We are only a few short months away from the highly anticipated release of Toy Story 3 from Pixar, so it is only fitting that Disney would take the opportunity to re-release the first two entries in the series on DVD like they did in theatres last fall. This time, of course, it’s available in stunning Blu-Ray which leaves the picture looking brighter and better than it did on the big screen back in 1995. The animation itself is showing some signs of aging, the people look blockier, the dog much less realistic than those found in Up, but it hardly feels old. For those who are already familiar with the Toy Story films and the rest of Pixar’s library the best thing about revisiting them now is that you get a chance to see how far the studio has come and what has changed. Much has stayed the same, but one thing that stood out to me was the way in which they seemed more eager to play around with sight gags and puns in much the same way that the writers of The Simpsons do.

As the film opens Woody (Tom Hanks), a dated cowboy is the clear leader of a group of toys who all live in the bedroom of a nice little boy named Andy. It’s his birthday so the toys have sent a platoon of army men downstairs to scope out his gifts and report back via Walkie Talkie. Mr. Potato Head openly pines for a Mrs. Potato Head and when somebody has the audacity to give Andy bed sheets another toy cracks “Who invited that kid?” What is really on their minds though is the possibility of being replaced by something new and shiny, turns out that toys don’t like that either. But luck is not on their side and Andy scores a Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), the new toy to have and within days Woody is all but forgotten, as everybody is completely smitten with the new flying astronaut. Soon, Woody, racked with depression, becomes desperate and accidentally on purpose launches Buzz out of the second story window. Now, worse than ignored, everybody views him as a murderer. One thing leads to another and soon, Woody and Buzz, mortal enemies, find themselves stranded in the middle of the suburbs with only a day to return home before Andy and his family and scheduled to move.

The plot is fairly basic but never simple because the ingenious writers have a plethora of fresh ideas to share with the world. Their nastiest creation is Sid, Andy’s next-door neighbor, and the bulk of the action takes place inside his room/dungeon. A sadistic little brat, he takes great pleasure in mutilating and destroying his toys. Those toys of his that have survived are cobbled together from whatever broken pieces were laying around thus his room comes off as a creepy funhouse that crawled out of the mind of Stephen King. Sid’s parents, never seen or heard, are the true villains here and that point is underlined in a scene late in the film where Sid casually asks his mother where the matches are before openly announcing that he had found them. . .she remains silent. Now what kind of parenting is that? And if all that wasn’t enough Woody and Buzz also have to contend with Sid’s rabid dog and his seemingly innocent sister who is always trying to get them drunk on Darjeeling.

What the good folks at Pixar basically did, all those years ago, was take the sloppy mess that was The Indian in the Cupboard and refine it, filling it out with jokes about Picasso and drawing real flesh and blood characters out of plastic toys that we all know intimately. The climax is a little too spastic for its own good but it is brilliant in the way that nearly every scene that came before it is called back in one way or another. There are hints of the rather worn out “Follow your dreams” and “Believe in yourself” themes but they are overpowered by the omnipresent idea that getting old is just part of life, and that there will always be something newer and more exciting to compete with so it is best to not even try. For those of you who have already seen this movie we strongly urge you to watch it again, in Blu-Ray this time, as some of the lines probably went right over your head the first time and others have undoubtedly been lost to time. Plus, how else are you going to know what’s going on when you sit down for Toy Story 3 this summer?

Blu-ray Special Features:

*Toy Story 3 sneak peek
*3 animated studio stories
*Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs
*Buzz takes Manhattan

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney
Director: John Lasseter
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Runtime: 81 minutes
Rated: G

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