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Toy Story: The Ultimate Toy Box
Collector's Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rated G

Studio: Disney

Running Time:
Toy Story: 81 Minutes
Toy Story 2:

With the voices of: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn, Jim Varney, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack (Toy Story 2), Kelsey Grammar (Toy Story 2), Wayne Knight (Toy Story 2), Jodi Benson (Toy Story 2)

Directed by John Lasseter (Toy Story 1 and 2)

Retail Price: $69.99

Features:
Toy Story: Tin Toy Short, The Story Behind Toy Story, Toy Story Treats (with intro), On Set Interview with Buzz and Woody, Buzz Lightyear TV Commerical (with intro), Multi Language Reel, Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound Effects Only Track, Audio Commentary with John Lasseter, Ralph Guggenheim, Bonnie Arnold, Andrew Stanton, Peter Doctor, Bill Reeves and Ralph Eggleston

Toy Story 2: Audio Commentary with John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon and Andrew Stanton, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX Sound Effects Only Track, Monsters Inc. Preview, Luxo Jr. short, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins Spot, Outtakes

Supplement Features Disc:
Toy Story: History and Development Featurette, Early Animation Test, Original Treatments, Production Notes, Cast Bios, Character Designs, Art Designs, Envrionmental Designs, Storyboard Pitch, Editing, Story Reel, Storyboard to Final, Abandoned Concepts, Production Tour, Layout Tricks, Animation Tour, Character Animation, Shaders and Lighting, Building A Shot, Production Progression Demonstration, Speciall Effects, Sound Design, Original Song Demos, Deleted Animation, Posters, Trailers, TV Spots

Toy Story 2: Why A Sequel? featurette, Continuing World of Toy Story featurette, John Lasseter Profiles, Cast Bios, Production Notes, Character Designs, Art Designs, Envrionmental Designs, Story Pitches, Production Tour, Production Demo, Special Effects, Music featurette, Sound Design featurette, Mixing Demo, Music Video, Original Song Demo, Deleted Animation, Trailers, TV Spots, Posters, Who's The Coolest Toy featurette, Guide to Hidden Jokes, Woody's Roundup, International Scene

Specs: 1.77:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1 (Toy Story), French 5.1 Dolby Digital (Toy Story) English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (Toy Story 2), English Captions, Chapter Search, THX-Certified

The year 2000 seems to be the best year yet for DVDs in general. Not only have studios gotten into a good habit of anamorphic transfers, they're finally delivering some of the most anticipated titles ever. Sure, we got Jaws, Jurassic Park, Independence Day and a good amount of others. With these titles, they've created some great presentations and in general, some great special editions.

While it is clear to me these special editions for different films outdo one another, I think we have a new winner (for now at least). With "The Ultimate Toy Box" a collection of both "Toy Story" films on DVD. As far back as anyone can recall, many of us have been anticipating the original "Toy Story" on DVD. And after the delightful sequel was released last Thanksgiving, it gave us a reason to want it more. Yet what some people don't seem to understand is the fact what it takes to go into a release like "Toy Story". To create the best presentation ever, direct digital files are used to transfer the film, instead of the normal process of film being transfered to video.

Pixar created a whole new standard with their release of "A Bug's Life" (yes, for both versions). First off, they gave us a wild presentation, something that we've never seen before. A stellar, perfect sound mix with a beautiful, jaw dropping digital transfer. To top it off, a few months after the original release they put out a Collector's Edition of the film, with a TON of supplements that took everyone awhile to go through.

Now, Pixar goes out and releases "The Ultimate Toy Box" and once again, they outdo themselves. More supplements. More of the creative team involved. It's just amazing, and on top of it all, they do it for two great films.

In Thanksgiving 1995, Pixar, a computer animation studio known for such award winning and nominated shorts such as "Tin Toy" (a somewhat basis for "Toy Story") and "Luxo Jr." (I love all their shorts, but I can't resist the snowglobe opus "KnickKnack"), put out not only the biggest film of the year with a domestic gross of about 190 million dollars, but an instant classic and different kind of animated film. The film of course was "Toy Story", and invited us to meet a cast of wonderful characters and admire detailed and beautiful computer animation, which made this movie a whole new kind of expierence for audiences everywhere.

