Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TOY STORY: Blu-Ray (Disney/Pixar 1995) Walt Disney Home Entertainment

1995 proved a banner year for the Walt Disney Studios largely due to the release of its joint venture project with Pixar Animation – director John Lasseter’s Toy Story. A delightfully whacky and unhinged American farce – all about what children’s toys do in their off time from play with their human counterparts - the initial story concocted was to have featured a mechanical drummer named Tinny, who gets lost in a child’s playroom and eventually comes into conflict with a ventriloquist’s dummy.

Thankfully, this concept went through considerable revisions with Tinny eventually morphing into Buzz Lightyear (voiced to perfection by Tim Allen) and the ventriloquist’s dummy mutating into Cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks).

Originally, Robin Williams had been considered a viable vocalist for either role – having proven his worth in several Buena Vista live action movies and, more directly pedigreed as the voice of the Genie in the studio's animated Aladdin. Unfortunately, the latter film was cause for a bitter falling out between Williams and Disney.

Toy Story opens during human, Andy’s (John Morris) birthday party. The older toys in his closet and play box wait in sweaty anticipation to see if their popularity will be eclipsed by some new attention monger. Only Andy’s favorite toy, Woody seems unshaken; that is, until the arrival of Buzz Lightyear. Seemingly overnight, Woody goes from being exclusive in popularity with Andy to becoming a cast off – his domain transformed into a space-age homage for Buzz and his television show. As jealousy worms its way into Woody's idyllic enclave, he and Buzz come to blows.

The wrinkle in the story is that Buzz actually believes in himself. He does not realize he is a toy – a fact Woody makes every attempt to expose. When Buzz and Woody accidentally fall out of Andy’s car en route to a local pizza restaurant they must combine their skills to return safely home. Unfortunately, the two inadvertently become the property of Andy's next door neighbor, Sid (Erik von Detten); an absolute horror of a child who derives pleasure out of dismembering and destroying his toys.

In retrospect, Toy Story was an ideal candidate for the first all-inclusively CGI feature length animated motion picture. The textures of plastic are perfectly suited and reproduced within the virtual realm. True enough, this gimmick would be nothing without the story, exceptionally scripted by Robert McKee.

Furthermore, Lasseter's persistence in making a 'buddy movie' rather than a traditional Disney musical gives the film a sense of surreal realism. As the audience, we believe in the toys; buying into the concept that perhaps our inanimate playthings from days of yore may have, in fact, taken on lives of their own when we weren't around.

The film's central themes of finding truth in one’s own self and believing in ourselves when all else fails are universal and appealing. In 2003, the Online Film Critics Society erroneously voted Toy Story the ‘greatest animated film of all time’ – a perplexing insult to the many meticulously crafted, hand drawn masterpieces that have gone before it. Nevertheless, as pure entertainment, Toy Story is completely satisfying - an enchanting coming of age drama for the toddler/tween set that many adults continue to find reaffirming as well.

In one of the most bizarre marketing decisions to hit the DVD/Blu-Ray market, Disney Home Entertainment has chosen to release Toy Story in either a standard DVD show box or in a Blu-Ray show box - both editions including one copy on standard DVD plus their miraculous Blu-Ray transfer. In a word, the image on the Blu-Ray is breathtaking! Overall image resolution takes a quantum leap forward in virtually all respects.

Colors are richer and deeper. Fine details are evident throughout. Textures on the toys jump forth from the screen with an almost third dimension. The audio is Tru-lossless HD and superbly nuanced. Over 90 minutes of extras that are mostly confined to direct imports from the studio's previously issued DVD, including a making of documentary, short subjects, new interactive 'game' features and a sneak peak at Toy Story 3. Highly recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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