Toy Story 3 Blu-ray Review

The success and creative excellence of Pixar’s Toy Story and its equally amazing sequel, Toy Story 2, left little room for error in the third and likely final outing for Andy’s toy collection in Toy Story 3. If we’ve learned anything from Woody, Buzz and the gang it’s that family perseveres no matter the pressure or odds.

“Family” is an important theme that runs throughout the Toy Story trilogy, especially in Toy Story 3. The looming question for the past decade of “what becomes of Andy’s toys once he grows up” provides no straightforward answer, instead sending the toys on a rowdy adventure into a daycare center where all is not what it seems. Here the toys once again learn – multiple times – that sticking together is more meaningful and fulfilling than pursing individual satisfaction. They’ll need to come together in order to survive a prison escape from the center and the burning flames of a trash dump incinerator. Though perhaps too long in minutes as the toys claw their way towards an ultimate goal, these acts are more than full of heart.

In many respects Andy’s journey with Woody through childhood and into his teenage years reflects the growth of their creator, Pixar. Over time faces change and interests evolve. Yet the core values of sticking together as a family remain intact.

Look no further than Toy Story 3’s Lee Unkrich who worked on all three Toy Story films but only ascended to the director’s chair for the final installment. You’d never know there was a change at the top when watching all three films back-to-back. Toy Story 3 fits in perfectly with its predecessors and provides the near perfect ending to the ultimate story about a boy and his favorite toys. That’s the power of Pixar and their tightly knit family. They’ve got a friend in each other.

High-def Presentation

Pixar films on Blu-ray have become synonymous with perfect scores so to expect anything less would be foolish. Once again Disney and Pixar deliver high definition ecstasy with stunning visuals and a completely immersive 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. There’s little else to say about this 1080p bundle of joy other than be prepared to be floored and expect a double-dip sometime in the future with the 3D version.

Beyond The Feature

Disney and Pixar chose to house most of Toy Story 3’s HD bonus features on a second disc to preserve the bitrate of the feature on disc one. There are a couple supplements on the first disc including the different yet oddly fascinating Day & Night Theatrical Short (6:05, HD) that played in front of Toy Story 3 in theaters, and a kid-oriented Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs (4:30, HD) feature in which Buzz, Rex and Ham teach kids about outer space through Andy’s computer.

After going through the second disc of Toy Story 3 bonus features an impression begins to form that Pixar is recruiting for the filmmaking industry. There’s Cine-Explore with director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla Anderson (1:42:30) who walk through how Toy Story 3 was conceived and executed while picture-in-picture storyboards and other behind-the-scenes materials flash on the screen. In Bonnie’s Playtime (6:26), Unkrich and his story team talk about how they approached this scene to differentiate it from Andy’s room and not distract from the rest of the film.

Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion (8:13) is the most obviously recruiting piece where screenwriter Michael Hart talks about the difficulty in setting up the film and then compares breaking down the screenwriting process with Finding Nemo, Toy Story and The Incredibles. A cartoon that narrates Michael’s thoughts is a bit goofy, but what he presents makes you want to write your own screenplay. Beyond the Toy Box: An Alternate Commentary Track has no PiP functionality but feeds tons of filmmaking information from the story, tech, art and animation leads.

In Roundin’ Up a Western Opening (5:42), Darla and Lee return from Cine-Explore to expand upon the opening’s inspiration and execution with the help of tons of storyboard images. Paths to Pixar: Editorial (4:38) chats with the Pixar editing team to talk about how they do their job and why it’s so great. For forget screenwriting; now you’ll want to be an editor.

Life of a Shot (6:57) breaks down the complexity of one single image from the film. There’s a lot that has to happen for a single frame to be brought to life. Story 3 wouldn’t be complete without Making of Day and Night (2:00) in which the crew behind the short has a hard time describing what they’ve done. The bottom line: it works.

The bonus features end on a light note with a Toy Story Trivia Dash Game where one or two players can answer trivia questions from Toy Story 3 or the entire trilogy. Time is of the essence so the two-player mode can be quite competitive for kids or adults. Lastly there’s 3 Studio Stories, an absolutely bizarre collection of animated “life at Pixar” stories that are presented as being 99% true but are really hard to believe.

At last check you could buy Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray with the added bonus of the DVD version and a digital copy for under $25. This is an exemplary release worth at least $10 more, another notch in Pixar’s belt of brilliance. The only reason not to buy Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray is if you already own it as part of the Ultimate Toy Box Collection.

– Dan Bradley

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