Toy Story 10th Anniversary Editionby Kevin Krock, staff writer
My two older boys and I absolutely love Toy Story, and I cannot believe that it has already been 10 years since it was released in the theaters. What has also surprised me is how well this movie still plays in repeated viewings, and believe me, with two young boys, I have watched it a lot over the last almost five years since it was originally released on DVD. Given all the DVDs in my library Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are still the most frequently requested discs.
I'm sure most of you are probably fairly familiar with the plot of Toy Story, so rather than reiterate it for those that are not familiar or have not watched it in years, I am going to refer you to my previous review of the original three disc collector's from November 2000 (link). All you really need to know, though, is that this wonderful movie has a simple, solid story with fun and memorable characters, and if you have not seen this, you should do yourself a favor and see it.
So, how does Pixar attempt to best The Ultimate Toy Box from a few years ago (link)? Well, it appears that you split the old three disc set into two 2-disc sets, one for Toy Story and one for Toy Story 2 (coming in December). Each 2-disc set has one disc mostly dedicated to a spiffed up version of the movie and another disc containing a slew of bonus material.
Owners of The Ultimate Toy Box are probably wondering, as was I, how much of the bonus material is redundant. Well, here's a quick list of some of the major goodies that have been carried over to this new set:
Now, there are probably a lot of you that either did not have a DVD player about three years ago when the Toy Story DVDs were put back in the Disney Vault or did not buy the collector's editions back then, so all of this great stuff is new. To get the rundown on the goodies I just listed, though, please check out my review of the Ultimate Toy Box. It's all good.
With the additional disc capacity of two whole discs, there are a few really cool new additions that will please first-time set owners as well as those of you that already own the old Toy Box. The first of them is an updated Making Toy Story featurette that includes some new behind-the-scenes footage as well as some of the older footage. It is a fun and interesting overview to the production of Toy Story, and it is a great place to start if you are not familiar with the behind-the-scenes aspects of this movie. Then there is a neat featurette with Art Director Ralph Eggleston and his team reflecting on the challenges they endured to create the amazing Toy Story world and characters.
There is also an interesting featurette on the legacy of Toy Story that includes recent interviews with John Lasseter, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, George Lucas, Peter Jackson and others. Each of the interviewees relay their memories and perspectives on the impact that Toy Story has made on storytelling, computer animation, and a number of other interesting topics. I always hope that something like this is included on an anniversary edition DVD, and I am happy to report that this one perfectly hits the spot.
On a more personal and rather sad note, one of my absolute favorite bonus items is the Filmmakers Reflect featurette. This seemingly all-too-short segment features John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Doctorand Joe Ranft, who was recently and tragically killed in a car accident. I was absolutely absorbed by these four friends discussing the ups and downs they experienced from filling shopping carts at Toys R Us with the company credit card to the day Disney shut down the production. It is a fascinating perspective, and it really makes you appreciate the genius and drive behind this movie.
While the tone of the entire discussion is very loose and fun, I still find it a bit sad to watch and listen to the lively stories from Joe Ranft knowing that his wonderful talents have been lost but definitely not forgotten. One other touching clip on the DVD highlighting Joe in action is the Green Army Man story pitch, which shows Joe making the exuberant storyboard pitch to the production team. He was a key player not only behind the scenes with the stories, but familiar characters Heimlich, Wheezy, Jacques, and others. While Pixar and these characters will never be quite the same without him, he has left a legacy that we can all enjoy for years to come.
The Video, Audio, and Interface
As I stated in my review from five years ago, the audio and video transfers for the first DVD were phenomenal, and I could not really imagine them getting better. With this 10th anniversary edition, both the video and audio have been spruced up with remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 5.1 ES audio tracks, and the video transfer has been encoded with the highest bit rate ever used on a Disney/Pixar film. The latter feature basically means that more disc space is dedicated to ensuring the image quality is the best.
I will admit, as I always have, that I have a rather modest home theater, and it is by no means high-end. I don't have a widescreen HDTV, matched surround speakers, or even a component video connection from my DVD player. If you have a family like mine, though, you probably would not want to invest too much in your home theater setup until your children are old enough to stop poking their fingers in your speaker cones or dropping Legos in your surround speaker ports.
However, it is good enough for me to discern between poor, marginal, and very good audio and video transfers. Given the aforementioned sprucing up, I was very interested to see if I could tell the difference between my old copy of the Ultimate Toy Box and this new 10th anniversary edition. I played a couple of scenes back to back and examined them very carefully, and I have to say that I did not see any obvious differences between the two video transfers. For smaller TVs or computers, the difference is even more difficult to resolve. Also, the audio on the new set seemed to have a bit more active surrounds, but I did not detect any major differences.
While I am sure that there have been technical improvements to both the video and audio transfers on this new set, it may be that my lack of higher-end equipment is limiting my ability to observe the improvements relative to the old set. For example, the anamorphic widescreen video has to undergo some on-the-fly processing to make it fit in my standard 4:3 ratio TV, and that process alone could compromise the subtle video differences enough that I could not differentiate the two transfers. For most of you with typical family home theaters, though, you can rest assured that the 10th anniversary edition will provide a spectacular presentation of the movie, but if you already have the old DVD set and a less-than-reference home theater, you should not expect this new set to provide much more than what you already have. However, if you have the latest and greatest home theater, then this new set may have that extra oomph that will max out your system. [Don't tell my wife, but I think I need to go get a better, bigger, wider TV in the name of home theater research. Think she'll buy it?]
As for the interface, it is simply perfect. The menus on both discs feature plentiful animation and audio, and they are all well laid out and easy to navigate. There should not be any problem for anyone in the family to find their way around to their favorite scene or goodie.
The Final Evaluation
If you do not already own Toy Story, then you definitely need to go pick this set up, as you will not regret it. The presentation is top notch, and there are plenty of goodies for everyone in the family. If you already have the Ultimate Toy Box from several years ago, then the decision becomes a tad more muddy. If you are interested in getting the ultimate video and audio transfer, then this new set is a must, but if you are satisfied with the Toy Box and do not have a widescreen TV, then you should at the very least rent the new set just to check out the new goodies. Regardless, this is a wonderful set of discs for a wonderful movie, and it should be in just about every family's DVD library.