Disney // 2010 // 103 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // November 2nd, 2010
No toy gets left behind.
The third and final film in the Toy Story series, which put Pixar on the map and helped establish their record as the finest movie studio of the modern age, gets a fittingly first-rate high definition treatment.
It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since we first met Sheriff Woody (Tom Hanks, Angels and Demons) and spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen, Galaxy Quest), two action figures who are the de facto leaders of a group of toys owned by a young suburban boy named Andy. Now, Andy is 17 years old and headed off to college, meaning he doesn't have a place in his life for childhood things. The toys (save for Woody), fearing they'll be packed away in the attic and forgotten about forever, are mistakenly donated to the local daycare facility. There, their wishes to be played with once again are fulfilled all too well. They also meet a new collection of toys, including Barbie's mate Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton, Beetlejuice) and the grandfatherly Lots-O' Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty, Superman), who may not be exactly who they seem to be. When Woody realizes that Andy still wants his toys, it's up to him to stage a daring rescue effort and break his friends out of Sunnyside Day Care.
When compared to the standard weekly product being put forth by the current studio system in Hollywood, Toy Story 3, the 11th film from Pixar Animation Studios, is a masterpiece: it's funny and moving and smart and never condescending, which is rare for most studio films and a downright miracle for an animated children's film. Perhaps even more impressive is that this is the third film in a series, quite possibly making it the best "Part 3" of all time. I certainly can't think of one better.
Judged against the almost impossibly high standards Pixar has created for themselves, however, Toy Story 3 is just very, very good, ranking somewhere below Ratatouille and The Incredibles (as well as its two predecessors) but certainly ahead of Cars (why we as movie fans have an obsessive need to constantly rank the Pixar films is beyond me; we don't stack Warner Bros. films against one another. Still, I'm not above it). It's one of the first and only Pixar movies that feels like it's pandering at times, from the heavy use of on-the-nose pop songs on the soundtrack (we expect it of the Shrek films, but not from Pixar) to the cheap and easy jokes about Ken's (of "Barbie and") sexuality. There's an obviousness to some of the humor that's never really been part of Pixar's bag of tricks, and while it never even comes close to upsetting the overall balance of the film it does stick out simply because we've come to expect better. The one overriding issue with Toy Story 3, however, is that a good deal of it feels repeated from the previous two films. We've already seen the "we've got to get home" story line in both Toy Story and Toy Story 2. A subplot in which Buzz Lightyear has his factory settings tampered with is a bit too reminiscent of the "other" Buzz Lightyears in the second film (though at least this one adds some Spanish); the same goes for Lotso, who is a terrific character but not unlike 2's Stinky Pete the Prospector. Even the overall themes of the movie -- about kids maturing and outgrowing their toys, who are left feeling cast away and left behind -- was told more economically and, dare I say, more movingly in Toy Story 2's 90-second "When She Loved Me" montage. As good as it is, there's a lot that feels a little familiar in Toy Story 3. Perhaps when its two predecessors are as good as they are, that's bound to happen.
These are all essentially nitpicks. With Pixar's output being as consistently good as it is, nitpicks are all we have. It almost goes without saying that, those minor issues aside, Toy Story 3 is a wonderful film. It pays off many of the character relationships and themes that were first established in the 1995 original while still managing to tell a new story and introduce several new memorable characters (whose voice work is, as always, first rate). The movie cleverly incorporates jailbreak movie tropes in a way that feels organic and funny instead of just making references for their own sake (for the most part, Pixar doesn't do pop culture references; it's part of what makes their movies so classical and timeless). The relationships between the characters (particularly stars Woody and Buzz) feel real and lived-in; no easy feat, considering the fact that they are toys. Not even real toys, either. Cartoon drawings of toys. That's how good these Pixar people are. And, of course, there is an unspoken moment between all of the characters at the film's climax that is incredibly dark and mature, but also powerful and moving and beautiful. It's incredible that the scene is included not just in a G-rated children's film, but in an American studio film period. It works, though, because the Pixar team are brave and uncompromising and absolutely earn the moment; three films spanning 15 years have led to that silent, shared understanding between the toys, and the movie pulls it off. That scene alone will make Toy Story 3 stand the test of time.