"Toy Story" begins with Woody, the leader and favorite toy of a young boy named Andy. The toys live their lives together, coming alive and talking when their owner is not around. However, something really shakes them when it's Andy's birthday, and they all worry about new toys coming to join them. Nothing major comes to pass, except when a really cool new toy, Buzz Lightyear, joins them. Buzz has no recollection of being toy, and actually thinks he is an outerspace hero. The toys instantly take a shine to him, and makes our cowboy friend Woody really jealous. Buzz then becomes Andy's favorite toy, making Woody seem like a distant second. So Woody attempts a scheme against Buzz which backfires, and puts their whole fates in complete jeporady. They go to the food/amusment park "Pizza Planet", and both end up at Andy's neighbor's house, the mean Sid, from there. Sid likes to torture toys, and the duo must get out alive and make it back to Andy... hopefully before the moving trucks drive away.

I was first on line to see the movie when it opened in theaters, and since it's debut, "Toy Story" was an instant classic for all ages. Randy Newman provided some good songs and a beautiful musical score, while John Lassetter and his Pixar team created a whole universe with an excellent story, sharp dialogue and well developed characters. His vision comes to full life here, and the A list voice cast is sensational. Tom Hanks provides the voice of Woody, while Tim Allen is the naive space ranger Buzz Lightyear. John Ratsenberger from "Cheers", Don Rickles, Annie Potts, the late Jim Varney and Wallace Shawn make up some more of the cast. A movie like this doesn't get any better... or does it?

That's where "Toy Story 2" comes into play. Originally planned as a direct to video sequel, the film turned out to be so good the Disney suits had them add more to it and release it in theaters. There were three versions of the movie: One that lasted a little over an hour, one that lasted about 75 minutes, and finally, the theatrical one, which had more story and more characters crammed into a little over 90 minutes.

"Toy Story 2" picks up right where the first one ended. The toys are settled into Andy's new house, everyone knows their place and they all get along really well. However, trouble begins to brew when Andy's mom holds a Yard Sale, and a little squeek penguin toy named Wheezy gets placed in a box to be bought, Woody goes out to rescue him. It is a succesful mission, but a greedy toy collector named Al notices Woody in the sale. When Andy's mom tells him he's not for sale, he goes out and takes Woody. It's up to Buzz and some of the other toys to get Woody back before Andy comes home from a summer camp. While Woody is with Al, Woody learns he is a really rare toy and from a "Howdy Doody" like show from the past, and Woody meets up with other, rare toys from the same show. While Woody decides about his future, to stay or leave, the other toys are well on their way to find him with some exciting and often really hilarious events. By the time the grand finale is reached, you'll be so impressed at what Pixar has done and by the end of the movie, you'll feel the impossible has been made possible.

Though I enjoyed the first "Toy Story" a lot, I found "Toy Story 2" to be far superior to what already was a cinematic achievment and movie landmark. The animation, which looked great to begin with is even more detailed and colorful. I thought the script was well written and the story more enjoyable than the first, and the whole creative process behind it amazing, plus the voice actors do another job well done, with the whole original cast returning and some nice performances from Joan Cusack and Kelsey Grammar. What also makes "Toy Story 2" such a marvel is the fact that it's no longer confied to a specific area, it's all over the place. The original "Toy Story" was pretty much kept to Andy's house, Sid's house, Pizza planet and a few scenes outdoors. "Toy Story 2" is all over the place. The outside roads with cars, "Al's Toy Barn" toy store, the elevator shaft, outside Al's apartment, Al's apartment, it goes on and on and on.

Both of these movies are incredible and never get boring no matter how many times you watch them. And this DVD is one of the best releases, if not THE best so far, ever to grace our favorite video format.

