Monday, January 2, 2012

Toy Story 3 - 3D / 2D Blu-ray Review

Andy is preparing to depart for college, leaving his loyal toys troubled about their uncertain future. When a mix-up lands them at Sunnyside Daycare, the untamed tots with their sticky little fingers do not play nice, so it’s all for one and one for all as plans for the great escape get underway. More than a few new faces – some plastic, some plush – join the adventure, including Barbie’s counterpart, Ken, a thespian hedgehog named Mr. Pricklepants, and a strawberry-scented teddy bear called Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear. Toy Story 3 dominated the box office when it was released (over 1 billion dollars!) and is currently ranked as the 5th biggest worldwide movie of all time.  More importantly to me, is that this movie was made with care and love and continues the ongoing storyline in a funny yet poignant manner.  Buzzing with hours of bonus features — and now on Disney Blu-ray 3D, Toy Story 3 is an unforgettable family experience.

Film (5 out of 5 stars)   

The movie opens with a slam-bang start much like Toy Story 2 did except this time it’s a western adventure instead of  one set in space like the last movie.  This time Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are leading a gang of bandits on a runaway train only to be confronted by Woody and the rest of the gang.  We soon learn that this is one of Andy’s adventures and there is a nice montage of him growing up that allows us to reconnect with the toys as well as watch Andy grow older over time.
Toy Story 3 is a movie about change and how it’s dealt with and time has passed for the toys just as it has for the audience.  Just like Andy, we have all gotten older and our affection for these toys has only grown since the first movie was released in 1995.  Everyone deals with change in different ways, some embrace it, some avoid it at all costs, and some live in denial that it’s even happening.  In Toy Story 3, Andy’s toys are grappling with those same issues that the rest of us face as Andy is now seventeen and is preparing to go to college.
This has been coming for a long time and was even foreshadowed by the equally excellent Toy Story 2, where the toys accepted their pre-ordained fate in exchange for more years of play time with Andy.  That time has already passed by the time we rejoin our friends.  It’s been several years since Andy has played with them as he has moved on to more adult oriented pursuits.  He still cares about them but the movie shows us quickly some characters have been lost along the way (some favorites from the last two movies too), and the concept that more will follow soon.
Most animated fare from other studios is basically eye candy but with no real substance.  Pixar on the other hand, not only has the satisfying eye candy but also an engaging thought-provoking story to go along with it.  Much like Mary Poppins, they offer a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.  In this case, it’s a story about change, loss, and acceptance are wrapped up in a funny, touching, and surprising present for the whole family.
As much as Woody (Tom Hanks) doesn’t want to believe that Andy is moving on without them Buzz (Tim Allen) and the other toys quickly decide that their future happiness will come from Sunnyside Day Care which is run by the strawberry scented Lotso Huggin’ Bear (Ned Beatty).  Lotso’s hilarious right hand man is Ken (Michael Keaton), whose fashionable existence is only missing a Barbie doll to complete it.  On the surface, the daycare seems like heaven to toys who have missed being played with for years, but events soon show that not everything is as it seems.
All of the Toy Story movies have had poignant scenes but Toy Story 3 really raises the stakes in its final thirty minutes in a way that never could have meant so much without the goodwill and investment in the toys that has been built up over the last fifteen years.  By this point, I wanted desperately to see these toys that I’ve grown to care about find their happy ending and like the older Disney movies, it seemed as if that might not happen because sometimes bad things happen to good people.  These toys are put in serious peril at the end of the movie and I was shocked as well as moved by how they faced that danger.  Throughout the movie, the toys were constantly faced with situations that split them apart by their decisions and yet in the end, their decision to meet their fate as a family was incredibly touching.
Powered by outstanding performances by the cast and the animators, Toy Story 3 is a triumph in every possible way.  It is visually spectacular, it has an amazing script, and director Lee Unkrich has knocked this out of the park.  Longtime fans will appreciate the little touches  and the call backs to the previous movies and characters.  As greedy as I am for another installment, I can’t imagine a more satisfying and fitting end than this one.  In a sense everything comes full circle and leaves us not only wanting more but also with a dawning realization that we’ve just learned some valuable life lessons along the way.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)  

3D Video (5 out of 5 stars)  2D Video (5 out of 5 stars)

I cannot say enough good things about the picture quality.  This is not only the best looking Blu-ray that I’ve ever seen, but it’s also the best 3D Blu-ray as well.  Toy Story 3 is the only movie in the Toy Story trilogy that was actually released theatrically in 3D and as good as the previous two movies look after being converted to 3D, this one achieves an unprecedented level of awesomeness.  Being originally created for 3D, this movie takes advantage of the added dimensionality which makes the world look even more realistic and obtainable.  The streets seem to go on forever, the Sunnyside Daycare feels like a whole new world, and the the danger is even more intense during the final scene with the incinerator.  This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is impeccable, with colors that are vivid and pop in every instance, the detail is beyond phenomenal, and as rich as the colors are, the black levels are just as amazing.  This is now my new demo disc to show off just how good 3D Blu-rays can look.  Disney just keeps getting better and better on each release.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)  

The audio quality is just as fantastic as the picture quality!  The English 7.1 DTS Master Audio track is astoundingly good!  Every channel is used to the maximum extent and it’s done so well that you will feel like you are there.  From the opening sequence’s train chase with a bridge blowing up to the end of the movie’s city dump’s roaring furnace, your sub-woofer will be rocking your house!  I loved the use of the surround channels as toys flew all over the place which almost made feel like ducking.  Dialogue is crystal clear and there is also a nice option of a descriptive audio track to allow vision impaired people a chance to enjoy the movie as well.

