..

TOY STORY 2
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Annie Potts, Wallace Shawn, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammar
Director:  John Lasseter
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  Disney/Pixar
Features:  See Review
Length:  94 Minutes
Release Date:  March 24, 2010

"Toys don't last forever."

Film ****

It’s hard to believe, but true, that Toy Story 2 started out as a direct-to-video release.  Fortunately, the powers that be, Pixar and Disney, realized they had something much better on their hands, and indeed, the final film is one of the best animated pictures I’ve ever seen, both in terms of the technical quality, which was much improved even over the excellent first film, but also in terms of the story, which is one of the best and genuinely emotional of recent years.

The story starts off with young master Andy getting ready for cowboy camp, a yearly excursion just for he and his trusty toy, Woody.  But he accidentally tears a seam on Woody’s arm at the last minute, making him unable to take the trip.  Andy is disappointed, but his mother tells him, “Toys don’t last forever.”  Woody begins to realize soberly that his time in Andy’s room may just about be over.

To make matters worse, Woody accidentally ends up in the family yard sale, where an unscrupulous toy collector, Big Al, recognizes him as a valuable collector’s item and seizes him.  Big Al’s world is a far cry from the warmth and love of Andy’s room, however.  There, Woody learns he was part of a set called the Roundup gang, a group of toys based on a once-popular TV show.  He meets Jessie the cowgirl (Cusack), Bullseye the horse, and Prospector Pete (Grammar), a real collector’s find:  an antique toy still in the original box…but how sad for a toy, to have never known the love and companionship of a child!

The set is being sold to a toy museum in Japan, and though Woody misses Andy and his friends, he slowly begins to realize that Andy won’t be young forever, and this might be the best opportunity he has available.  At least in a museum, kids will always love and appreciate him.  Jessie’s story about once being a favorite toy but then being brushed aside when her child grew older convinces him, and I have to tell you, it was such a beautiful, well constructed and emotional sequence, it brought real tears to my eyes, and I doubt I’ll ever forget it or the beautiful, haunting song “When She Loved Me” by Sarah McLachlan that accompanied it. 

Meanwhile, Buzz and the toys only know that Woody was stolen, and embark on a dangerous mission to rescue him.  This is an even better and more visually spectacular adventure than was featured in the first movie, as the toys have to deal with the perils of crossing busy streets, hazardous elevator shafts, and a giant toy warehouse where Buzz meets up with another Buzz doll, who, like in the first film, is equally convinced he’s the genuine article.  It’s pretty funny to see our Buzz getting a taste of his own medicine this time around!

Ultimately, Woody and his new friends have to make a choice about their futures, and thanks to Buzz, using some of the same rhetoric Woody gave to him in the first film, they become convinced that it is better to be truly loved for the short length of a childhood than to be admired forever from a distance and under glass.  But this decision is not the end of the story by far.  Next comes the daring escape attempt, which involves an airport baggage machine and a taking off jumbo jet.  Thanks to the marvelous and detailed computer animation, we’re treated to sights we’d never otherwise see.  They are indeed incredible!

In the end, Toy Story 2 joins the rarest of all cinematic breeds:  the sequel that surpasses the original.  I’m glad that all involved, from the voice talents to the animators to the studio heads, recognized they had a jewel on their hands and decided to devote the extra effort into making this a big screen adventure.  It’s one of the best animated films ever made.  Heck, it’s one of the best overall movies of the 90s.  It’s definitely not to be missed.

Video ****

As the technology improved, so did the visual flair...and if Toy Story 2 holds a slight edge over its predecessor in the Blu-ray department, it might only be because the visual style and sense of action is a little bolder.  Images are crisply rendered and colors are striking and beautiful in this direct digital transfer...not a flaw or complaint to be cited.

Audio ****

Again, Toy Story 2 earns a little more distinction here because of the nature of the story, which opens up for even more dynamic range and uses of the surround and bass channels.  Dialogue is cleanly delivered, and the music again is a real plus.  There's nothing like a well-done DTS HD audio track to put you in the middle of a completely imaginary world, and that's exactly what this audio offering does.

Features ****

Once again, Disney deserves kudos for their forward thinking in crafting combo packs that include both DVD and Blu-ray discs in one set...it's making it easier for me to talk my friends and family into getting Blu-ray players if they buy this set for the DVD and know that they're already prepared for high definition when they finally cross the finish line!

The Blu-ray disc is as impressive in the extras department as it is in the quality one, and Disney makes it easy by crafting menus to separate the classic features from the new ones.

The original extras include a commentary track with Lasseter and company (a good, entertaining listen, as these guys are funny and informative!), featurettes on making the movie, a Lasseter profile, and the cast of characters.  There are galleries on design, production, music and sound, a collection of trailers, TV spots, and 'character interviews', the 'outtakes' (which are absolutely hysterical), gag spots, pictures and more!

The new features include a sneak peek at Toy Story 3, a "Buzz Lightyear Mission Log" for kids that looks at the International Space Station, 'studio stories' as told by the Pixar crew, a tribute and dedication to Joe Ranft, a look at some of Pixar's technical artists in "Paths to Pixar", and "Pixar's Zoetrope", utilizing the classic wheel device to give the illusion of animation.  What an absolute treat!

Summary:

The first one was great, the second even better...I don't get to say that very often as a critic, but this wonderful Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of Toy Story 2 offers me that rare opportunity.  This is an amazing set from top to bottom, and it will keep you busy for many hours.  Here's looking to the future of the franchise, coming soon to a theatre near you!

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com