Friday, November 05, 2010

Toy Story 3: Perfect Home Entertainment

The Toy Story franchise has become a unique pop culture phenomenon where commercial success and critical accolades have married to give it a stature quite unrivaled in the history of cinema.  Toy Story 3 most certainly lives up to that legendary status.  It is a great, great film that both continues and reinforces Pixar's well-deserved and unbroken record of success.

I could easily go on at great length about the technically flawless presentation that is Toy Story 3 on Blu-Ray, but that type of dissertation has become old news here at 2719 Hyperion.  To borrow liberally from Mary Poppins: Pixar + Blu-Ray + Home Theater = "practically perfect in every way."  Let's move on to the fun stuff.

Like all other Pixar films on Blu-Ray/DVD, the special features on Toy Story 3 are generous, creatively produced and thoroughly entertaining.  Here are some of the highlights:

Day and Night
Shown in theaters with Toy Story 3, this funny and imaginative cartoon short is a creative amalgam of hand-drawn and computer animation. It is difficult at best to provide a textual description of this very unique film, but that only speaks to its stunning originality and very clever concept.  Its gentle message about finding common ground (sometimes very literally) is especially relevant in our increasingly polarized social and political cultures.  A quick two-minute Making of Day and Night promotional piece is also included, where the film's creators also struggle to put into words what the short is all about.

The Gang's All Here
What should have been a simple profile of the film's voice cast turns into an unexpected emotional ambush.  Actors such as Tom Hanks are unabashed in professing their very sentimental attachments to the films, the characters and Pixar itself.  Especially poignant is when Blake Clark talks of taking over the role of Slinky Dog, due to the death of Jim Varney shortly after the release of Toy Story 2.  Clark and Varney had been close friends and the brief and somewhat unintended testimonials that emerge from both Clark and director Lee Unkrich are sincere and heartfelt.  Similarly, when Unkrich discusses seeking out John Morris, who voiced Andy in the first two films, we find ourselves drawn into a very emotional reunion between character and actor as the adult Morris steps back into the role he first performed at age seven.

Paths to Pixar: Editorial
This is a quick five-minute profile of the film editors of Toy Story 3.  No more than a series of talking head clips that is in fact surprisingly informative and entertaining due to its, well . . . very polished and professional editing.

Studio Stories
Definitely one of the highlights of the bonus features, these three bare-bones animated vignettes profile behind the scenes antics at the Pixar Studios.  Where's Gordon? features Andrew Gordon's hidden room, while Cereal Bar spotlights the studio's legendary lobby area buffet.  But the funniest and most entertaining of the three is Clean Start, which chronicles the hair-cutting and subsequent hair regrowing activities of the Toy Story 3 crew.  Each short ends with the disclaimer, "99% true . . . as far as we recall."

The bonus features also offer up a host of very entertaining publicity shorts and commercials that can prove new to folks who don't frequent the Disney Channel or YouTube.  Among the standouts are Ken's Dating Tips and a very cleverly created Lots-o'-Huggin' Bear TV commercial artificially dating back to the 1980s.  For hardcore film fans there are two separate commentary tracks and numerous other short "making of" vignettes beyond the ones we have already mentioned.  Also included is the obligatory child friendly game, this time in the form of the Toy Story Trivia Dash.  Another kid-centric feature is the Buzz Lightyear Mission Log: The Science of Adventure, which profiles the character's journey into space (at least in toy form) with the crew of the space shuttle Discovery.

As noted, it's hard to go wrong with a Pixar Blu-Ray DVD and Toy Story 3 proves no exception.  Highly recommended.