As I write this review, rumor has it that Disney and Pixar will put aside their past differences and strike a new deal, the result of which could be the House of Mouse opening its checkbook and buying the animation studio. It’s certainly the best thing that could happen to both companies, since Pixar needs a distribution partner and Disney desperately needs to recapture the qualities that once made it special. And who really wants to see a “Toy Story 3” created by Disney? (It’s in the works, by the way; I only hope that what’s been created will be tossed in favor of a Pixar plot.)
No matter how a third “Toy Story” film comes about, however, it will have a tough time topping the second installment, which is not only one of those rare sequels on par with the original but also a great film in its own right. Only Pixar can imbue pieces of plastic with rich inner lives that strike universal emotional chords. For example, how can you watch the sequence where Jessie relates her past to Woody and not feel the slightest bit choked up by the end of it? Very few films hit the high notes that well, animated or not.
I assume you know the plot of “Toy Story 2” by now, so I’ll skip the summary and dive into this two-disc set. While it’s irritating that Disney plays games with its movies on home video—yes, this one is “released from the vault for a limited time only”—this set has a lot going for it, especially for anyone who doesn’t own this film yet, or only has the bare bones version that came out after the jam-packed “Ultimate Toy Box.” While I have no desire to part with my copy of the “Ultimate Toy Box” anytime soon, this “Woody’s Roundup Edition” has a nice mix of new stuff as well as supplements repurposed from that original set, which at the time of its release set a standard for DVD excellence.
Disc one contains the movie, its picture and soundtrack remastered for those of you with kick-a*s home theater systems. It also features the same commentary found in the “Ultimate Toy Box.” John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon and Andrew Stanton offer up the kind of information you’d expect to hear: how the film came together; why they decided to make a sequel; what kinds of creative decisions had to be made; etc. You can tell they’re enjoying themselves, especially Lasseter, who truly is a kid at heart. Pixar’s commentaries are always a fun listen.
The first disc also features a sneak peek for “Cars,” Pixar’s upcoming summer 2006 film, as well as other Disney DVD releases, and a brief introduction by Lasseter.
Rather than one big making-of, disc two features a bunch of featurettes, leading off with the “Toy Box” section. In there you’ll find the outtakes originally shown during the closing credits, the quiz game “Which Toy Are You?” and the game “Ponkickies,” which features a take-off on a Japanese TV show. I’m not sure that either of the games will hold anyone’s interest for more than a few minutes each.
Moving on, we have about four minutes worth of deleted scenes that show a different version of the sequence in which the toys cross the road to get to Al’s Toy Barn, as well as a different way for Woody to wind up at the yard sale. I always enjoy seeing how filmmakers arrive at the final versions of their stories, and these bits show how Pixar constantly refines plots until they’re tight.
Disc two also features “Making Toy Story 2,” the “Riders in the Sky Music Medley” bit, and a video montage of autographed photos. That first one is a repeat from the “Ultimate Toy Box,” but it’s still worth revisiting.
The final section on disc two is the one that houses all the behind-the-scenes stuff. We get a John Lasseter profile, a piece that covers the film’s characters, a design gallery slide show and early storyboards for the “Woody’s nightmare” and “Jessie’s Song” sequences, with the latter getting a multi-angle feature. Finally, we have a series of really short featurettes, each of them less than five minutes, that explore how the film’s story was created, early animation tests and progression montages, the sound design and the movie’s music. Trailers, TV spots, posters and “interviews” with the film’s characters round out the disc.
While it bugs the crap out of me how some studios milk the DVD cow for all it’s worth by reissuing their films over and over with new editions, this version of “Toy Story 2” is the only one you can get right now. While those of you with the “Ultimate Toy Box” set are probably content with what you have, those of you who want the remastered picture and sound, as well as any stragglers who haven’t purchased this movie yet, should grab this one before Disney sticks it back in the vault for 10 years. Don’t say they didn’t warn you.