So many of us were really, really impressed with "A Bug's Life" and the wonderful digital to digital transfer, and both movies in this package use this same transfer method. Each properly framed at 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen, what you get is probably the cleanest, sharpest, dazzling picture to ever grace the DVD format. Everything is simply perfect and dead on. Blacks are solid, colors don't smear but are really bright and colorful, detail is amazing. I can rave on and on about this transfer. Simply put, it ranks as one of the best transfers ever. You also may be happy to learn that these are "properly framed" (as I mentioned). "Toy Story 2" is fine, but when the original "Toy Story" was in theaters, it was presented in 1.85:1. The aspect ratio was changed on the laserdisc and for this DVD, so you are definently seeing more. I did find a flaw in "Toy Story 2", though: there is some really slight shimmer now and then. Still, it's all jaw dropping and great eye candy. Bravo Pixar!

Just as impressive are the sound mixes for each movie. These are truly, and I mean truly creative tracks. "Toy Story" is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and wow, you'll really feel like you are part of their world. With Randy Newman's wonderful music, the whole Pizza Planet scene and especially the finale, this mix doesn't let you catch your breath. While "Toy Story" far exceeded what anyone could dream for, "Toy Story 2" pushes it even further.

"Toy Story 2" is 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, and I found surrounds to be more plentiful, wider and more dynamic. You can feel the tension with Woody at the yard sale, when Buzz and Zurg battle it out in the elevator shaft and of course, that excellent opening scene is perfect to show off how breahtaking and exciting the sound can be.

If you plan to read through all of this and not skim it through or anything, this will take awhile. So pull up a chair, relax and welcome to the wonderful world of Toy Story supplements!

Disc 1:

"Toy Story" has some really nice supplements on the disc beside the movie. I think the highlight of the disc, for me at least, is the Toy Story Treats. As most of us can recall, these shorts were used for ABC Saturday Morning back in the 1996-1997 season. While I thought there were thirteen of these, there are a whopping fifty two (adding up to around a half hour). These shorts feature most of the original voice actors (you get Jim Hanks, Tom's brother as Woody for example), but are quite a delight to have them all here.

Tin Toy is the Academy Award® winning Pixar short which was sort of the basis for Toy Story (as we learn in the supplement disc, the movie was originally supposed to star this lead character). This short is a delight and earned that Oscar®. The short is in widescreen no less, so be sure to check it out.

The Story Behind Toy Story is a great, making of feature with interviews with the voice actors and others, concept art and a good look at the process to see how so many aspects of the film was made. Be sure to watch this, it is pretty insightful.

There are Two On Set Interviews with Buzz and Woody, conducted by John Culhane. These are sorta stupid, but kind of fun for the younger set.

Buzz Lightyear TV Commerical is the same exact commerical shown in the original "Toy Story", here it's not in the background and is full length. It also features a nice intro by John Lassetter, Andrew Stanton and that um... other guy (his name escapes my mind).

The Multi-Language Reel is quite interesting, as the clip where Buzz arrives in front of the toys is presented, and cuts from English to an additional 29 languages. Pretty fun to see how the movie was dubbed and how the voices sound in different languages.

The Audio Commentary with John Lasseter, Ralph Guggenheim, Bonnie Arnold, Andrew Stanton, Peter Doctor, Bill Reeves and Ralph Eggleston is quite insightful, and a great commentary track to listen to. All these behind the creative process discuss the challanges and fun they had working on the film. Lots of good trivia and comments here, and it's worth a spin. Also included is a nice 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound Effects Only Track, where you can pinpoint all the isolated and wonderful sounds the movie has to offer.

Disc 2:

"Toy Story 2" features a little less than the original, but it's made up on the supplement disc which I'll get to later on.

You get the set of Outtakes, complete in 5.1 Dolby Digital EX (but full frame). These were used to lure people back in the theater a month after the movie was released, and I think this is a new Pixar tradition, to have outtakes in their films. These outtakes are pretty funny and enjoyable.

The short Luxo Jr., which was nominated for an Oscar® in 1986, is presented here in widescreen. This short has always been a favorite of mine, as we see the father and son lamp Luxo Sr. and Luxo Jr. play a little ball. Luxo is the lamp in the Pixar logo, in case you don't know.

