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Monday, November 8, 2010

Blu-Ray Review: Toy Story 3

Posted by Ned Lannamann on Mon, Nov 8, 2010 at 2:21 PM

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To most moviegoers, Pixar can do no wrong: They've been batting 1.000 since the release of the first Toy Story in 1995—or .909 if you count Cars as their lone failure (and if you do, beware: Cars 2 comes out next summer). Either way, an A average, to say the least. And last summer's release of Toy Story 3 didn't exactly fuck things up for them. It held the high standards of not only the Toy Story movies but Pixar's brand as a whole. Made with nearly seven times the budget of the first Toy Story, the third one brought back all the old characters and introduced some new ones. Whatever complaints you may have had about it—Randy Newman's treacly score, Tom Hanks' slightly annoying Woody, perhaps too many new characters to keep track of—they were lost in comparison to the movie's overall delight.

Three home editions of Toy Story 3 were released by Disney last week: a single-disc regular DVD edition, a two-disc Blu-Ray edition, and a bloated four-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo edition. Which edition you buy will depends on what kind of player you have, obviously (and your budget—the four-disc version costs $5 more than the two-disc), and here's where I find room to grumble about one of the most delightful, family-friendly movies of the year. I'm of the opinion that these combo Blu-Ray/regular-DVD editions that Disney puts out are totally unnecessary. Unless you need a regular DVD version of the movie in addition to the Blu-Ray, PLUS another disc that contains a digital copy so you can watch the damn thing on your phone (and if so, who are you? Why are you watching this movie so many times?), you can happily stick with the two-disc Blu-Ray version.

In fact, even the two-disc Blu-Ray is bloated: the commentary tracks are bafflingly put on disc two, meaning the full movie runs on both discs. The extras are mostly dispensable, with the obvious exception of Pixar's animated short "Day & Night," which ran in front of Toy Story 3 in the theaters. A combo of 2D and 3D animation, "Day & Night" is great, and weirdly difficult to describe, but it's the only essential bonus feature on the disc. The mini-docs are marginally interesting, proving that Pixar is just as in love with itself as the rest of the world is. They discuss the magic of moviemaking and the wonder of storytelling in such earnest terms that you might barf just a tiny bit. Here is follows a list of actual things I learned by watching these documentaries: The Pixar studio has a cereal bar! Also, Toy Story 3 was apparently a lot of work.

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There's certainly the school of thought that thinks the more Toy Story 3 bonus material, the better. But I would have rather seen one concisely edited 20-minute doc, rather than the smattering of a dozen or so five-minute docs. By putting the commentary on disc 1 along with the main feature, and by trimming down the docs, Toy Story 3 could have been a compact, convenient, one-disc Blu-Ray edition. Instead, the four-disc edition has the same movie FOUR TIMES ON FOUR DISCS. This is wasteful, to say the least. I suppose I shouldn't complain too much; the four-disc edition is now available for only $24.99 on Amazon, so it's not exactly breaking the bank. In fact, you could even splurge and get the 10-disc edition that includes all three Toy Story movies ($100, or $65 right now on Amazon).

Whichever route you choose, it's probably worth it. Toy Story 3 simply looks fantastic on Blu-Ray, which is hardly a surprise: Pixar puts an enormous amount of detail into every shot, and every scene bounces with color and motion. Blu-Ray is the best possible way to replicate the film in your home, a noticeable leap over DVD, and the only way you can still be skeptical about that is if you've still never seen Blu-Ray. Yes, it sucks having to start your collection over again in a whole new medium, but Blu-Ray is, unfortunately, worth it.

A side note: A 3D home edition of Toy Story 3 has yet to be announced. As 3D slowly makes its way into the home market, with 3D Blu-Ray releases slowly popping up on the schedule (Avatar will be available on Blu-Ray 3D starting December 1 as part of a Panasonic promotional starter pack, complete with 3D goggles), it's possible that another edition of Toy Story 3 (with 3D) will appear on Blu-Ray in the future. But it won't happen for a while. And you don't need it: Toy Story 3 works just as well without it. Now, what to do with all these goddamn extra discs...

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