A million words have been written about this movie, so I’m not going to try and pitch a unique understanding of it to anyone here.
It stands out for me in two respects, the most notable being that it was the first full length CGI feature, and broke entirely new ground for the quality of computer-generated animation. But, forgetting that aspect for a moment, this is actually an excellent example of great storytelling, first and foremost.
What John Lasseter and Pixar did was get inside the mindset of a child and how children think about their toys, and how they might think about being a toy. The greatest fear any toy might have is to be lost or replaced, or even not played with any longer.
The senior toy in Andy’s bedroom is Woody, a cowboy who, with an oddly familiar assortment of friends, must contest with the appearance of Buzz Lightyear, a Space Ranger who isn’t willing to accept he’s actually a toy.
It’s a simple narrative about envy that leads to a downfall and ultimate redemption for Woody, and the acceptance of others in the form of Buzz. But what the movie manages to do around that basic premise is superb, as each of the toy personalities is able to shine out through the very clever voice casting choices Pixar made.
Tom Hanks as Woody and Tim Allen as Buzz really glue everything together, but it’s the minor parts that I really love. Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, the late Jim Varney as Slinky Dog, Wallace Shawn as Rex and the brilliant John Ratzenberger as Hamm, the piggybank. They even use ‘Sergeant’ R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket) as the leader of the bucket of plastic soldiers. How cool is that?
Each of these minor personalities adds weight to the notion of the Andy’s toys community, and the interactions between the very different personalities within it.
Having watched the movie through again, I tried to imagine what it might have looked like had it been conventionally hand-animated. Many of the scenes, especially the flight over the removal truck, would have been less exciting, I’ve concluded.
However, it’s not perfect. The human characters are really wooden looking and don’t move very well in places either, demonstrating the real challenge of making lifelike characters that aren’t made of shiny plastic.
Toy Story is about toys, and it executes that brief perfectly to become a timeless classic of the modern era.
As with many Disney releases these days, the pack contains a pristine Blu-ray disc and a sacrificial DVD for you to distract the ankle-biters.
I love this movie so much, and think Pixar is amazing, so it’s difficult for me to say that I was singularly unimpressed with the extras they chose to adorn this disc.
For starters, they threw on the DVD extras that anyone with the 10th Anniversary DVD would already have seen, and in the same quality. But this is the Toy Story Blu-ray, surely something better could be mustered for that?
The answer appears to be ‘no’, and, frankly, some of the stuff they did include in HD is an embarrassment. An example of the worst is one of the ‘Studio Stories’, which are small recollections of the Toy Story production put to very simple animation. One tells of how Pixar supremo John Lasseter had a rusty old car and, when Toy Story made millions, Steve Jobs bought him a Volvo. I guess you had to be there to immerse yourself in the hilarity of that story, or be John Lasseter, or something.
In total there are around 20 minutes of these ‘diversions’, with little that could be considered insightful or even that interesting. The only bit I really enjoyed was the horrific original Toy Story pitch to Disney where Woody is nasty, called ‘Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw’. But I got the impression that Lasseter would have rather not used this on here, but was desperate to find something original to include that wasn’t entirely cheesy or contrived.
There’s an audio commentary with John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Ralph Eggleston, and producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold. But it’s the same one as the 10th Anniversary DVD, which came originally from the 1996 Laserdisc edition!
So what’s the selling point here? The film in the best quality you’re ever likely to see it outside a cinema. To say that Toy Story looks crisp on Blu-ray is an understatement. The colours are really vibrant and punch out of the screen at you. The only downside to this, possibly, is that it does reveal some of the flaws in the rendering technology that Pixar used then, where things can start to look oddly flat in certain lighting conditions.
It’s interesting to compare the look of Toy Story with the ‘sneak peeks’ on the disc of Toy Story 2 and the new cinema release of Toy Story 3 and see how their technology has advanced. But, that said, this is how it looked, and for the most part it’s wonderful.
The DTS audio is also glorious for those with the equipment to appreciate it.
Despite my regrets about the missed opportunity the extras represent, Toy Story never looked or sounded so good, so if you want it in your collection then you don’t have much choice. Perhaps when the movie is 20 years old they’ll produce something more with animation fans in mind, hopefully.
Toy Story is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.