"Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2"

Not all DVD versions of the two groundbreaking computer-animated movies are created equal.

By Max Garrone
Published April 5, 2001 7:00PM (EDT)

"Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" (Two Pack)
Directed by John Lasseter
Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn
Walt Disney Home Video: anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio)
Extras: Animated short films "Tin Toy" and "Luxo Jr," outtakes from "Toy Story 2"

The success of the "Toy Story" movies demonstrated that simplicity, at least in plot and character, can translate to quality and pay off at the box office. But unfortunately, some of the versions of "Toy Story" on DVD are as stripped down and spare as the movies, with extra features kept to a bare minimum. Still, it's surprising how brightly these two movies shine -- especially with the crystal-clear digital picture. Back in 1995, "Toy Story" was a technical revelation, an engaging, completely computer-animated movie about the secret life of toys. "Toy Story 2," in 1999, did pretty much the same thing, lagging a bit at moments, but managed to be just as technically and narratively brilliant in developing the further adventures of Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toys in Andy's bedroom.
Both films are about bedrock values like loyalty and consistency of character. In the first, the cowboy doll Woody has to adjust to feeling abandoned when his owner Andy turns his attentions to the new toy, Buzz Lightyear, an astronaut action figure. Later, he has to save Buzz from the evil kid next door. In the second film it's Buzz who leads a squad of toys to rescue Woody from a toy collector who wants to ship the little cowboy to a museum in Japan. Woody has to decide whether he wants to achieve immortality in a museum or fulfill a more emotionally useful role of entertaining his owner. But there's a different reality always lurking in the background. The filmmakers built an idyllic contemporary life for Andy. He lives in a neat neo-Victorian house on a tree-shrouded street with his single mother. She and Andy occupy the most peripheral roles in the movies, but the device works as striking little fillip that makes the movie even more palatable for adults, who can sneer at characters like the evil toy collector Al (whose day job is parading across TV ads in a chicken suit for his toy store) or the little tributes to fiction movies. (In "Toy Story 2," the evil toy Zurg plays the role of Darth Vader and there's a Whack-a-Mole game where baby aliens pop out of a man's chest.)

The DVDs are available by themselves, in a spare two-disc set, or as a three-disc "Ultimate Toy Box" with a full disc of extras. The only extra features on the stand-alone versions and the two-disc set are a pair of animated shorts that prefigure the computer animation used in "Toy Story"; "Tin Toy" and "Luxo Jr." are both delightful and add to an understanding of the animation and storytelling techniques that paid off so grandly in the feature length expeditions. "Toy Story 2" also has a series of animated outtakes like the ones that accompanied the credit sequence of "A Bug's Life." The three-disc "Ultimate Toy Box" includes audio commentaries for both films, deleted animation, hundreds of art stills, 360-degree "sets" that take you inside the movie, a key to hidden jokes, interviews, several shorts that explain the complexities of the animation and all of the work that went into both films, and, notably, a documentary-style piece, "The Story Behind 'Toy Story,'" which goes a long way toward showing both children and adults what made these two films so magical.

Max Garrone

Max Garrone is Salon's Vice President for Operations.

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