A sneak preview of Pixar's next, Monsters Inc. is included, which features the voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman. I'm sure this one will be great, as this teaser is really funny and in 5.1 Dolby Digital (great surround effect toward the end). It's due out in November 2001, and I look foward to it.

A short spot for the direct to video animated film Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command: The Adventure begins is presented. Yes, it's 2-D and the starting point for the ABC Saturday morning show and syndicated series.

Now onto the audio supplements: You get a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX Sound Effects Only Track, which, like the original "Toy Story", just has the sound effects from the movie. This boasts a lot, and it's nice to hear them not cluttered together with music and voice acting.

Finally, there is an Audio Commentary with John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon and Andrew Stanton. This is one of the best commentaries I ever heard, with each pointing out some great insight, hidden jokes and the process of making this wonderful sequel. Please listen to this one, I really enjoyed it, and no one dominates it, and there are some good laughs here as well.

Disc 3:

Okay, this is where so much great stuff lies and makes up most of the features. You can only get this disc with this boxed set, and it's well worth it... be prepared, this is going to take a lot.

Toy Story:
The History section features a nice History and Development featurette, with interviews and behind the scenes clips of the making of "Toy Story".

Early Test is an early animation test that lasts a few seconds and features Woody as mean dummy and Buzz as a newcomer (they look different). It's interesting to see how the film evolved, and gave Disney a good idea of what the end production of "Toy Story" would look like.

Original Treatments features an introduction by John Lasster, and how the movie has really changed from the original two pitches. So then you can read both pitches, one from March 1991 and the other from September 1991. They are kind of lengthy, and again, pretty fascinating to see how the movie has changed.

Some detailed Production Notes are included and worth a read (it goes all the way back from when Pixar was originally established), and there are some detailed and well written Cast Bios.

 

The Design section has a Character Design section with a written introduction, early animation tests (with commentaries), models, art pieces and a lot of nice stuff for nearly every character. This section is incredibly detailed and worth a look to see the changes the film went through.

The Art Design section has a nice little featurette called "Designing 'Toy Story'", concept art, color script and color keys. While the Envriomental Design looks at Andy's Room, the Gas Station, Pizza Planet and Sid's Room with various designs and location tours, with commentaries. Again, great for you budding artists.

 

The Story part of the disc has the original Storyboard Pitch with an intro with Joe Ranft, John Lasseter and Andew Stanton. The pitch features the "Green Army Men" sequence and Joe Ranft doing it.

Editing features stills and notes on how the film was edited. I really enjoyed reading all of this, because I always wondered how animated films are edited. This is nicely done.

A Story Reel of when Buzz meets the toys for the first time is on the disc (a story reel is storyboards filmed together), Storyboard To Film shows the story reel of of when Buzz and Woody try to reach the moving track as well as the final film.

Finally, the Abandoned Concepts features a well said introduction plus three concepts that didn't make it to final film. A Buzz Lightyear story reel cartoon, Western Shootout and finally, Woody's Nightmare, a story reel which later saw itself in a "Toy Story Treat" and "Toy Story 2".

 

The Computer Animation part of the disc has a nice Production Tour where they give a brief explanation of how the leap from storyboards to final computer animation is made.

Layout Tricks is a featurette on how they put together sets and characters, and how "problems are solved", usually with certain movements and camera movements. Quite interesting.

The Animation Tour is basically a progression demo of how shots are animated. Character Animation is more or less the same thing, but with characters and how things are tweaked.

Shaders and Lighting features an intro, and two different parts with stills and text you can look at: one on shaders and on lighting. Each shows how lighting and shading can make a difference, and how they reflect and build things up.

Building A Shot is another demo, showing how a shot is created, from storyboards to final. More or less of what we've seen before, with some commentary.

Production Progression is where you can use your angle feature to see the climax of the film from storyboard to final, and also has an intro to view.

