"Toy Story 3" Blu-ray: I'm Not Toying Around; This is a Good Wrap-Up
Toy Story 3 came with some pretty high expectations. It had been 11 years since Toy Story 2, and there’s always been a stigma concerning sequels in Hollywood, especially when it comes to animation. How many times have you heard, “Oh great, another Disney cheapquel” or “the third movie sucked”? Thankfully, Toy Story 3 is neither cheap nor unnecessary. The hard work of the Pixar crew paid off, and now we have one of the few trilogies where each movie is a winner.
Part of the reason Toy Story 3 feels necessary is that it explores a theme that’s been omnipresent and gradually pushing more to the forefront since the first movie: What happens when Andy, the toys’ owner, gets too old to play with toys? We get to see the results of that here, as Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Slinky, Hamm, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, and Rex are the only major surviving toys in Andy’s collection, and even they haven’t been played with for years. During a pre-college room cleaning, most of the toys are bound for the attic (hey, it’s better than being thrown out), but through a mix-up, they end up being donated to Sunnyside Daycare instead.
It’s there that they meet a slew of other toys, including Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear (aka Lotso), a pink stuffed bear who is the official leader of the toys. At first, everyone else thinks this daycare is a dream come true, as there’s never a worry of being thrown out due to a constantly rotating roster of young’uns to take the place of those who leave. But Woody is unhappy and ditches his long-time pals, temporarily taking residence at the house of a young girl named Bonnie with some other toys. Unfortunately, he comes to realize the truth about Sunnyside, and returns with a plan to bust his fellow toys out.
I could spoil more, but Toy Story 3 is one of those movies where the movie would be ruined if you gave away all the surprises and funny bits. Needless to say, the character development is satisfying, the action scenes are all at once innovative, amusing, and (in the case of a climax at the city dump) nail-biting as they evoke a feeling of hopelessness, and the movie moves so quickly that you’re not five steps ahead of the plot. Oh sure, if you want to be cynical, you could generalize and say, “Well it’s obvious they’re going to escape the daycare and reunite with Andy!”, but the key is how they escape that’s part of the fun. And when it comes to the ending, I truly couldn’t think of a more satisfying wrap-up to the series. I won’t say more than that.
Speaking of satisfying, Toy Story 3 works for newcomers and veterans alike. The opening scenes, brief as they are, establish how much fun Andy had with his toys when he was younger so that those fresh to the series aren’t in the dark about why Woody is so adamant about his devotion to Andy. And the “prison break” plotline and its various characters and themes are generally accessible as well. At the same time, there are all sorts of continuity nods and callbacks to previous films that are sure to make long-time viewers smile. So it has something for everyone.
Disc 1 of the combo pack contains the film as well as the short that preceded the movie in theaters, “Day and Night”, about two personifications of sunny and moonlit fighting and eventually making up. Done in 2D animation with some CG effects, it’s innovative and occasionally funny as well. It’s only marred by a tacked-on narration at the end that pounds its message into the viewer with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Still, it’s an enjoyable short, and it’s hard to describe how much of a joy it was to see a traditionally animated short on the big screen. There’s also a brief behind-the-scenes featurette on “Day and Night”, although it doesn’t really tell us very much in its short time. I was hoping for more making-of footage than we got.
“Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs” will be familiar to those who bought the recently-released Toy Story 1 and 2 Blu-ray sets; they’re essentially educational lessons about astronauts, but delivered in a fun way and with engaging voice over by Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear.
“Toys!” is a 7-minute piece about the staggering task of creating so many new toys for the third film, particularly in the introduction to Sunnyside Daycare, when there are dozens on the screen at the same time. I found it interesting how they basically made the decision early on to temporarily shut down production on everything else and just get through that intro scene at Sunnyside in two weeks, just so they wouldn’t have to worry about it later. Good strategy, I suppose. Luckily, from what others said elsewhere on the set, they also had plenty of fun during this time so it didn’t feel like grueling 80-hour work weeks.
Disc 2 is where the bulk of the special features are housed. To start, you get two feature-length commentaries; one featuring director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla Anderson, the other featuring a few animators. Of the two, I prefer the one with Unkrich, as he and Darla have some good chemistry and there are essentially zero silence gaps. He also tells some interesting tidbits on every facet of production, including technical challenges. Additionally, much of the info addressed in the Unkrich commentary was also addressed in the animator commentary, so the latter felt redundant. Finally, the first commentary comes with picture-in-picture (so that you can view production art while watching the movie), while the latter doesn’t.
