(movie review taken from "Toy Box" DVD set review, written in 2000)
After the original "Toy Story" became an enormous hit for Disney and creators Pixar, obviously the studios were going to combine for a second film(see their recent Pocahontas 2, Little Mermaid 2, Lion King 2...), although the way they went about it wasn't always clear. Originally concieved as a "video" release, the early results turned out well enough so that the two companies agreed to go forth with a full theatrical feature. It's amazing that the creators were able to come up with a new film that has a few very minor similarities, but takes this series in a totally new direction and actually is funnier and more entertaining than the timeless first film.
It certainly helps that the original voices return here, with the focus again being on Tom Hanks' Woody doll and Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear. Speaking of "Lightyear", the only thing that I ever think Pixar did wrong was spin off the "Lightyear" story into a less-than-average video release that came out a few years ago. But, back to "Toy 2". After a wonderfully clever opening with Buzz trying to attempt to defeat his enemy, the emperor Zurg (I won't give away the details), we find out that not only has Woody been injured, today's the day of a yard sale. When Woody attempts a rescue of a toy that's being put up for sale, he finds himself toynapped by a collector who believes that he's a valuable toy that he'll sell to a museum.
The first film was stunning on its own, but there are scenes and moments here that really take the characters and situations to another level. When Buzz and the gang find that Woody's been toynapped, they attempt to go across town to the collector's store - Al's Toy Barn - and get their beloved friend back - part of which involves crossing the street and the ending of which reminded me of a scene in "Daylight". There are more great moments where that came from, including some hilarious gags. Additionally, the technology of the second film is an improvement over the original's CG animation. "Toy Story 2" is a marvel to watch - wildly entertaining, well-written and voiced, the film is a sequel that actually manages to surpass the often-brilliant original. Another great film for kids and adults alike.
VIDEO: The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The original release offered dazzling image quality, and this new release also offers extraordinary image quality. It's hard to imagine an improvement over the original release, and this edition really doesn't provide much of one: the picture seemed a tiny bit smoother and crisper and depth appeared a tad better, but not by much.
There didn't seem to be one flaw apparent throughout the entire running time. No edge enhancement was seen, no pixelation was noticed and no shimmering was seen. Being a direct-from-digital transfer, there's no print flaws. Colors looked stunning, appearing perfectly saturated and never smeary. Flawless.
SOUND: The film is presented by Disney in remastered Dolby Digital 5.1-EX and DTS 6.1-ES. Sound designer Gary Rydstrom and his team do a fantastic job at creating a universe of sounds for these characters to live in, giving additional depth and space to the events and environments in the picture. Surrounds are used consistently throughout the movie and do a very effective job at enveloping the viewer. This is especially evident in scenes like the one where Andy drops the broken Woody, letting him fall into a realm of lost toys, as well as the scene on the elevator with Buzz fighting Zurg. Audio quality was terrific, with punchy, dynamic effects, a rich-sounding score and crystal clear dialogue. The DTS presentation showed some minor improvements over the Dolby Digital edition, as it sounded slightly more enveloping and offered a bit richer, tighter bass.
EXTRAS: Commentary: Again, we meet with the Usual Pixar Suspects: director John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon are here, and they have a lot of fun again discussing the ways that they went about animating the second feature, and the advancements that were made between the two, such as the introduction of the character of the dog, Buster and the detail that went into animating him. They also chat again here with plenty of amusing details about how they worked together to plan out some of the details of the plot, as well as their inspirations for some of the bits throughout the movie. As with the first commentary, the 4 point out work that other members of the Pixar crew did for a certain scene as well as what it was like to work with the actors who provides the vocals for the characters.
The commentary is both informative and entertaining, with almost no pauses throughout the track. There's even some other fun little bits as the group points out little jokes that the viewer may not have seen on their first time through the picture. A commentary track that's definitely worth a listen, although unfortunately it's not a new track (it's the same commentary as was on the "Ultimate Toy Box" DVD edition.)
Outtakes: A number of extremely funny "outtakes" from the movie that are hilarious, including a "Bug's Life" bit and a letterbox joke from the little aliens, as one of which asks the other if he can be seen in the first movie.
"Making Of" is a fairly short (around 9 minutes) featurette that goes into story details and discusses some of the jumps in technology that were put into play to make the second feature. "Behind the Scenes" is a series of sections that includes "Design" (character galleries and 3D turnarounds, as well as set and color , "Story" (2 storyboard sequences), "Production" ("Designing Woody's Past", "Making Woody's Roundup", "Production Tour", "Production Progression", "Early Animation Tests", "Special Effects" and "International Scene"), "Music and Sound" ("Making the Songs", "Jessie's Song" demo, "Woody's Roundup", "Designing Sound" featurette and "Mixing Demo") and "Publicity" (trailers, TV spots, posters and character interviews.) We also get a "John Lasseter Profile" and "Cast of Characters" featurette.
"The Toy Box" offers the previously mentioned outtakes, "Who's The Coolest Toy?" featurette, "Which Toy Are You?" game, "Riders in the Sky" music medley, "Autographed Pictures" and "Ponkickies" (Woody and Buzz's brief clips on a Japanese TV show playing "Rock, Paper, Scissors".) Finally, we get three deleted scenes. Most of this material was found on the "Ultimate Toy Box" edition.
Finally, there are $3 off coupons for "Toy Story: Special Edition" (act quickly - ends 12/31/05) and "The Incredibles" (expires 1/31/06)
Final Thoughts: "Toy Story 2" remains a joy to watch: it's a rare sequel that manages to be a bit funnier, faster and bigger than the already classic original. This DVD edition offers outstanding audio/video quality and a very nice helping of supplements. Those who already own the now out-of-print "Ultimate Toy Story" box probably don't need to upgrade here, but those who don't should look into purchasing this release.
The Film A