A very important movie that offers something for everyone.
Navigating around all the extra features was a bit confusing.
Following up the much lauded and loved Toy Story, seems much like as daunting a proposition as following up the original Caddyshack. Yet, they managed to capture the magic again and this Special Edition of Toy Story 2 gives fans all they need to get caught up in the lives of these characters all over again. This well done tale in which Woody has been stolen to complete the “Roundup Gang”, a rare group of collectibles based on a TV show from the 1950s, has all Woody’s fellow toys across town mounting a mission to get him back home. What is a truly hilarious film turns heartfelt when it is apparent that Woody is going to have to chose between the glamorous life of being a collectible, or just go back to being a regular toy.
Making a real social statement about youth and getting older, Toy Story 2 is one of those films that works on all levels. Kids can enjoy it because there are lots of fun antics and teamwork examples, while adults will like the thought provoking moments that this film effortlessly achieves. In centering this movie around toys, the film’s creators allow themselves to examine so many different issues, while not masking them as such. Animation is fast becoming a medium that is almost more real than live action films, and as a result I think that’s why so many of them are being made with such large standards of excellence.
Movies like Toy Story 2 lead the way.
Audio Commentary and a Sneak Peek at Cars
This feature Commentary is done by director John Lasseter and his creative partners Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon and Andrew Stanton. As someone who is making an animated movie all by himself (1985-1986), I really got a lot of hearing these people talk about making this film. While I don’t think you necessarily have to be some real “tech person” to get what they are talking about, I really love the rapport that these guys have. I have said this before in other reviews but I also love how easy the creators of this movie make everything seem. By breaking down the film in this way, they show people that it really isn’t that hard to create something special.
The Sneak Peek at Cars looks at John Lasseter’s newest movie. I think what is so awesome about animation, especially the kind of films that these people are making, is how they get us to rethink everything. For instance, they take the subject of cars and they imbue them with such rich personalities and lifestyles, that after screening their movies it is hard to ever look at life (or the objects we use everyday) the same way again. If that isn’t something amazing than I don’t know what is...
Outtakes; Who’s The Coolest Toy? and Which Toy Are You?
My biggest problem with Outtakes on an animated movie is that essentially, other than tests and mistakes that wouldn’t pass muster anyway, there really isn’t such a thing as as a true “flub” or “fumble”. Still, seeing this assortment of characters slip, slide and crash around the screen is a lot of fun. Who’s the Coolest Toy? has the filmmakers and the stars of this movie discussing their favorite characters. We get to hear which character they think they most resemble or act like, but for the filmmakers at least, this has got to be hard because I would think they would love every character. Afterall, these are creations that emanated out of them. It wasn’t like they went out and cast these roles. Which Toy Are You? is a multiple choice test of sorts, with the end result letting the viewer know what toy they are most like. I started playing this but was having problems with my remote. While I think this game might ultimately be for younger kids to play with their parents, it is still something worth checking out.
Ponkickies; Riders In the Sky Music Medley and “Making Toy Story 2
Ponkickies 21 is a popular children’s program that Woody, Buzz and Jessie visit to entertain and play with their kids. While I probably never would have watched this show (or this segment) if I didn’t have to review it for a DVD, it is interesting to see how these characters cross all possible cultural divides and relate with people on the most universal of levels. Riders In the Sky Music Medley is another featurette that leans more toward something for kids than it does for me. Essentially, this is a “musical tour through Woody’s Roundup”, in which kids can sing along and dance to a bunch of well known western songs. Nothing too amazing about this bonus feature, but something that parents can enjoy with their kids as well.
Making Toy Story 2 has got to be my favorite of the bonus segments. It serves up John Lasseter and the rest of the Pixar team, talking about how this movie came to fruition. They discuss how they drew upon the first Toy Story, but also what they wanted to do with the sequel to make it genuinely something new and special. Also, they let us in on the process of creation which I always find interesting.
