Sequels can be scary. The chance of failure is all too real. You may end up taking something people loved and creating a sub-par follow-up, which in turn kills much of the sentiment for the first film that worked so well. So many traps lie in wait for sequels. From introducing too many new characters, to ignoring the ones we've come to love. Will the same humor get recycled? Will the same idea work again, or has it become old news? These are the hazards the Pixar team faced when they embarked on 'Toy Story 2.'
After 'A Bugs Life' was received rather lukewarmly at the box office, Pixar was under pressure to make their next movie a hit. With early test scenes for a direct-to-video follow-up to 'Toy Story' turning out so well, plans were quickly hammered to rework the film for theatrical release. For many fans, revisiting the toy chest so soon seemed like a risky gamble, but to our surprise, it wasn't at all.
As the film opens, Woody is faced with the inevitable fact that Andy will one day grow up and outgrow playing with toys. Should Woody sacrifice the few remaining years of playing with Andy, for a lifetime spent looking out through through protective glass in a museum for collectible toys (It seems Buzz wasn't the only one with a highly popular TV show and action figure tie-ins.)? This is a legitimate concern for a toy. We feel for Woody.
This is the first time real, true drama and sadness is injected into a Pixar film, paving the way for the emotional openings of 'Up' and 'Wall•E.' 'Toy Story 2' set the bar high, not only on a technical level for a CG cartoon, but on an emotional plane that could affect both parents and children.
We knew that 'Toy Story 2' was going to introduce some new characters. It's standard operating procedure for sequels to do so, but nstead of throwing in a few new characters just for additional merchandising opportunities, the new characters of Jessie, Stinky Pete, and Bullseye have a lot of thought put into them without sacrificing sufficient screen time from the characters we had come to know and love.
Storytelling isn't the only area in which 'Toy Story 2' excelled. It had already been four years since the release of 'Toy Story,' yet Pixar's animation techniques already showed improvement by leaps and bounds. As I said in my review of the original film, some of the animation in 'Toy Story' isn't aging well. In particular, Sid's dog looks especially bad compared to the dogs in 'Up,' but that's okay, they were still working to perfect their craft. Here we can see the evolution that Pixar was going through. Andy's new dog looks much better than Scud, and the human faces are beginning to take on a more lifelike appearance.
'Toy Story 2' solidified Pixar's place in cinematic history as a viable enterprise, an animation juggernaut, and a movie company that valued story and character above all else. This film is every bit as timeless and as classic as 'Toy Story.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The 3D edition of 'Toy Story 2' comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case sheathed in a 3D sleeve that mirrors the original cover art. The 3D Blu-ray, original Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy disc are all housed inside. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4, and the default audio is English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. There's also a Descriptive Video Service track for the visually impaired. Upon insertion of the 3D disc, previews for Disney's 'Planes' and Pixar's 'Brave' play automatically before the full motion menu with music pops up.
From the opening frames of 'Toy Story 2,' it's immediately apparent this 3D rendering exhibits more dazzling dimensionality, presence, and eye-popping splendor than the original 3D-enhanced film. The Buzz Lightyear video game sequence bursts forth with plenty of projectile effects and a marvelous immersive feel that envelopes us at once. The main titles also possess that distinctive 3D feel, pushing away from the background and floating in air. Though 'Toy Story 2' is only four years younger than the first movie in the trilogy, it looks surprisingly more spry and embraces the 3D technology more fully. Even more depth and dimensionality distinguish this sequel, and the wider array of settings allows our senses to enjoy more varied experiences.
Clarity and contrast are breathtaking, with all the characters looking extremely lifelike. The same details that shined on the 'Toy Story' 3D disc are exceptional here, too: the texture on Mr. Potato Head, the scales on Rex, but also look at how well the hair is rendered on Stinky Pete and Big Al, the costume accents on Jessie and Woody, and the dust particles that pour out of Wheezie. Color saturation is also spectacular, black levels are rich and inky, close-ups are stunningly crisp, and the transfer exudes a much smoother and silkier feel than the original 'Toy Story.' Even better, none of the issues afflicting that transfer - a few jagged lines and some sporadic noise - are present here.
Even though 'Toy Story 2' was not originally designed as a 3D film, it adapts quite well to the format and this terrific rendering provides a few more thrills and even more immediacy than the flat version. You will be amazed at the results.
If it's possible, this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 accompanying 'Toy Story 2' is even more of a sonic delight than that on the 'Toy Story' Blu-ray. The LFE kicks right in during the prologue as Buzz blasts through the air. The rumbling from the subwoofer is perfectly prioritized with the other sound effects and dialogue happening as to never drown those out. Panning effects are smooth and without hesitation. Dialogue is perfectly clear through the center channels. The surround channels are alive with all types of clear, engulfing ambient sounds. When Woody falls through the pile of cards during his dream, the cards click and clack around the room with care. The soundtrack is given ample room to flourish. Suffice to say, this is another demo quality audio presentation from Pixar.
All the supplements from the original DVD are included here.
'Toy Story 2' ups the 3D ante from the original enhanced film, with an adaptation that's wholly satisfying and often breathtaking. Smoother, richer, and featuring more exciting and immersive effects, this film shows just how seductive 3D upgrades can be when matched with suitable material. 3D enthusiasts will be thrilled with this disc and shouldn't hesitate to rush out and grab it! Highly recommended.