" Oh come come now. Just because you sold your soul to the devil, that needn’t make you a teetotaler. "
— Edward Arnold, The Devil and Daniel Webster

MRQE Top Critic

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

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Toy Story, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, was the first computer-animated feature film and it’s still one of the best.

Howdy, Partner

The life of a toy is never easy. At the whim of your owner, you might be granted the distinguished honor of sharing bed space with your human buddy one day, then have a firecracker strapped to your back the next.

Just like outsourcing has found thousands of workers jobless, a toy might find itself obsolete in the eyes of its owner when the next best thing comes along. In the case of Woody, a good old-fashioned cowboy with a pull-string that causes him to say such stirring catchphrases as “Somebody’s poisoned the water,” that dreadful day comes to pass when Andy, his owner, gets Buzz Lightyear.

Further complicating matters, Buzz, a high-tech space ranger, doesn’t believe he’s a toy, he thinks he is a genuine hero out to save the universe.

With that, the stage is set for Toy Story, buoyed by the perfect voice casting of Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) as Woody and Tim Allen (TV’s Home Improvement) as Buzz.

To Infinity and Beyond!

Toy Story raised the bar for all-ages entertainment masquerading as a G-rated children’s film. One of its greatest strengths is its ability to tap into that one bit of childhood just about everybody should be able to relate to, when the imagination ruled and toys weren’t just playthings, but best friends with monumental significance.

In some respects, the uber-accomplishments of later Pixar pictures, particularly last year’s The Incredibles, make Toy Story seem technically quaint already. But it’s a quaintness that suits the innocence of the story and the characters.

The human characters in Toy Story are every bit as artificial looking as the toys (a problem that, a decade later, still plagues computer-animated fare). But, given the conceit of Toy Story’s universe, it is just as well that the film’s toy protagonists go on to achieve “more human than human” qualities.

With the movie’s theatrical release already 10 years past, it is fun to take another peak at Toy Story and it is satisfying to see that it has aged very well indeed.

DVD Extras, Disc 1

The primary supplement on the feature disc is a running commentary with director John Lasseter and a bevy of his Pixar cohorts; none of the voice talent, such as Hanks and Allen, was involved. It’s an entertaining yak track, but the most valuable insights are the crew spotting and identifying all the references to other movies they’ve packed into the frames. To sum it up, Pixar owes loads to the films of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (who also happened to have started the company).

Also on the disc is a featurette entitled The Legacy of Toy Story. It’s a suffocating, self-congratulatory piece of fluff. There’s also a “sneak peak” of Cars, but it’s less a bonus feature than an example of shameless self-promotion offering yet another opportunity for Lasseter to appear in front of the camera.

Disc 2:

The second disc harbors more than two hours of featurettes and galleries that have been broken up into itsy bits to look even more impressive on the menu screens. Cumulatively, though, it’s enough to induce sugar shock. After wading through all the sketches of costumes, sets, promotional interviews, trailers, commercials, deleted scenes, aborted scenes, and behind the scenes featurettes, the bonus disc leaves little to the imagination.

As with The Incredibles DVD, all the behind-the-scenes footage leaves a nagging gut feeling that, while Lasseter and his crew talk up how much fun they’re having, Pixar still seems like a hard-nosed place to work.

Adding to the festivities are a collection of Easter eggs not-so-secretly tucked away on each menu; just look for Woody’s sheriff badge to find animated clips that range from the very good to the mildly amusing.

Also included is a new DVD game called The Claw, a videogame version of the mechanical claw used to pull stuffed toys out of an arcade bin. It’s less a game than a nifty bit of animation to enjoy. After all, can anybody out there really get enough of those three-eyed little aliens? No way.

So, play the game, win it, then shuffle back over to Disc 1.

Finally, remember this one bit of wisdom culled from the interviews: Computers don’t make movies. People make movies.

Picture and Sound

The feature presentation (in 1.77:1 widescreen enhanced for 16x9 TVs) lives up to the hype on the packaging; it truly is an exquisite, showcase presentation. The picture is astounding, featuring, the sleeve boasts, “the highest digital ‘bit rate’ ever used for a Disney/Pixar film.” Its 7.5 MBps out muscles the average DVD, which typically stays around or below 5 MBps.

As for the soundtrack, it’s been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX and is also available in DTS 5.1 Surround ES (once again, as the sleeve notes, it’s the first time a Pixar film has been presented in DTS). The DTS track rocks, but the Dolby Digital track isn’t far behind.

The feature film is also available in 2.0 soundtracks in English, French, and Spanish.

Both discs feature English captioning for the hearing impaired, as well as French and Spanish subtitles.