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Walt Disney Home Video presents
"To Al's Toy Barn...and beyond!"
DVD ReviewIt's easy to overdo it when talking about Pixar movies—I've been guilty of this myself on occasion, though I did remain leery when, during the original theatrical release of this film, a pull quote called it the best sequel since The Godfather, Part II. You're on your own when it comes to hashing out comparisons between Andy's room and the Corleone compound in Tahoe, but I'll get all fanboy for a moment and say that this is a terrific movie, just as good in many ways as its predecessor, and it bears up extraordinarily well under multiple viewings, the usual treatment given to any movie for the younger set.
True, you can only fall in love for the first time once, so there isn't that same sense of adventure that came with the first Toy Story, in which the future of animation was unleashed, and we were granted a peek into the secret lives of the playthings in a little boy's room. When last we left our friends, everybody was playing nicely, led by Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody—they weathered the move and the arrival of a puppy, but now come those two words so dreaded by toys everywhere: yard sale. Being a good law man, Woody rescues Wheezy the Penguin from an unimaginable fate, only to be swooped up himself—our Woody is now in the clutches of the evil Al, proprietor of Al's Toy Barn, who needs Woody to complete the set. He's got the deal all lined up—turns out that Woody is a collectible item, the incarnation of a Howdy Doody-style marionette from a 1950s kids television show, and Al has arranged to ship off Woody and his roundup pals to a toy museum in Japan. It's a pretty penny for Al, and a lifetime under glass and away from Andy for Woody.
The intrepid toys, led of course by Buzz Lightyear, set out on a rescue mission, and lassoing Woody back to his rightful home is the mission that drives the story. It's a great pleasure to rekindle acquaintances with old friends from the first movie—Tim Allen and Tom Hanks get top billing as Buzz and Woody respectively, and while in many ways Hanks provide the spine of the piece, this time it's Allen who seems to have the best time. That's because he also gets to voice a second, deluded Buzz, basically the Buzz of the first reels of the first film, the one who doesn't know he's not a superhero, but a toy. Wallace Shawn is endearing as Rex the dinosaur, and John Ratzenberger is a wryly funny Ham, a piggy bank.
You sort of get the sense that Pixar must be a boys' club—it's the male toys who play hunter-gatherers here, while the female ones keep the home fires burning—but in many respects the best new additions this time out are the girls. Foremost is Joan Cusack, giving fantastically daffy voice to Jessie, the cowgirl toy, Woody's counterpart; and there's no one funnier than Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head, giving just as good as she gets from her spouse, Don Rickles. There are a couple of new guys on the block as well: Kelsey Grammer always has something up his sleeve as Stinky Pete, and Wayne Knight exudes just the right sort of menace as Al, both in and out of his chicken suit.
The technology has accelerated some since the first Toy Story—this movie remains gorgeous to look at, and the nods to other movies (the Oddjob bit is my favorite) are done with panache and delicacy, not dropped like so many lead balloons into the middle of the story for no good reason. And as with all Pixar movies, the high-end technical capacity isn't there just for its own sake, but in the service of the story—everybody needs a friend, and everyone needs a place to call home, and getting a reminder of those lessons from those who love you most is always time well spent. This is a heartwarming and classic story, and Pixar continues to blow by those who would be its rivals in family entertainment. Their recent dealings with Disney may make the prospect unlikely, but as a parent and a fan, my fervent hope is that, before too long, we'll be off to Toy Story 3…and beyond!
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: The quality of Pixar discs is so consistently high that it's easy to get sanguine about them, but I won't—this is standard-setting stuff technically, and the movie looks just terrific, with bold and consistent colors, carefully modulated across the palette. Yum.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: It's almost as much a treat for the ears as it is for the eyes. The 5.1 track is rich and lush; it would be my recommendation, but you'll do just as well with either the DTS or stereo tracks. Also worth a listen is the effects-only track, demonstrating just how much aural information we're taking in, and how much of the story is told or enhanced by sound.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 35 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cars, Chicken Little, The Lady and the Tramp, The Little Mermaid, Bambi II, Toy Story, The Incredibles game
4 TV Spots/Teasers
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon, Andrew Stanton
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
The second disc of the set is as crammed with extras as any of the buckets of toys in Andy's room. First, under the heading The Toy Box, is a collection (05m:29s) of "outtakes," preconceived bloopers that ran over the closing credits. These have become a staple of these animated pictures, and Pixar wisely gave up on them by the time they got to Finding Nemo—still, watching Mrs. Potato Head overpack is kind of a riot. Next, the voiceover actors take sides in the debate: Who's the Coolest Toy? (03m:17s)—your answer to that question may depend on how you do on the quiz: Which Toy Are You? (Turns out I'm Rex the dinosaur.)
Ponkickies is an insane little animated bit made for Japanese television, featuring Woody, Buzz and Jessie playing Rock, Paper, Scissors. No English translation or subtitles are provided, proving once again that Rock, Paper, Scissors speaks all languages. A peppy little music medley (03m:11s) from Riders in the Sky features Woody's theme song and other country hits; a 45-second montage shows us autographed pictures of the animated characters, including one from the evil Emperor Zurg.
Making Toy Story 2 (08m:13s) features director John Lasseter and his Pixar pals, discussing revisiting their old friends and making new ones in Andy's room. Two deleted scenes (04m:10s, with intro) are in various stages of completion, a nice look at the animation process—the image of Rex as a ferocious Godzilla is especially hilarious.
Then it's time to venture Behind the Scenes, first looking at Lasseter (03m:03s) and his Pixar empire, with the suggestion that he is our new Walt Disney; and then an appreciation (03m:29s) of the voice-over actors whose work is so crucial to the success of the movie. In the Design section, you'll find galleries for six characters and sequences, and 3-D turnarounds for seven of them; also on hand are five galleries for sets from the film, also with 3-D tours, and narration. A section called Color gives a look at how the palette is put together, with a color script and color keys. Under Story, you'll find an animator pitching a nightmare sequence for Woody; you can change angles and get closer looks at the storyboards. You can do the same for Jessie's song, When Somebody Loved Me.
Seven more featurettes come under the Production umbrella—these include animation tests and more of Woody's backstory, and give a pretty good sense of what the day-to-day business of working at Pixar must be like. Need still more? Music & Sound throws focus to composer Randy Newman, with a video for When Somebody Loved Me and Woody's Roundup, the second of which is infectious. A featurette on sound design allows you to mix your own—dialogue, music and effects, that is. These are great looks at all those people whose names fly by in the credits, and just what it is they do.
But it's a star-driven business, and that's clear from an on-set interview with Buzz and Woody, under Publicity, where you'll also find trailers, TV spots, and a poster gallery. Also, if you repeat it I'll deny it, but you can click on Sheriff Woody's badge to find some Easter eggs. And by the time you get through all of these extras, you'll be ready to start watching the feature again.
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsThe second installment in Pixar's signature franchise is a terrific movie, and you'll catch up in a heartbeat if you haven't seen the first. The technical values on this 2-DVD set couldn't be stronger, and only the suspicion that somewhere down the road we'll be asked to pony up for yet another edition of the film puts a damper on my enthusiasm. But my hypothetical financial bellyaching aside, there's no reason not to enjoy the many pleasures of this one, and you won't age out of Andy's room any time soon.
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