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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Toy Story 3

November 2nd, 2010

Toy Story 3 - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon: DVD, 2-Disc Blu-ray, or 4-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack

Toy Story 3 is the latest from Pixar. ... I'm tempted to leave the review at that. This is the eleventh film from the studio and they've never made a bad movie. They've never made a movie that was anything less than Oscar-worthy. (I still contend that Cars was robbed.) Just because a movie has earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, and more than $400 million at the box office, doesn't necessarily mean I will also love the film.

The Movie

The film starts very close to the end of the events of Toy Story 2 with Andy playing a very, very elaborate game with his toys. (It involves cowboys, convertibles, and eventually spaceships.) We see his mom video recording playtime before we quickly flash forward to today, with grown up Andy preparing to go to college. He has to decide what to do with his toys, take them to college, put them in the attic, donate them to the daycare, or throw them out. Andy decides to take Woody to college and leave Buzz, Jesse, and the rest in the attic, but when his mom mistakenly thinks his garbage bag full of toys is meant for the trash and not the attic, she puts them out on the curb.

They do manage to escape, and instead of heading back inside, they jump in the donation box and are off to Sunnyside Daycare. When they arrive, they are greeted by Lotso, Ken, and the other old-timers, who greet them like family. Woody is having none of it and immediately starts working to get back to Andy, but after going so long without being played with, the rest of the toys love the idea of being with kids again. Woody's escape plan doesn't quite go as well as expected and he's spotted by Bonnie, who goes to Sunnyside. After she takes him home, he meets Bonnie's other toys, Mr. Pricklepants, Buttercup, and others. He has a fun day playing with Bonnie, but he's still determined to get back to Andy. When he mentions the rest of his friends are at Sunnyside, he's told the daycare isn't the wonderful place that it looks like, but a prison.

Meanwhile, the other toys are also learning that Sunnyside isn't a paradise after being in the "Caterpillar Room" with the youngest of the daycare kids. Getting played with after spending so much time ignored in a toy box is one thing, get dipped in paint, thrown against a wall, or stuck up a kids nose is another. Jesse, Buzz, and the others decide they need to be upgraded to the Butterfly Room with the older kids. They get Buzz out of the room to talk about getting his friends out, but that's when he learns the true nature of Lotso and how far he's willing to go, which includes re-setting Buzz to his factory setting and turning him against his friends.

Now Woody has to break back into Sunnyside, rescue his friends, get Buzz back to normal, and get them all back to Andy before he leaves for college.

It won't be easy.

I just reviewed How to Train Your Dragon, which is one of the best-reviewed films of the year. At the time I wondered if it would be better than Toy Story 3, which was the only wide release to earn better reviews than How To... did.

Is it the better movie? Yes. Toy Story 3 is by far the best movie I've seen this year, and I don't mean it is the best kids movie I've seen all year, I mean it is the best movie I've seen this year. The filmmakers have full understanding of the old characters and what makes them so appealing. They also have a perfect touch when it comes to mixing genres. There's comedy here, action, adventure, drama, and even horror.

(If the people at Pixar ever decided to make a horror movie, it would be awesome. And I don't mean a kids movie that is scary, but I mean a horror movie for adults. The way they build a sense of dread when the toys start to realize Sunnyside, and especially Lotso, are not what they thought, is excellent. Also, Mr. Tortilla Head is going to haunt my nightmares for years to come. Of course if they did make a horror movie, they would have to make it under a different brand, otherwise parents would take their kids to the movie, and that could hurt future business.)

Also, the final scenes of the movie, which I won't discuss here, have just as much emotional punch as the early scenes of Up, perhaps more so, because we've known these characters for so long. They do everything in this movie right. If you loved the franchise from the beginning, or if this is the first time you've seen these characters, you will love this movie.

This film should win the Best Picture Oscar. It likely has less than a 10% chance of that happening because of the anti-animation bias, but it deserves to win.

The Extras

I only have the 4-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack to review, but assuming the DVD that comes with that package is the the same that is released on its own, there are a few extras here. Things start with an audio commentary track with the director, Lee Unkrich, and the producer, Darla K. Anderson. As always, great information and a whole lot of energy. There's the Day and Night short film that ran before the movie in theaters, which also deserves an Oscar nomination. There's the third installment of Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs, which details his time on the ISS. Paths to Pixar: Editorial is a 5-minute interview featurette with a number of editors from Pixar talking about their jobs. There are a trio of Studio Stories, which are always fun. The next featurette is called Toys and it is about the task of recreating the old toys with the new technology, as well as creating the new toys. The Gang's All Here is a ten-minute featurette on the voice cast, both the returning actors and the new ones. Finally there's Toy's Eye View, a five-minute featurette about the Toy Story characters and their appearances in the theme park.

The Blu-ray has all of these features, mostly. Disc one has the short film, the Mission Logs, and Toys, but no audio commentary track.

The extras on disc two are divided into four groups, starting with Family Play. This has The Gang's All Here and Toy's Eye View, which were on the DVD, plus Goodbye Andy, a featurette on the wrapping up of the franchise; Accidental Toymakers, is on how they created toys for the movie that were turned into toys in real life; and finally there's Epilogue that was seen during the end credits.

Under Film Fans you can watch the movie with Cine-Explore. No, I don't know why this isn't on disc one. It is basically the audio commentary track that is one the DVD, but upgraded to a Picture-in-Picture track with storyboards, concept art, image gallery, popping up throughout the movie. These tracks are awesome and this one is no different. Beyond the Toybox is a second audio commentary track, this time with the animators. It's more technical minded and just as fun to listen to. Roundin' Up a Western Opening is about how the opening evolved from the initial idea to the final product. Bonnie's Playtime does the same thing as the previous featurette, only with the scene Bonnie playing with Woody and her toys. Beginnings is an eight-minute featurette on how to write a story. Very informative. Life of a Shot is an overall making of featurette with many, many people that helped create the opening. There is also a making of of the short film, Day & Night. And then there's the Paths to Pixar and Studio Shorts from the DVD.

Toy Story Trivia Dash is an interactive, two-player, four-part game. It's quite fun and has trivia from all three movies, or you can choose to just have questions from Toy Story 3.

The final section is Publicity, which has all of the promos used for the movie, including Ken's Dating Tips, Teasers, fake commercials, the making of the fake commercials, etc. Pixar can even make the fluff funny.

The Four-Disc version also comes with the DVD and a Digital Copy of the movie.

The film's technical presentation on Blu-ray is flawless. Absolutely flawless. This makes sense, as it is a digital film, so there should be no problems going from the digital source to the Blu-ray transfer. The audio is immersive with good use of directional effects, while the dialogue is always clear. It is referential material and worthy of showing off your home theater system.

Looking at the prices of the three editions, the 2-Disc Blu-ray is 25% than the DVD, which is a great deal given the massive upgrade in extras, plus the improved video / audio quality. Meanwhile, the 4-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is 25% more than that. In other words, you are paying for the Blu-ray and getting the DVD and the Digital Copy for $5 more.

The Verdict

Toy Story 3 is near perfection, while the 4-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is clearly Pick of the Week material. In fact, it might be the best Blu-ray of the year.

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Filed under: Video Review, Toy Story 3