Next, “The Gang’s All Here” is an 11-minute piece about the voice actors. The mood of the piece was very nostalgic, as the actors hadn’t worked on it for 11 years so it was exciting for them to step back into their respective characters’ shoes. I most enjoyed seeing an appearance of Ned Beatty, who I haven’t seen in a movie since the ’90s.
“Goodbye Andy” is an 8-minute piece concerning the improvement in rendering humans for the third film, and how that was important for the final scene with Andy. It’s a very good point that I didn’t even think about when watching the film; if Andy had been awkwardly rendered, even for a brief moment, it wouldn’t have been as easy to take the scene seriously.
“Accidental Toymakers” is a 4-minute piece about how many of the toys they created specifically for the films were later made into actual toys to buy.
“A Toy’s Eye View: Creating a Whole New Land” is a 5-minute piece about the making of Toy Story-themed rides and attractions at the various Walt Disney parks. It’s enjoyable, but it’s kind of hard to appreciate how much fun the rides supposedly are without having gone on them yourself.
“Epilogue” is merely the last few minutes in full screen, without the credits wrapped around them.
“Roundin’ Up a Western Opening” chronicles the making of the intro to the film. It was originally going to be a more low key, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly-style duel, while the version in the final film was far more high-octane, with the out-of-control train and various epic battles between established characters. After watching some animatic footage of the discarded opening, I’m convinced they made the right choice.
“Bonnie’s Playtime: A Story Roundtable” concerns the various versions of Woody’s first day in Bonnie’s house. Not quite as interesting as “Roundin’ Up”, but still worthwhile to see why the director and writers/storyboard artists reworked it.
“Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion” is for you struggling screenwriters out there. It details screenwriter Michael Arndt’s step-by-step guide to getting started on a film, and uses examples from Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles to back up his points. I have mixed feelings on this featurette. While it’s fascinating to see the technique he used and the comparisons he made, it also takes the fun out of the movies, because everything can be broken down to a rigid formula. The way he described it, it made all Pixar films feel the same. Despite what the detractors say, I can assure you they’re not.
“Life of a Shot” is a 7-minute piece about how much work the background and layout artists put into what you see on the screen, even down to the tiniest details. You sort of take for granted how much had to be done when you’re into the story, so this featurette reminds us just how meticulous everything was. In particular, it’s staggering to think of having to render all those particles of trash in the finale. Wow.
Luckily, we get more “Studio Stories”, which are anecdotes about working at Pixar, set to crude doodle animation. Of the three presented here, my favorite was about how everyone made a pact to shave their hair before production of Toy Story 3 and then have a contest to see who could go the longest without shaving or getting a haircut.
Rounding up the Film Fans section of special features is “Paths to Pixar: Editorial”, a 4-minute video about the Pixar editors.
Other special features on disc 2 include a trivia game, a brief featurette about how two Dancing With the Stars dancers came in to help with choreography for Buzz and Jessie’s dance, promo material including posters, trailers, and commercials. Of particular interest was a mock Lotso Huggin’ Bear commercial (one for America and one for Japan), complete with VHS noise and wavering sound quality. It seriously looks like it came out of the ’80s, off somebody’s old VHS tape, and it’s a fun oddity. Overall, there is plenty of material here, yet not so much as to exhaust you.
Disc 3 is merely the film on a DVD, while disc 4 is a digital copy. While it’s nice to have multiple versions of the movie just in case the Blu-ray discs somehow get broken or stolen, I’m not a fan of how this practice jacks up the price of the set. The MSRP of Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray is $45.99, and we’re not exactly out of the recession yet, so it seems a bit excessive for one film, as good as it is.
Nevertheless, if you’ve got the money, I’d highly recommend Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray in a heartbeat; it feels like a necessary conclusion to the franchise, in that it wraps up a lot of loose ends and provides the toys with one of their toughest challenges yet. It’s visually engaging as always (thanks to the quick cutting and excellent storyboarding), and is often funny. Most of all, and I know I’m beating a dead horse because I’ve mentioned this before, but you care about the characters and what happens to them throughout the course of the movie. The Blu-ray set’s picture quality is typically fantastic and the special features are mostly fun to watch. For a slickly-produced story that never bores, Toy Story 3 delivers.