By Gordon Meyer
Back in 1995, a not so quiet revolution was about to take place with the release of “Toy Story,” the very first feature length film that was made entirely using computer generated imagery and rendering. It put Pixar on the map and began an unparalleled track record of box office success. Almost immediately, pundits erroneously credited the film’s success to the technology behind it, declaring the pending end of traditional cell-based animation.
What the pundits ignored, but director John Lasseter and writers Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Joe Ranft, Alec Sokolow, Joel Cohen and Joss Whedon knew that, more than anything else, a successful movie has as its foundation a solid script built around believable characters the audience cares about. The technology used to execute the story is simply the means to an end.
A few years ago, when “Toy Story 3” was in the works as a feature conceived and created in 3D, Disney converted the first two films in the franchise to 3D for a limited run theatrical reissue. Now the three films are out on 3D Blu-ray and I was reminded of just how good the storytellers at Pixar are. The “Toy Story” 3D Blu-rays came out November 1.
The thing that strikes me about all three “Toy Story” movies is, in spite of the fact that the main characters are supposedly inanimate objects; there is a deep underlying humanity to them, showcasing qualities of ingenuity and loyalty. All three movies are essentially about rescue missions where the toys team up against impossible odds to save their friends. Even though the basic template for each film remains similar, by focusing on that humanity and human qualities, they’ve created a trio of classic movies that Walt Disney himself would have been immensely proud of.
As for the Blu-rays themselves, as has become standard issue for Disney, the three titles come as multi-disc combo packs with separate discs for the 3D BD, 2D BD (including bonus content), DVD and digital download. All the bonus content is on the 2D disc and the DVD. The 3D disc is strictly the feature. As has been Disney’s practice in putting out 3D BDs of movies previously released on BD, they simply added another disc with the 3D version. So if you already have the 2D Blu-rays of these movies, you’ve already got all the bonus content.
Like other Pixar releases, the bonus content is top notch, especially the “making of” featurettes on all three titles. They are insightful, informative and really good primers on how to make a successful movie.
The 3D itself, both in “Toy Story 3,” which was produced in 3D, and the 3D conversions of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2,” is excellent. Of course in converting a CG film from 2D to 3D, the folks at Pixar had the benefit of being able to go back to the original computer files which created a 3D universe already. At that point, it was just about rendering stereoscopic views. However as simple as that may sound, there were still judgment calls to be made in terms of depth and how much of the imagery should come “in front” of the screen.
Here’s another arena where the filmmakers at Pixar prove themselves to be masters. Lasseter and his team follow the same “window onto another world, rather than things coming out of a window” vision that James Cameron embraces. All three films use 3D to effectively immerse the audience in their respective worlds in ways that enhance the viewing experience without getting gimmicky. All three movies serve as great titles to show off your 3D system as well.
All three films were reviewed using my standard test platform of a 64 bit Windows 7 computer system with a Plextor Blu-ray drive, NVIDIA GeForce 480 graphics board with 3D Vision processing, CyberLink’s PowerDVD 11 software and LG W2363D 23” widescreen monitor.