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RUNNING TIME: 92 min.
• New Transfer
• Isolated EX Sound Effects Track
• Creators’ Commentary
• Production Galleries
• Publicity Galleries
• Original Trailers
• Deleted Scenes
• “Outtakes” Reel
• “Which Toy Are You?” Game
• Song Demos
• Cars Sneak Peek
There are tough acts to follow, and then there’s Toy Story (Read Wade’s review of the 10th Anniversary Edition HERE). Pixar Studios’ impressive record of Oscar-winning short subjects notwithstanding, their feature-film debut shattered expectations and reminded audiences that “Family-Oriented” doesn’t have to mean “Pre-Schoolers Only”. It also convinced a number of rival studios (not to mention Disney itself) that abandoning hand-drawn animation for CGI was more important than telling good stories, but that’s not Pixar’s fault.
"Sure I’ll go with y– Wait. What kind of cowboy movie?"
It’s been a year since the events of the first film. Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) have resolved their differences, and share the privilege and responsibility of being the favorite toys in Andy’s room. But Woody’s no spring chicken; he’s having trouble keeping track of his accessories and his arm is coming unstitched. When Andy takes off for summer camp, Woody gets left behind, awaiting repairs.
Shortly, a series of misadventures places him under the greedy eye of Al (Wayne Knight), a grown-up toy dealer. It turns out Woody’s a collectible; the rare, missing piece of a vintage toy line. Woody himself begins to reappraise his value, especially when he sees what it could mean for the other, neglected toys that make up the now-resellable Roundup Gang: Jessie the Cowgirl (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer), and Bullseye the horse.
"Wanna get in my box?"
It’s at this point that Toy Story 2 takes a brilliant turn into dark territory. We learn that Jessie, once a young girl’s favorite doll, lay forgotten for years under a bed while her owner moved on to other interests; now she suffers from what can only be described as abandonment issues. Just to make it hurt more, Jessie’s tale is illustrated with a wrenchingly beautiful song. I usually dread musical interludes in animated films, but this is how you do it.
Woody’s dilemma is compelling: who needs him more? His owner, who will either play with him until he falls apart, or simply lose interest in him? His companions in the Roundup line, who will languish in storage if they’re not part of a complete set? Admirably, the writers manage to have Woody consider selfish motives without making him unsympathetic.*
Toy Story 2 even succeeds at the most difficult requirement for a good sequel: it retains the qualities that made the original movie work, while still allowing the characters to grow. The biggest challenge is Buzz, whose character arc from wannabe superhero to proud child’s toy drove the first film. How to reprise Old Buzz’s ludicrous, deluded, and very entertaining behavior in the sequel without completely violating his evolved personality? Answer: mass production. Genius.
"I suppose you’re all wondering why I asked you here today…"
The sequel also makes some improvements on its predecessor, revisions so astute they actually diminish my appreciation for the original. One change is a no-brainer: Get people who can actually sing to perform the Randy Newman songs. Robert Goulet, and particularly Sarah MacLachlan, really help things out here. The other change is subtle: in the first film the villain was Sid, a neighbor boy who dismantled his toys and rebuilt them as ‘mutants’. A terrifying concept for the Mint-In-Box crowd, but think about it— that kid was actually being creative, not destructive. Toy Story 2 accepts that toys are supposed to be played with, and that you can’t tell a kid there are right and wrong ways to play with them. Wear and tear equals life and love. I’m surprised not to have spotted a velveteen rabbit somewhere in the background.
10 out of 10
"See? I told you! They’re… playing with themselves!"
Know what you get when you take a direct-digital transfer of a 92-minute feature and spread it out over a dual-layer disc? The picture is so clear and solid, and the color design so dynamic and rich, it almost hurts to watch. The anamorphic 1.77:1 transfer uses every last pixel.
10 out of 10
Somewhere, Harry Carey is smiling.
Brand-new Dolby 5.1 EX, and DTS 5.1 ES mixes. Suffice to say this is the best the movie has ever sounded—check out the rear channels on Chapter 2, when Buster the dog is searching for Woody. As a concession to the working poor, the disc defaults to Dolby 2.0 at startup. Note that the “robot repairman” THX bumper will only play correctly on a surround system.
10 out of 10
Buzz’s ED-209 impersonation is a big hit at parties.
With two exceptions, the supplements are transplanted from the ‘Ultimate Toy Box’ edition. Aside from the feature-specific content and the Cars trailer, everything is on Disc 2.
The first new extra is “Ponkickies”, a semi-interactive piece excerpted from a Japanese TV show. Each time you click “play”, Woody throws ‘paper’, ‘rock’, or ‘scissors’. Try and beat him! There’s no way to keep score so you’ll be on the honor system.
Second, you get “Which Toy Are You?”, a multiple-choice game that purports to match your personality with one of the characters from the movie. The questions are different each time, which produces varying results—I challenge you to identify with the same toy twice in a row.
Sometimes, a belt is only a belt.
The old ‘Ultimate Toy Box’ introductions and documentaries appear to be unchanged, though the galleries have been reconceived as video montages rather than individually navigable image frames. The menus have been completely redesigned, and the old Easter Egg is now a lot easier to find. I kind of miss the sound-mixing workshop feature from the previous set, but that’s just about the only outright deletion.
There’s a neat feature regarding the subtitle tracks, but you have to access it from your remote: In addition to English, French and Spanish for the feature, there’s the option to play the commentary as text-only… in all three languages to boot! I wish more discs did this.
"It’s only a belt… only a belt…"
I’d be giving the extras package a higher score if the recycled material had been updated. If you’re a Pixar fan, you’re probably aware that the team suffered a tragic loss last year when Joe Ranft, Story Department head and voice-actor for Wheezy the Penguin, died in a car crash. A dedication would have been nice, even if it were just on the packaging. I can’t imagine they’re saving such a tribute for… Cars, but maybe they’ll find a tasteful way to do it.
7 out of 10
Playskool After Dark
Four characters in search of a title: functional and eye-catching. The cardboard slipcover duplicates the case art with embossed detail and a foil background, marred only by the last-minute addition of a sticker labeling this as the “Woody’s Roundup Edition”. The insert, as with the ‘Ultimate Toy Box’ edition, provides a handy map of the supplements and features.
7 out of 10
Home theatre owners? Meet your new bench-test. The rest of you, with regular TVs? You’ll be buying this for the extras; they’re good, but not much of an upgrade if you already own the ‘Ultimate Toy Box’. Especially with Hi-Def around the corner.
*Considering that the concept of the secret lives of toys has been so well thought-out here, a couple of questions present themselves: If Woody is a vintage 1950s-era toy, he’s got to be a good 35-40 years older than Andy. Who owned him before that? How many owners has he had? And why wouldn’t he remember? You’d think the subject would come up, since the rest of the Roundup Gang are so strongly affected by their own pasts. I’m not asking for a prequel—god forbid– I’m just curious.