When a studio delivers a third installment in a series, it’s often more focused on making money rather than making the movie, but the folks at Pixar honor their legacy and reveal respect for their audience with the outstanding Toy Story 3. It is one of the best films of 2010 and now one of the best Blu-ray releases of the years
Toy Story 3 opens with a wonderfully imaginative and memorable sequence from the mind of Andy, and the equally imaginative creative team led by director Lee Unkrich, as heroes Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) battle against villains Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles) and Hamm (Pixar good-luck charm John Ratzenberger). The story then flashes forward and Andy is heading off to college. His sister, Molly, is eager to get his room, so at the behest of his mother he has to decide what he’s taking, what goes in the attic, and what goes in the garbage.
The toys are understandably nervous at the prospects, especially when all but Woody is placed inside a garbage bag. Andy intends to place them in the attic, but when he leaves the bag on the floor, his mother makes an assumption and places the bag on the curb. The toys escape and make their way into a box headed for Sunnyside Daycare. Woody tries to explain the mix-up, but the toys prefer to go where they will be played with rather than hidden in the attic.
Once there, they are given a grand tour of the facilities by the toy in charge, the kindly, strawberry-scented Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty). Sunnyside Daycare appears to be a toy’s dream because new children replace the ones who outgrow the place, and the gang is happy with their decision. Woody implores them to return to Andy, but they choose playing with children over sitting in an attic in the hopes that one day a young man will remember they are up there.
Woody’s return to Andy is foiled when a young girl named Bonnie finds him. She takes Woody home where he meets her toys, including the ever-so-serious Mr. Pricklepants (Timothy Dalton) and the playful Peas-In-A-Pod. During a playtime break, Woody learns the dream his friends were presented is actually a nightmare, so he attempts to return and rescue them. This sets off a series of amazing sequences filled with action, humor, and suspense as the toys find themselves going from the frying pan almost literally into the fire. However, what is most engaging is the film’s conclusion, which exudes such unadulterated joy it will tug at your heartstrings, so keep something handy to wipe away the tears.
The reason Toy Story 3 works so well is because the creative team gets so many things right. The story is a natural progression of events in the characters’ lives as opposed to feeling like a forced reunion. Even though they are toys, the audience has grown to care very much about these characters over the series, in part, because the actors do such an excellent job bringing them to life. That also goes for the new characters introduced with the standout being clotheshorse Ken (Michael Keaton). Much of the humor, which is very clever and unexpected, comes out of the characters and the situations, particularly the transformations of Buzz and Mr. Potato Head. The emotions evoked are true as the story deals with love, family, and separation. At no time does it feel manipulative.
The Blu-ray presentation is exquisite. The 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer will ruin you for many other discs. The colors are vibrant across the spectrum. Blacks are deep and inky. Detail is remarkable as all the toys’ textures are evident. Clearly seen are the ridges of Rex’s plastic skin, the yarn of Josie’s hair of yarn, the tufts of fur on Lots-O’, and of course the many outfits in Ken’s wardrobe. They made great use of shading and light as well. It’s free of digital artifacts.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is given a lot of attention as well and delivers an immersive listening experience from the adventure of the opening sequence to chaos of the kids’ playroom to dangers of the garbage dump. The subwoofer delivers great oomph well called upon. There is very good directionality as sounds are positioned well within and move across the soundfield. The dialogue is always clear and never lost amongst the other elements.
Pixar spoils the consumer with over a disc worth of high-def Bonus Features. Aside from the film, the Feature disc contains four featurettes. “Day & Night” Theatrical Short (6 min.) was paired with Toy Story 3 during its theatrical run. Directed by Teddy Newton, it is one of the more inventive Pixar shorts. The embodiments of Day and Night meet for the first time and bring each other new experiences that they delight in. For example, Night had never seen pretty girls sunning themselves on the beach, and Day had never seen fireworks. It’s remarkably clever when the creatures pass over objects, which immediately change in appearance, like a Vegas hotel. Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure (4 min.) – Episode three finds Buzz explaining experiments being done in space to Hamm and Rex. Toys! (7 min.) – The animators discuss what was involved in updating the characters.
On the Bonus Material disc, the features are divided into sections. It would have been nice to have a Play-All option since some are very short and take you right back to the menu.
Family Play offers: The Gang’s All Here (11 min.) where we get to see the voice actors at work. Goodbye Andy (8 min.) deals with the creation of humans in the Toy Story world. Accidental Toymakers (4 min.) is about Albert Chan, President and CEO for Thinkway Toys, who made Toy Story toys when all the major toy companies made the decision to pass on the opportunity. No doubt quite a few toy executives will be skipping it. A Toy’s Eye View: Creating a Whole New Land (5 min.) is a look at Toy Story franchise inclusion into the Disney parks around the world. Epilogue (4 min.) presents the scenes at the end of the film can be seen without the credits. I am sure the hard-working crew may not be too thrilled with this feature.
Film Fans: Cine-Explore Picture-in-Picture Commentary – Director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson discuss the film while they were still working on it. Images of different designs and sketch work appear in the corners. Beyond the Toybox: An Alternative Commentary Track – Production designer Bob Pauley, supervising animator Bobby Podesta, story supervisor Jason Katz, supervising animator Mike Venturini, and supervising technical director Guido Quaroni offer a more technical discussion about the creation of the film. Roundin’ Up a Western Opening (6 min.) – Unkrich presents the storyboards from the Sergio Leone-inspired idea that was originally going to open the film. Bonnie’s Playtime: A Story Roundtable (6 min.) – Unkrich leads a group discussing how they created the sequence of Bonnie playing with Woody and her toys.
Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion (8 min.) – An animated version of screenwriter Michael Arndt talks about his work on the film and breaks down the structure of a screenplay. Life of a Shot (7 min.) – The many team members discuss all the elements involved in bringing a scene to life. Making of “Day & Night” (2 min.) – This goes by in a blur as the creators briefly talk about the short, but not much is revealed. I am surprised it’s not on the Feature disc with the short. Paths to Pixar: Editorial (4 min.) – The Pixar editors get their chance to talk about what they do. A collection of animated Studio Stories. Where’s Gordon? (2 min.) – Andrew Gordon talks about his office’s secret room. Cereal Bar (1 min.) – Yet another reason why working for Pixar is better than your job. Clean Start (3 min.) – The staff shaved their heads to start the picture.
“Games and Activity” grants access to the Toy Story Trivia Dash game through BD-Live.
Publicity features quite a number of short promotional pieces for the film: Grab Bag (4 min.) is an assortment of clips. Then there are the more specific items as their titles reveal. Ken’s Dating Tips (2 min.) offer interesting suggestions. Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear Commercial (1 min) and Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear Commercial 2 [Japan] (1 min) were shot on VHS and have been altered to look like they are from the ’80s. Making of Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear Commercials (1 min.) shows behind-the-scenes footage. An Internet Chat (1 min.) shows Woody and Buzz teasing each other. Security Cam (1 min.) has a creepy, Paranormal Activity feel. Gadgets (1 min.) looks more like a Bond film as it compares modern objects with the toys. ‘Dancing with the Stars’ at Pixar (HD, 2 min.) offers synergy as two Dancing with the Stars stars perform for the animators to help create the dance sequence between Spanish Buzz and Jessie. There are Trailers (13 min.) galore and also Character Intros (2 min.) of the new toys. There is also a Poster Gallery.
Toy Story 3 is a must-own Blu-ray just for the film alone but the bonus material offers fans a thorough look at the process. And if that weren’t enough, the four-disc Blu-ray combo also comes with a DVD and digital copy.