"Toy Story 1 & 2" DVD, Blu-ray Review

3/24/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review

"Toy Story"

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

You can't find many people these days, especially those with children, who don't know the name "Pixar." The animation studio has dominated the market for the past 15 years, and it all started with "Toy Story."

Unless you've lived under a rock for the past decade, you probably already know what "Toy Story" is all about--Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), an old-fashioned cowboy doll who comes to life when his owner, Andy, isn't around. He and all the other anthropomorphic toys with whom he shares Andy's room are preparing for a big move to a new house as well as Andy's upcoming birthday. Many toys fear being left behind or replaced. Woody reassures them that they're all special to Andy and no one will be left behind, but when Andy's birthday party rolls around and he gets the hot new spaceman toy, Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), Woody's entire existence is thrown into an upheaval.

No one but Pixar could make a film about inanimate objects feel so heartfelt and human. "Toy Story" contains precursors to nearly every style and theme Pixar has dealt with in their 15 years of feature filmmaking--acceptance, friendship, family, jealousy, imagination, the balance between humor and drama (not to mention the balance between clever humor and screwball humor) and, of course, deeply detailed but still vibrant and simple animation. Watching some of the studio's more recent films and then going back to "Toy Story," you definitely can see elements of "Toy Story" in every single one of their works.

Obviously, the film is most well-known not only for introducing the world to Pixar (and its primary creative talents--"Wall-E" and "Up" directors Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter both had a hand in the script), but for introducing the world to feature-length computer animation in general. While it's true that it had been used infrequently in shorts and in short spurts in Disney films like "Beauty and the Beast," "Toy Story" was really the first film to take the animation techniques and use them to create an entire feature film with it.  Despite being 15 years old, "Toy Story" still looks great. Perhaps not nearly as detailed and beautiful as "Up" or "Wall-E," but still quite good. This is not only thanks to the quality of the animation, but the story and characters. The film is so well-written that the animation becomes secondary to the writing, which is pretty impressive for a film that easily could be thought of as showy or gimmicky (sort of like "Avatar" might have been thought of by some last year).

There's also hardly a bad thing you could say about the voice acting. Outside Allen and Hanks (who couldn't be better), Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Pixar regular John Ratzenberger, Erik von Detten and the late Jim Varney all provide perfect voices for their respective characters.

Really, you can't do much better than "Toy Story." And that alone is what makes Pixar so impressive--they've consistently matched the quality of their first film with almost every one of their projects since, and they even topped it with the sequel. The third is on the way this summer, and knowing Pixar's track record, they may top it yet again.

With "Toy Story," Pixar began an American animation renaissance that has yet to end.

Rated G. Grade: A

Toy Story 2 DVD, Blu-ray Review

By Christopher Smith

To infinity and beyond, indeed.

“Toy Story 2” not only holds up to the original (also released on Blu-ray this week), but it sometimes surpasses it in ingenuity and wit.

This is no shameless sequel, but a fully realized film that stands on its own. Once again, Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) is the focus. A bit older now, a bit tattered, his shoulder torn and his stuffing coming loose, he is left at home when his owner, Andy, goes away to summer camp.

Hurt and depressed and feeling as if he’s close to the trash bin, he sulks along with
Andy’s other toys, a hodgepodge of characters who seem to exist with the sad knowledge that Andy will one day tire of them and move on to bigger and better toys.

If this gives the film emotional depth, it also gives it its spectacular spark since these toys won’t leave Andy’s bedroom--or his heart--without a fight. When Woody is kidnapped by an evil toy collector (Wayne Knight), Woody’s pals--Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Rex the dinosaur (Wallace Shawn) and Hamm the piggy bank (John Ratzenberger)--all conspire to get him home safe before Andy returns. No one has to say what these toys are thinking: Without Woody in the bedroom as an anchor, who’s to say what would become of them?

Filled with action, superb new characters, a terrific parody of “Star Wars” and a clear understanding of human nature, “Toy Story 2” proves, without a doubt, that toys are not only for kids, but toys, in fact, are us.

Rated G. Grade: A

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