Whatever your feelings about Toy Story 3 films may be (and, to be honest, if you're someone who doesn't like the Toy Story films I don't think I want to know you), it's impossible to argue against the fact that Disney has put together an astounding Blu-ray package for the movie. Toy Story 3 looks and sounds about as good as we're going to get in HD; the 1.78:-framed image is bright and colorful and intricately detailed (attention to detail is one of Pixar's strongest suits); it is, in a word, perfect. There's a healthy selection of audio options, too, that are just as impressive, including not just one but two lossless HD options. Both the 7.1 DTS-HD and the 5.1 DTS-HD tracks are robust and immersive, packing tremendous punch while never losing sight of the smaller nuances in every channel -- they're tracks you could play 10 times and find something new with each listen. These are some of the very best audio tracks I've ever heard for the home video format, essentially setting the standard for every Blu-ray going forward. They're that good.
And we haven't even gotten to the bonus content yet. I really like the way that Disney has been packaging their Pixar releases, with multiple ways to view the movie (a Blu-ray copy, a standard definition DVD and a digital copy to be played on your computer or portable media device) and a host of extras spread across the discs. The first disc contains the Blu-ray (which I think I've gushed about enough already), plus a handful of extras: Day & Night, the fantastic short film that played in front of Toy Story 3 during its theatrical run (presented in HD); "Toys!," a featurette in which the creative team behind the movie talk about the film and the characters, a cute animated short called "Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure"; a host of trailers for upcoming Disney titles and an A/V calibration tool called "Maximize Your Home Theater." It's actually quite nice that Disney has included this option, since you'll want to be sure you're getting the most out of your Blu-ray player before you spin Toys Story 3.
The second disc is devoted entirely to special features. There's a pair of commentary tracks with a host of creative personnel, giving fans of the movie (and of Pixar in general) a comprehensive look into the making of the third film in the Toy Story trilogy. The better of the two commentaries is a "Picture in Picture" track with director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson, who appear as the film plays and discuss the creation and execution of the film with a tremendous amount of insight, warmth and intelligence (should we expect any less?). They're even supplemented by pop-up concept art and various storyboards, to provide an even clearer picture of just how the movie came together. It's a terrific track. If you still haven't had your fill, check out the alternative commentary "Beyond the Toy Box," which is a more standard nuts-and-bolts talk featuring members of the technical team, including supervising animator Bobby Podesta, production designer Bob Pauley, story supervisor Jason Katz and more. Though there is some overlap, the two tracks complement each other quite nicely; between the two commentaries, fans of the film should have very few questions remaining about Toy Story 3.
Once you've worked your way through those (meaning you've already watched the film three times), it's time to move on to the boatload of featurettes packed onto the second disc. There's a collection of production featurettes under the heading "Film Fans," and it includes: "Roundin' Up a Western Opening," "Bonnie's Playtime," "Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion," "Life of a Shot," "Making of Day & Night" and a small grouping of Pixar-themed shorts .called "Studio Stories." A second collection of featurettes can be found under the banner of "Family Play," and it includes: "The Gang's All Here," "Goodbye Andy," "Accidental Toymakers," "Creating a Whole New Land" and a piece on the movie's epilogue (called, appropriately, "Epilogue"). Also included in this section is an interactive kids' game called "Toy Story Trivia Dash." Rounding out the special features on the second disc is a collection of trailers and promotional shorts, including some very clever and original marketing like a toy commercial for "Lots-O' Huggin' Bear" which ran back when the film was released and is all but indistinguishable from an '80s toy commercial. You've got to give it to Pixar: even their advertising is clever, fresh and original. They really are the best in the game right now -- a fact that's apparent over and over again as you wade through the bonus content on Toy Story 3.
The third disc is a standard definition DVD copy of the movie, which also includes a number of the bonus features carried over from the other two discs (including Day & Night, "Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs," the Pixar-themed "Studio Stories" and more). A fourth disc contains a digital copy of the film.
Toy Story 3 is a wonderful film, filled with strong storytelling, a healthy dose of charm and one which provides a fitting conclusion for characters we first fell in love with 15 years ago. Though it owes perhaps slightly too large a debt to the two films that precede it, the movie carves out its own space within the Pixar canon and will predictably become yet another timeless classic. It's terrific, and, when coupled with an outstanding collection of bonus features and A/V quality that's as good as the format has produced, Toy Story 3 makes for one of the best Blu-rays of 2010.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, Descriptive)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Short Films
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Official Site