digital copies of the film).
Cine-Explore Picture-in-Picture Commentary (Disc 2, HD, 103 minutes): Surprisingly, Toy Story 3's picture-in-picture commentary is relegated to its own disc. Not that I'm complaining. Director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson are still given ample opportunity to dissect each scene as the feature-length film plays on screen, storyboards and concept art appear throughout, and the whole of the experience is as informative, detailed, anecdotal and engaging as one might hope. It may not be crammed onto the first disc, but it's an invaluable addition to the set that every filmfan and Pixar junkie should set aside time to watch.
Beyond the Toybox: An Alternative Commentary Track (Disc 2, HD, 103 minutes): But that's not all. The set's second disc also includes an extensive audio commentary with supervising animator Bobby Podesta, supervising technical director Guido Quaroni, production designer Bob Pauley, supervising animator Mike Venturini and story supervisor Jason Katz. While a bit drier than Unkrich and Anderson's Picture-in-Picture commentary, it's just as thorough and worthwhile. If you only have time for one, go with Unkrich and Anderson's track. But if you're a true Toy Story devotee (especially one anxious to learn about every easter egg buried throughout the film), don't miss this fantastic crew commentary.
"Film Fans" Featurettes (Disc 2, HD, 41 minutes): A collection of production featurettes is given its own section. "Roundin' Up a Western Opening" reveals the filmmakers' original idea for Toy Story 3's opening scene; "Bonnie's Playtime: A Story Roundtable" finds the team discussing a difficult scene involving several new characters; "Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion" digs into the development of Michael Arndt's screenplay; "Life of a Shot" documents the evolution of a scene; "Making of Day & Night" provides an all too brief glimpse into the production of Pixar's latest theatrical short; "Paths to Pixar" highlights the tireless efforts of the film's editors; and a trio of amusing "Studio Stories" ("Where's Gordon," "Cereal Bars" and "Clean Start") pull back the curtain on the wacky world of Pixar Studios.
"Family Play" Features (Disc 2, HD, 33 minutes): Want more featurettes? Your wish is Disney's command. "The Gang's All Here" is an entertaining character, casting and voice actor featurette; "Goodbye Andy" finds the Pixar team preparing to bid a fond farewell to the little boy who started it all; "Accidental Toymakers" looks at the Toy Story filmmakers' inadvertent role as real-world toy designers; "Creating a Whole New Land" follows Buzz and Woody's invasion of Disney's theme parks; the film's "Epilogue" is given a chance to shine in all its full-screen, high definition, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 glory; and "Toy Story Trivia Dash" is an interactive game primed for the kiddies.
Publicity Goodies (Disc 2, HD, 27 minutes): If commercials, trailers, random promos and TV spots is your thing. Then enjoy a "Grab Bag" catchall, a hilarious series of "Ken's Dating Tips," a pair of "Lots-o-Hugging Bear Commercials" (plus a "Making Of" short that details their production), a "Dancing with the Stars at Pixar" quickie, a "TS3 Silence Trailer," a "TS3 Anti-Piracy Trailer," a "Character Intros" short, a "Poster Gallery," five domestic and Japanese theatrical trailers and more.
Day & Night Theatrical Short (Disc 1, HD, 6 minutes): With every excellent Pixar release comes an excellent animated short. And Day & Night -- a wordless delight brimming with movement and music -- is no different.
Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure (Disc 1, HD, 5 minutes): A cute educational short in which Buzz, Hamm and Rex discuss the science and technological advances of modern space travel.
Toys! (Disc 1, HD, 7 minutes): A brief but solid featurette in which the filmmakers and animators explain the challenges they faced in creating so many new characters, the process of updating old favorites, designing Sunnyside and its denizens, and exploring all new themes over the course of the story.
Maximize Your Home Theater (Disc 1, HD): A basic home theater calibration tool. (If a Disney-themed video and audio calibration tool interests you though, be sure to check out the the studio's 2-disc World of Wonder Blu-ray release, available alongside Toy Story 3 on November 2nd. I'll have a review online as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.)
Sneak Peeks (Disc 1, HD, 12 minutes): Trailers are included for the 2011 theatrical releases of Cars 2 and Tangled, and the upcoming Blu-ray releases of The Incredibles, Mater's Tall Tales, The Search for Santa Paws, Bambi and several Disney 3D titles.
Fast Play (Disc 2): Customize your special features viewing experience.
Toy Story 3 3D is the pinnacle of the Toy Story 3D trilogy and a testament to how much 3D can enhance an already marvelous experience when handled properly. Disney's 3D presentation is as amazing as it gets, its DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is as overwhelming as ever, and its supplemental package provides Toy Story fans with a series of fantastic extras that, yep, only enhance the film further. If you only buy one 3D release this year, make it Toy Story 3 3D. Better yet, make it The Complete Toy Story 3D Collection and treat yourself to all three animated classics, complete with top-notch 3D presentations.
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.