Although I was eager to add this movie, “the world’s #1 animated film in box office” (making over a billion dollars), to our Pixar collection, I’ve been putting off watching it. Part of that was the film itself. I appreciate its messages — about loyalty, the importance of friendship, and the need to grow up and share with the younger generation — but I wasn’t sure I was ready to see again the emotional punch it packs.
I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about the film itself, since I’m guessing it would be difficult to find someone who *hasn’t* seen it. In short, Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), and many other toys have to find new reason for being when their owner Andy gets ready to leave for college. The set pieces are alternately cute (kids in day care!) and frightening (a trash compactor!). Jessie (Joan Cusack) gets to be more part of the gang, while new characters include the malicious Lotso Bear (Ned Beatty) and Ken (Michael Keaton) as a companion for Barbie (Jodi Benson).
The Blu-ray combo packs are getting bigger and bigger, with this one containing four discs. The first has the movie and the following extras:
- The six-minute “Day and Night” short that ran with the film in theaters. I was really impressed by this unique treatment of visuals and color; it’s a simple concept amazingly executed with silhouette and suggestion. Suddenly, I saw it as a political parallel, with two people convinced they had nothing in common when they were more similar than different to an outside observer.
- Four and a half minutes of “Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure”. A Buzz toy went to the International Space Station, and this short feature has the cartoon character narrating about the experiments astronauts do there and how to travel on the space shuttle.
- “Toys!” is a six-and-a-half minute piece about designing all the characters from the film. The classic cast had to be rebuilt on computer to match new technology, and the new guys from day care and Bonnie’s room were added.
- A minute ad for Disney digital copies. It seems that pushing Blu-ray is now passé; the new conversion is getting people to watch online without any physical media.
- “Sneak Peeks”, or more advertising. These are in addition to the trailers you have to skip through to get to the movie. The only one I was interested in was The Incredibles on Blu-ray (with no date given), although I found the one about going to Disney theme parks particularly manipulative.
All of the above are also on the DVD version. Also on both formats, once you switch to the second Blu-ray Features disc, are:
- “The Gang’s All Here” — 10 minutes talking with the voice talent, including touching stories of Blake Clark having to replace the departed Jim Varney as the Slinky Dog voice and how John Morris (Andy) returned to the role. These featurettes are some of my favorite things about cartoon extras, seeing the people who brought the voices to life.
- “A Toy’s Eye View: Creating A Whole New Land” — 5 1/2 minutes about developing Toy Story for the Disney parks, especially Hong Kong Disneyland’s new area.
- “Paths to Pixar: Editorial” — 4 1/2 minutes about film editing for the company, describing the career.
- Three “Studio Stories”, animated anecdotes about working for Pixar. In “Where’s Gordon?”, an animator turns a hidden room into a secret office. “Cereal Bar” (linked below) shows how employees eat a lot of cereal. In “Clean Start”, the animators shave their heads to mark the film’s inception. Cartoons about making cartoons!
The additional Blu-ray features are grouped into several sections. “Games and Activities” contains the “Toy Story Trivia Dash”, asking the viewer questions about all three movies. “Family Play” includes “Goodbye Andy” (8 minutes), about the “Andy’s Goodbye” scene and how they worked to get the human characters right, and “Accidental Toymakers” (4 minutes), in which the Pixar crew discuss seeing their creations become real toys and we learn about the company that makes the merchandise (35 million Buzz toys!).
“Film Fans” has the technical details, including a Cine-Explore interactive commentary with director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson (I guess Blu-ray has enough storage that they could put another copy of the movie on this disc) and a “Beyond the Toybox” commentary with story supervisor Jason Katz, supervising technical director Guido Quaroni, production designer Bob Pauley, and supervising animators Bobby Podesta and Michael Venturini. The DVD also has the filmmakers’ commentary.
“Roundin’ Up a Western Opening” (almost 6 minutes) shows the alternate conceptions for the opening scene while the six-and-a-half-minute “Bonnie’s Playtime: A Story Roundtable” shows how the filmmakers worked with a troubled sequence. “Life of a Shot” (7 minutes) returns to that opening to talk about how all different artists contribute to a scene. “Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion” (8 minutes) is narrated by screenwriter Michael Arndt and uses opening scenes from Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles to talk about how to structure a story. The two-minute “Making of Day and Night” was a bonus I enjoyed, especially since it talks about how difficult it is to explain the short film, featuring 2-D character that contain 3-D worlds. Here it is on YouTube:
Up til now, it’s clear that the Blu-ray version is the one that those seriously interested in animation will want, with all this “making of” information. I think I would have been happy with just the DVD, until I hit the last bonus section, “Publicity”, a weird grab bag of marketing material. In fact, the first one is called “Grab Bag”, four minutes of character bits that I think were teasers for the upcoming film in 3-D. There are “Ken’s Dating Tips”, the fake Lotso commercials released on the internet, various other movie ads and trailers I hadn’t seen before, and my very favorite part, “Dancing With the Stars at Pixar”, about how they put together the dance sequence with help from Tony Dovolani and Cheryl Burke. This section has lots of extra character work, gags that play off the well-known cast.
As a whole, I appreciate how complete this package is, but I found it overwhelming. If these characters have so much material about them, and they’re being used to sell so many things (including theme parks), it’s harder to relate to them as beings I care about what happens to. I normally love extras, but these, I found myself skipping some bits to avoid fatigue. That’s the smarter approach; this should be treated as multi-night entertainment, savoring small amounts at a time. There’s nothing wrong with picking and choosing just what interests you.
The other two of the four discs are a DVD copy and one that contains the digital copy. I used to wonder why a whole separate disc was necessary to deliver a movie file, until I realized that my laptop doesn’t have a Blu-ray drive, so it needs a different disc. You can also — for the first time from Disney, I think — just buy the Blu-ray discs in a two-pack.