Directed by Lee Unkrich
Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, John Morris
Toy Story 3 was sort of like the Star Wars prequels when it was first announced. The first two films were some of the best films, not just animated films, but family films in general ever made. Would a third film be a misstep and screw up a near flawless franchise? Pixar doesn’t do much wrong, but there’s always a first time. Now, with some space to get beyond the hype of the theatrical experience, the DVD/blu-ray/digital copy is out to consider.
The first two movies and this one too, are thematically about growing up. Sometimes the story is about loss and other times they were simply coming of age. This movie follows that formula but this time you could say the story is the final chapter, the ultimate coming of age, the transition between childhood and adulthood. The story is like in real life, funny, traumatic, scary, happy and sad. In the end, nothing ever stays the same and sometimes the change, even if it’s for the better, can be really painful.
Andy is headed to college and Woody wants to go with him and thinks that Andy wants him to go. The adventure begins when the toys are mistakenly donated to a daycare center when the kids don’t respect or appreciate their toys the way Andy did. Woody wrangles the troops to convince them that it was all a mistake and that they had to escape the daycare center and get back to Andy before he leaves. Their biggest obstacle isn’t the adults or even the crazy children it’s the gang of thug toys that rule the toy box.
The story that follows is the most epic, funny, traumatic, scary, happy and sad story of the three, and the most lifelike. Lotso, played by Ned Beaty is a damaged stuffed bear that runs the daycare center. He’s physically worn but the damage is more emotional. He never recovered from learning his where his place in the real world is so he took it out on all of the toys. The more determined Woody got to get home the more determined Lotso was to not only stop him, but convince him he was wasting his time. The cast not only portrays these characters, they ARE them. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in particular are these characters. Ned Beatty as Lotso brings a level of class to the proceedings that is totally unexpected. Michael Keaton is also a surprisingly energetic and fun addition to the cast. Again, Joan Cusack and Don Rickles have imbued so much personality onto their characters that these actors and the characters are one and the same. Considering just how hard the entire cast has worked to become these character when someone is absent it’s glaringly obvious. Sadly, Jim Varney, who played Slinky Dog in the previous two films, has passed away so they producers had to replace him with another actor. Blake Clark did a fine job as man’s best springy friend but Varney is still missed.
Toy Story 3 is a family film, not a kid’s film. There are a few scenes that are two scary for many children to watch without a little parental guidance. The movie doesn’t deserve a PG rating, not even close, but there are hard lessons to learn in the film and they require family viewing. The story is just as meaningful for adults though. How many of us remember that transition from childhood to adulthood, that time when we put aside childish things? Some of us have even begun going back and collecting those childish things because they’re just fun to have around. The film, like the other three, is also painfully nostalgic and it perfectly winks at the adults throughout its running time.
There aren’t many times that I would admit, or have to admit really, to just openly weeping at the end of a film. Sure, there are plenty of touching films out there that strike that chord, but I will admit to it when watching this film. When our group saw Toy Story 3 in the theater, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Those final moments, that last scene, perfectly encompass the meaning of the entire franchise and for kids watching, they are fun and sure, a little sad but for adults watching, they go even deeper: it harkens back to one of the most important times in most people’s lives. It’s not necessarily sadness when you consider it further, it’s beautiful really, it’s life.
The 1080p 1,78:1 widescreen transfer from the original digital elements here as you might expect is virtually flawless. Colors are vibrant and gorgeous and there’s no grain at all. Black levels are inky and deep and detail is steady throughout the running time. If you saw this film in 3-D in the theater get ready to be blown away by the pop of the color and amazing contrast. 3-D is fun but it’s always a little soft and a little dim. So you might not be seeing this film in 3-D on this blu-ray but you are getting one of the best HD experiences that’s possible.