Deleted Scenes; John Lasseter Profile and Cast of Characters
The Deleted Scenes are done in such a way that they actually illuminate parts of this movie. I know that this might not seem so rare to some people, but for myself I was quite surprised to find out certain things, especially about Woody. While I am reticent to talk too much about these scenes, for fear that I might give too much away, I was quite impressed with the richness of the footage that had not been used. John Lasseter Profile looks at the man who created such films as the first Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life, among others. While not the most in depth look at someone I have ever seen, this is a pretty comprehensive look at a person who seems intent in revolutionizing his own industry each time out. The Cast of Characters is a “from the ground up” approach to the making of this film that is broken down into two segments. We have the All New Design Gallery Slideshows which show us how the characters came into their final forms, and the Story segment which shows early storyboards and examples of scenes that allow viewers to compare them to the final film. While I think from a child’s perspective this might be going overboard, to the wannabe animator this is “sketch gold”. I personally love seeing early storyboards, if for no other reason than to see the early genesis of an idea.
Production and Publicity
The Production featurette takes us inside the wonderful world of Pixar so that we can see things like Designing Woody’s Past, Production Progression and Special Effects among other things. Made up of seven segments, this is one of the most comprehensive inside looks at a movie I have ever screened in my life. It not only takes us inside the production, but goes even further to show us from beginning to end how this movie was put together. Lastly, the Publicity section features the main characters from the film talking about the movie, as well as some trailers, TV spots and posters. This piece has an almost nostalgic feel as it was close to 10 years ago that this film was made. Overall, this Toy Story 2 Special Edition is a truly comprehensive piece of movie lore, and one that could easily find itself in both serious and not so serious DVD collections. Very good work, Pixar and Disney!
Widescreen - 1.77:1. This movie comes to us “directly from Pixar’s digital source.” Honestly, they could have taken a VHS tape of this film, burned that to DVD and I think it would look better than most of the DVDs currently on the market. This film leaps off the screen. Maybe because I watched it on a small television set, but the action looked like it was happening right on top of the screen. When you see the credits to a film like this, one really gets the sense that they are seeing where all the different people put their hands on this film. The colors for all the characters are so rich and the backgrounds so detailed, I was amazed watching this movie. The world that has been created is so vividly realized, I can only imagine how great future DVDs from Pixar will look.
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS ES. You really have to admire a soundtrack that can add such life to inanimate objects. It isn’t as if these characters aren’t helped by the lush look of their animation, but the audio certainly has an enormous hand in adding a degree of life and humanity to animated subjects that hadn’t been seen before. This coupled with the original music by Randy Newman really adds a multifaceted layer of dimensions to this movie’s audio. This film is big without knocking us out with the sound. It manages to have the best of both worlds. Images and audio that serve one another in the most perfect way.
The colorful main cast of this film graces this very colorful cover. Seeing this eclectic assortment of characters, I would think kids enthusiasm will compel their parents to pick up this 2 disc set for them. The back features some shots from the movie, a description of the plot of Toy Story 2, an extensive bonus features listing and of course technical specs for your system. Since I have a pretty crummy system that I watched this set on, I don’t know that I got the full effect of this movie. Still, what I got was more than enough to satisfy me. They create this packaging in such a way that it appeals to not only kids but adults as well. Due to this crossover marketing appeal, I think the look of this set will more than pique and interest parents/children's curiosity.
I can’t believe that I did not see this film sooner. I remember seeing the first Toy Story, and while I thought it was good, it wasn’t really something that knocked me out of my seat. Then, I started noticing how people talked about the film. There was a real reverence for all the characters. Then, I started hearing grown people talk about buying the toys from the movie. At that point, I knew that there was something about Toy Story. When Toy Story 2 came out, I don’t know where I was but this film just passed me by. It was really nice to sit back now, especially with a greater appreciation of animation as a whole, and get to screen this movie for the first time.
As I said above, Toy Story 2 leads the way. Not just in advancing the medium of animation, but in it’s storytelling and it’s ability to make us really care about the characters we are watching on the screen. They have been around so long it seems, they are almost like family.
Toy Story 2 was released October 30, 1999.