Collaboration - It has always been much easier to appreciate those who work on live-action films, with the actor’s work on display, the production designer’s influence shown in the background, and the director’s manipulation of the camera clearly visible. However, animated films are meticulously put together by hundreds of people throughout the production process, and they don’t usually receive the same notoriety as the project leaders. The Toy Story 3 Blu-ray/DVD sets allow some of the many unheralded heroes who put together this masterful film to speak directly to the audience and describe the collaborative process of bringing the film to the big screen. Fans of special features, your definitive window into the Toy Story 3 process has arrived.
Story – I previously spoke about Toy Story 3 in-depth in my review of the film. To read the full review, click here. Overall, the film gave us the perfect ending to an amazing trilogy, which is incredibly uncommon today. Somewhere in the span of three films, studios are actually expected to falter. The Lord of the Rings comes to mind when discussing trilogies that worked. The reason why it was so successful is because those who worked on the film realized that you don’t always have to go bigger to be better. The story comes first, and you need to give the audience a satisfying conclusion to make them feel that the second and third films were worth making. The films need to stand on their own, and at the same time continue and bring to an end the overall storyline. Director Lee Unkrich and the many people at Pixar who worked on the film have not only given us a spectacular ending to a trilogy, but they have proven that with a great story and incredible talent, anything is possible.
Video and Audio - In a film where the colors are so important to the mood of the film, the images are vibrant and jump off the screen. The bright atmospheres on the Blu-ray transfer show the serious attention to detail given to the characters in the forefront and the side-characters in the background who are only seen for a brief moment. When the story takes a dark turn in the second half, the shadows enhance the dire situation the toys have been thrown into. Humans have been especially difficult for animation studios to nail down. In Toy Story 3, where the toys and humans inject a great emotional quality to the story, crude-looking humans could have proven disastrous. Could you imagine thinking, “Wow, Andy looks pretty funny there” in the final scene? That would have had the potential of ruining the intense moment and the film as a whole. On the Blu-ray, the visuals receive an enhancement that causes you to marvel at the wizards at Pixar, who really are second-to-none.
Additionally, Pixar and Dolby worked together to bring us a Dolby Surround 7.1 option, ensuring that no sound effect would be clouded by a weak audio transfer. I personally do not have a 7.1 set-up at home so I was unable to test the limits of the audio, although what I did hear was pristine audio. Audiophiles will no doubt enjoy listening to Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray.
Special Features – In the past decade, special features have become a standard in home releases. DVDs and Blu-rays have given studios the ability to include great stories from the behind-the-scenes process. Not only has Pixar started to increase the amount of bonus features they include in their Blu-ray and DVD sets, but they have gone about giving them to us in truly ingenious ways.
Pixar’s releases have recently included a new series of creative features, Studio Stories and Paths to Pixar. Each new film release brings with it a great new addition to these ongoing features and this is no different with Toy Story 3. Studio Stories presents short stories in almost a crude form of 2D animation. The animation itself does not show laziness on the part of the studio. It actually clues us into the personality of those who work at Pixar, giving a narrative and a face to the famed studio’s employees.
Several Studio Stories are present: “Cereal Bar” gives us a look at the great room of cereal (that’s right, a room of cereal!) at the studio’s headquarters in Emeryville and “Where’s Gordon?” shows us the secret room that an animator found and turned into a go-to spot for studio visitors. The standout, though, is “Clean Start,” which is a humorous take on how the many people on the production team shaved their heads and beards for Toy Story 3. The shorts are narrated by animators and others who work at Pixar, which again, helps to show who these creative people are and the unique environment they work together in.
This installment of Paths to Pixar sheds some light on the editors at Pixar, including Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, who originally came to Pixar to edit the original Toy Story. It is a great look at how editors on Pixar films play a bigger role in what we see on the screen than editors on live-action films.
“Beginnings With Michael Arndt” puts us into the mind of the film’s screenwriter, and is essentially a class in writing for film. It shows hardcore film fans the story-writing pattern that was used in several Pixar films, giving us the insight that was used in producing their creative openings. At the same time, it does a great job at making the process approachable to the casual viewer, with Arndt presenting it in an entertaining manner.
No review would be complete without a look at the commentary tracks on the discs. Director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson smash in as many stories from the film’s production process as can be allotted in the film’s running time. The two comment on the limits of how much they can cover, and it is sad once the film comes to an end and you know their commentary is almost over. We get an in-depth look at the film through the eyes of the creative leaders, and it is such a joy to listen to. Those who enjoy the film will likely walk away from the commentary with a greater appreciation for the difficult film process. The Cine-Explore track is also accompanied by many images and video clips, which enhances their commentary.
Another treat, which captures the collaboration element perfectly, is the additional commentary track called “Beyond The Toybox,” which is exclusive to the Blu-ray sets. The heads of story, tech, art, and animation provide a surprisingly fascinating audio track. While it does include some technical talk, it is all presented in an enjoyable fashion. For those who want more insight into the film, this is another superb extra.
Other features include a look at the voice actors of Toy Story 3, “Life of A Shot” (another amazing bonus feature describing the process of putting together the opening scene, narrated by many of those who worked on it), “Toy Story Trivia Dash” (a fun trivia game for 2 players, which can be a bit frustrating to play at times with a countdown clock constantly running), a roundtable discussion about the film’s final emotional scene and its importance as the trilogy capper, and a behind-the-scenes look at the inventive Day & Night short. Not only are there more special features to be enjoyed that I have not listed here, there are a plethora of trailers and promotional material included that were created to excite audiences prior to its debut in theaters.
The Four-Disc set highlights the great collaboration that went into creating this emotional and creative film. The standalone DVD set has some special features, but the Blu-ray sets are for the ultimate collector, as they come with exclusive special features that increase enjoyment of the film. For a complete breakdown of what the different sets offer, click here.
The Four-Disc Blu-ray/DVD set comes with two Blu-ray discs, a DVD version of the film, and a Digital Copy Disc, which allows you to download the film to load it onto mobile devices. This set provides the best value, as it is only slightly more expensive than the Two-Disc Blu-ray set.
The Toy Story 3 Four-Disc Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack is a set that not only belongs in the library of Pixar fans, but also in the collection of movie buffs. The set provides great stories behind one of Pixar’s greatest films, insight into the many people who brought it to us, and what goes into creating an amazing experience for movie-goers. An absolute must-have.
Toy Story 3 arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on November 2.