Special Features (5 out of 5 stars)  

This is how you do extras right! This four disc set includes the Blu-ray of the movie, a Blu-ray bonus feature disc,  a DVD of the movie, and a digital copy disc for portable devices.  Each disc is loaded with goodies and I really enjoyed the picture in picture commentary by Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson who provide a ton of cool stories about making the movie and the choices that were made.  I also really like the featurettes and the Toy Story Trivia Dash game as well which I usually don’t like.  The game was a lot of fun and was tougher than I thought it would be, so see if you can beat my score of 7998!  Let’s take a look at all of the extras!
TOY STORY 3 – Bonus Features:
  • Day & Night – The innovative and entertaining short from the imagination of Pixar artist and Director Teddy Newton.
  • Toys! – A closer look at all of Toy Story 3’s beloved toys from updating the classic characters to the creation of the Sunnyside Daycare and Bonnie’s Room toys.
  • Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure – Produced in conjunction with NASA, this hybrid animation documentary of Buzz’s visit to the International Space Station focuses on research in zero gravity and Buzz’s triumphant return to Earth.
  • Paths to Pixar: Editorial – Pixar editors, past and future share anecdotes about their careers.
  • The Gang’s All Here – A touching look at the returning voice talent for Toy Story 3 and an introduction to the voices of the new characters.
  • A Toy’s Eye View: Creating A Whole New Land – A sneak peek at the new Toy Story-themed playland at Hong Kong Disneyland.
  • Studio Stories – A series of amusing animated anecdotes about life at Pixar.
  • “Where’s Gordon?” – An animator finds a hidden room at Pixar.
  • “Cereal Bar” – The majestic and expansive Pixar cereal bar is explored.
  • “Clean Start” – The Toy Story 3 animators shave their heads to mark the start of the film.
BLU-RAY COMBO PACK: Everything on the DVD plus…
  • Toy Story Trivia Dash – This cool game challenges you to sprint to the finish with Woody, Buzz, Jessie and Rex as you quickly answer questions about all three Toy Story movies.
  • Cine-Explore – Commentary by Director Lee Unkrich and Producer Darla K. Anderson.
  • Beyond the Toybox: An Alternative Commentary Track Featuring Leads from Story, Tech, Art and Animation – Commentary by Story Supervisor Jason Katz, Supervising Technical Director Guido Quaroni, Production Designer Bob Pauley and Supervising Animators Bobby Podesta and Michael Venturini.
  • Beginnings: Setting A Story In Motion – Screenwriter Michael Arndt analyzes successful opening scenes fromToy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.
  • Bonnie’s Playtime: A Story Roundtable – A roundtable discussion with Director Lee Unkrich and the story artists who brought the “Bonnie’s Playtime” scene to life.
  • Roundin’ Up A Western Opening – The development of the movie’s exciting opening scene.
  • Life Of A Shot – Toy Story 3 artists and technicians describe their contributions to a few of the shots in the film’s “Western Opening.”
  • Goodbye Andy – An exploration of character design, acting and animation in the scene “Andy’s Goodbye.”
  • Accidental Toymakers – By creating the Toy Story characters, the Pixar filmmakers found themselves in the unlikely role of toy designers. Meet the toy company that took a chance on manufacturing the now iconic toys and learn of their incredible success that began with a modest number of Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys 15 years ago.
  • Making of Day & Night – The story behind the unique 2D/3D blended short.

Final Thoughts (5 out of 5 stars)  

I can’t say enough good things about this movie and this Blu-ray set.  This movie works on so many different levels.  My son enjoys it for the bright colors and the fun characters while I enjoy that as well but also because I remember how I felt about my toys.  At one point in my life, I had to store all of my childhood toys in a storage facility which were later stolen from me and I can still remember how upsetting that was for me.   As a matter of fact, I’m still upset about it.  I don’t think anyone every completely outgrows their toys.  Sure, we box them up, or let our kids play with them, but at least for me, there will always be that fleeting desire to break out my Star Wars toys and relive those glory days with my son much like Andy does with his toys at the end of the movie.  I believe watching the Toy Storymovies awakens the dormant we have for toys and the imagination they evoke within all of us.  Watching my son play with his toys reminds me that life is a continual cycle of change and now it’s his turn to enjoy the same things I did growing up.
Life means change, and the sooner we accept that the sooner we can advance to the next phase of our life.  Like the toys in the movie show us, we may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control how we face it.  If you are looking for a warm, funny, adventurous, and heart-warming movie to watch, look no further than this one.  I don’t think anyone expected the roller-coaster of emotions this movie extracted from it’s audiences or how serious it was in some places.  The stakes are definitely raised in this third movie which made for a richer and more emotional ride.  All of the Toy Story movies are basically perfection, with top-notch animation, a great cast, and an engaging story which most other companies neglect.  I think Pixar has a legendary reputation for their ability to tell stories and the fact that audiences cared so much about the fate of some toys is a true testament to that well-deserved reputation.It really doesn’t get any better than this and it proves that Pixar and Disney are the team to beat.
Order your copy today! Pick which set works the best for you!

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