This DTS HD 7.1 presentation is nothing short of stunning. Sound FX, score, and dialogue are perfectly mixed and layered even during the most insane scenes in the film. The surrounds make this film so immersive that you feel like you’re literally in the daycare center with the toys when all of the children go crazy playing. There are big obvious sound pieces but there’s also tons of subtle ambient sounds that make this world feel real. There are even plenty of instances where the sub woofer gets a work out whether it is a thundering garbage truck or stomping kids in the daycare center. This movie is a joy to listen to from beginning to end.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
First things first, 4 discs can sound overwhelming, but the truth is that there’s only two discs that matter when it comes to movie bonus features. One of the discs is the DVD version of the film and another one is the digital copy. With that said the film and bonus features still take up two blu-rays, which hint that there’s in fact a lot of stuff here. There are tons of HD exclusives, commentaries, featurettes, games, and more. All together there’s over five hours of bonus materials to dig into.
There are two commentaries. The first is called a Cine-explore Picture in Picture commentary. The commentary features the director and producer of the film. Look for this presentation on the second disc. I can only assume that this commentary was put on the second disc to allow the main feature on the first disc to have plenty of breathing room to look and sound its best. The Pixar crew all appear to be charming and interesting people and that comes through in the featurettes and in this commentary. There’s tons of behind the scenes stories throughout the running time and filmmaking information. There’s a second audio commentary with animators, production supervisors, and the story supervisor that is just as engrossing but in a much more technical way. These folks get very specific about their contributions to the film and offer even more behind the scenes making of information.
The bonus features are segmented on the second disc in a fairly unique way. There’s a section called “Film Fans” that houses a group of featurettes running over 40 minutes that are all very specific to the filmmaking process. The highlight of these featurettes has to be an animated discussion with the screenwriter on the process of writing a script. In the brief featurette he really provides good information how to properly compose a script and how those processes came together on a few of Pixar’s films. There’s a featurette that focuses on the editors at Pixar, and a couple of roundtable discussions on the creation and execution of some key scenes in the film. There’s a brief making of featurette for the short film that ran in front of Toy Story 3 in theaters. Finally, there’s a group of animated shorts that share a lot of information about the world in which the Pixar team works. These animated shorts are great fun but as a fan I really wanted to see some of the places that the voices are talking about not just animated versions of those places. I really wanted to see what the Pixar cereal bar looks like!
There’s another section called “Family Play” that altogether runs just over 30 minutes. These featurettes are more general interest and that’s not to say they aren’t great because they are. There’s a group of interviews with the cast and some behind the scenes footage of them recording their parts. There’s a featurette about saying goodbye to Andy for the last time, interesting and a little sad, and a fascinating featurette about the creation of the toys for retail. There’s even a featurette discussing adding Toy Story into the Disney theme parks.
“Publicity Goodies” is an outstanding and completist collection of commercials and promos done for the film including all of the shorts and teaser trailers that ran in theaters promoting Toy Story 3 in 3-D. The fake commercials made for Lot-a-Huggin’ Bear are found here as well as a brief making of featurette. There are some short spoofs done with the characters, character intros, and a bevy of domestic and international trailers.
On disc 1, you’ll find the clever Day & Night short film that ran in front of Toy Story 3 in theaters.
“Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs” is an educational short where buzz and friends discuss the science and technology behind space travel.
“Toys” is a really brief featurette on disc 1 where the animators discuss the challenges of creating so many new characters and updating the old ones. Finally, also on disc 1 is a basic home theater calibration tool.
The bonus features here are extensive but not filler. Everything here is fantastic and if you’re a film fan or fanatical about Toy Story 3 there’s plenty here to sink your teeth into and it’s all in HD and in surround sound.
There are few milestones in story telling that are true classics. There are plenty of great movies but most of them fade into the sea of other great movies as the years pass. The first two Toy Story films constantly rise above the cream though and this film, the best of the three, is the new bar for this sort of storytelling. Is Toy Story 3 the Citizen Cane of animated films? No. Toy Story 3 is simply that level of film with no categorization. Anyone who calls themselves a fan of top notch story telling should own this one: nuff said.
Overall (Not an Average) 10/10
The Movie 10/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 10/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 10/10
Overall (Not an Average) 10/10