Finally, Special Effects is broken up into four sections with text and stills: Motion Blur and Refelections, Rain Effects, Particle Systems and Rendering and Compositing.

 

Music and Sound is a bit more brief, where the Sound Design section features a featurette with Gary Rydstrom, the sound designer and features clips from the film. It's a good intro to that isolated sound effects track.

The second and last part of this section is the Randy Newman demos, with a detailed bio about Newman and six demos. It's really interesting to hear stuff that didn't make it into the film, and what the final songs originally sounded like.

 

Deleted Animation has an intro, and three scenes that were cut from the film: the "Torture Scene", "Rain Scene" and "Render Bugs". It's nice to see the stuff was cut, but keep in mind not all of it is complete.

 

Finally, the "Toy Story" part ends with a Publicity section. Here you have two Trailers, four TV Spots, tons of Posters and a Merchandise catalog. And that ends that part, really great supplements here to please those who liked the original, and now on to "Toy Story 2".

 

"Toy Story 2" of the supplements disc is pretty much set up like the first movie, and starts with a History section. Here you got some Production Notes, Cast Bios, a John Lasseter Profile, the featurette Why a Sequel? is pretty much fluff but a good watch, and the featurette Continung World of Toy Story, which basically explains that stuff that was cut from the original and was eventually made into the sequel.

 

Design features Character Design with animation tests, character turnarounds, modeling designs and other designs. Art Design has an intro, color script plus a lighting guide and finally Envriomental Design with design aspects and location tours for Zurg's Planet, Andy's House, Al's Apartment, Al's Toy Barn and the Airport. Just like the part with the original "Toy Story", but this uses stuff from the sequel.

 

The Story section has two pitches with intros where you can use your angle feature to see the pitch, the storyboards or both. One is for "Woody's Nightmare" and the other is "Jessie's Song". Each gives you a good idea of how they were presented, and surprisingly, how much they remain intact.

 

Computer Animation is a little bit less than with the "Toy Story" part, but you got another Production Tour, a Production Demo with the opening scene (with the addition of shaders and lighting to boot) and a Special Effects section.

 

Music and Sound has a featurette on the Music with interviews and clips from the film, a featurette on the Sound Design (again, a good intro to the isolated effects only track), a Mixing Demo, the Music Video for "Riders In The Sky" performing the Woody theme and finally, a Jessie's Song Demo, performed by Randy Newman (and thankfully, not performed by him in the final film).

 

Deleted Animation has two deleted scenes: one is "Crossing The Road" which appears in the film and is complete, but they changed the location of it in final. The other, which is also pretty complete, is "Godzila Rex". There is also a spiffy intro to say why they were cut and why the former scene was moved.

 

Publicity has a teaser and theatrical Trailer, four TV Spots, stills of Autographed Pictures of the characters in black and white and their own names (not the voice actors) and to top it off, the Ad Campaign section has posters galore.

 

And finally, a really cool section, The Toy Box. A featurette with interviews and a discussion on toys is with Who's The Coolest Toy?, a whole guide with stills to all the Hidden Jokes in the film, an International Scene where instead of the American flag, there is a globe with fireworks and finally, Woody's Roundup has a music video, featurettes on creating the show in the movie as well as the collectibles and design.

And that is it... wow, all these features will take you a long time to get through, and give you a great, detailed look on how a computer animated movie is made, right down to the last detail. The presentation and cuts of getitng to the features is simple and organized, with great, animated menus complete with music and familiar things from the films.

The original "Toy Story" was so eagerly awaited by fans to appear on the DVD format, and I'm glad Pixar actually cares about their work and went out of their way to bring you so much supplementary material as well as a great presentation for both films. This is a perfect example of the benefits of DVD and what it should be. A great way to show off your home theater system, with enough stuff to keep you entertained and get you to go back and see again. This is one set everyone should have, considering the amount of features and that you get two wonderful films that appeal to all ages.

,(4.5/5 Toy Story 1, 5/5 Toy Story 2, NOT included in final score)

(5/5)

(5/5)

(5/5)

(5/5, NOT an average)

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