I'm sure I'm not the only one among Pixar's millions of acolytes, but it's safe to say I have either bought or seen every single incarnation of the first two Toy Story films that has ever been released. Walt Disney Home Video first released both of them as a two-pack in 2000, offering a three-disc Ultimate Toy Box at the same time, then followed up with individual releases in 2001, a two-disc 10 Year Anniversary Edition for Toy Story and a two-disc Special Edition for Toy Story 2 in 2005, and most recently reissued both films theatrically after redoing them in 3-D.
All of which is why it should come as no surprise that I once again hold in my hands copies of Toy Story 1 and 2, this time on Blu-ray, and as has seemed to be the case with each previous iteration, it's also safe to say that this is not only the best but should by all accounts be the definitive release of the first two installments Pixar's original CGI franchise.
Not the least of which because of the many, many times I've watched and reviewed the films themselves, it seems redundant or otherwise unnecessary to actually examine the merits of the movies; much has been said about them since Toy Story's debut in 1995, but suffice it to say that they were and are still brilliant. But honestly, even as the original visual groundbreaker that cemented the dominance of computer-animated family films virtually overnight, neither of these movies has ever looked better, at least not on home video: in Toy Story, the tarnished rouge of Woody's cheeks looks both plastic and alive, while in Toy Story 2, you can literally see the imperfections in Bullseye's stitching, or the goosebumped surface of Mr. Potato Head's brown body as he delivers one cantankerous rebuke after another.
Because Pixar thankfully elected not to go back and update the animation of the first film to match the second, the look of Toy Story is admittedly a little more primitive, simple, and cleanly geometric. But the difference exerts little to no impact on the storytelling thanks to wonderful writing that connects both films seamlessly, not to mention audio options that bring both to life in spectacular and yet intimate fashion. Both of the films feature 5.1 DTS-HD audio presentation that completely envelops the viewer and captures the physical and even emotional nuances of both narratives. The scene in which Buzz and co. cross the street in order to rescue Woody in Toy Story 2 is huge and bombastic and entertaining, but so are Woody's scenes of insecurity in the first Toy Story, and amazingly, neither overpowers the other.
Unlike the Walt Disney releases of hand-drawn animated classics like Snow White, there is no guide booklet to the content of these sets, so it's tough to know precisely what is and isn't on the Blu-rays that appeared on previous standard-definition versions. For example, just the Toy Story disc in the Ultimate Toy Box featured an audio commentary with writer/director John Lasseter, writers Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter, producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold, art director Ralph Eggleston and technical director Bill Reeves; The Story Behind Toy Story "making of" featurette; 52 Toy Story Treats (ABC Saturday morning interstitials); two "on set" interviews with Buzz and Woody; Tin Toy short feature; Buzz Lightyear TV commercial with intro; multi-language reel; a sound effects only track (DD 5.1); THX Optimode test signals; and a THX "Robo" trailer.
Meanwhile, the Blu-ray for just Toy Story features the following content: BD-Live; a standard-definition DVD of the film with most of the same bonus materials, including the new exclusives to this "Special Edition" version; "Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek: The Story; "Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Blast Off" featurette; "Paths to Pixar – Artists" featurette; "3 Animated Studio Stories" - John Lasseter's Car, Baby AJ and Scooter Races; "Buzz Takes Manhattan" featurette; "Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw" featurette; audio commentary with director John Lassetter, co-writer Andrew Stanton and others; "Making Toy Story" featurette; "Filmmakers Reflect" featurette; "The Legacy of Toy Story" featurette; "Designing Toy Story" featurette; deleted scenes; and design galleries.
Because much of this content was brought over from previous DVDs, much like the movies themselves it would be redundant to review all of them individually. But as for the new extras on both discs, content like the "Studio Stories" offer insightful little anecdotes about the atmosphere at Pixar during its early days via simple, amusing animation, while the Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs offer real information about actual NASA space station operations while framing it in Buzz' adventures in space. Then of course there are the Toy Story 3 sneak peeks on each Blu-ray disc, which quite frankly do not provide a lot of content about the upcoming sequel, but are passingly engaging if you're already familiar with the rest of the bonus materials.
The truth is that at this point the real reason to pick up these discs is to show off your home theater system via their video and audio presentation, and both films will more than meet any challenges you might throw at them. These are not only the best-looking home video transfers of the Toy Story films to date, but they're the sort of reference-quality material that will rank among the most beautiful and detailed Blu-rays in your collection. At the same time, it is true that these discs do not contain each and every single extra feature that was offered on earlier releases, so if you are a Pixar or even just Toy Story completist, it comes as a disappointment that these don't provide one-stop shopping for all of your needs.
Ultimately, however, the movies themselves are so good that even the studio's most obvious cash-in efforts feel at least vaguely worthwhile, because you get to watch them again in an even more beautiful format than before. So Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are among this month's, if not this year's must-have Blu-ray releases, because even if the films are themselves about the fear of losing one's relevance, at the very least, buying these discs will keep you connected to the relevant versions of the films themselves.