Written PostJosh Enjoys a Double-Feature of Toy Story & Toy Story 2 in Glorious 3-D!!

Josh Enjoys a Double-Feature of Toy Story & Toy Story 2 in Glorious 3-D!!

Last week I had the pleasure of taking in a double-feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, re-done in beautiful 3-D.  What a glorious time in a movie theatre!

It seems that 3-D is really starting to be embraced by the studios.  There have been a number of big 3-D releases in the past year, with a LOT more on the horizon.  (Personally I’m looking forward to James Cameron’s Avatar and, further in the future, Steven Spielberg & Peter Jackson’s collaboration on Tintin.)  I’ve skipped most of the recent 3-D films since they really didn’t interest me.  I did see Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf (from 2007), and while the 3-D was cool, it still made my head hurt at times, and the film itself (minus the excitement of the 3-D effects) was entirely forgettable.  After that I stayed away from 3-D films until I saw Pixar’s Up this summer (read my review here), which was magnificent.  The film itself was wonderful, and the gorgeous visuals were only enhanced by the beautiful, immersive 3-D.

Pixar’s big release for summer 2010 will be the long-awaited Toy Story 3, which will be presented in 3-D.  To build some anticipation for the film, Disney and Pixar have re-done the first two Toy Story films in 3-D, and released them to theatres for a limited 2-week engagement this month.

Even without the 3-D, it was an enormous pleasure to re-watch those two films.  I really liked the first Toy Story, and I was bowled over by Toy Story 2 when it came out — I thought it was endlessly clever, quite effectively emotional, and also totally hysterical.  The Toy Story “Toy Box set” (containing both films plus a third disc filled with special features) was one of the very first DVDs I ever bought, and I watched Toy Story 2 several times those first few years.

So while I know Toy Story 2 really well, it had been quite a while since I had last seen the first Toy Story.  I was really pleasantly surprised by how well it holds up.  There are moments when it is clear how far Pixar’s animation has progressed (the fur on Sid’s dog, for instance, is pretty much just a solid shape, as opposed to the dynamic fur effects we’d see later on with Sulley and the Abominable Snowman a few years later in Monsters, Inc.), but over-all the animation holds up wonderfully.  The characters move naturally and — more importantly — really feel ALIVE as opposed to being just nicely-rendered CGI constructs.  This is helped by the genius voice-casting.  Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are absolutely perfect in the roles, and their relationship is the heart of the film.  While Toy Story may be a simpler tale than the more elaborate and emotionally complex sequel, it is still gripping almost 15 years later.

Which brings me to the profoundly amazing sequel, Toy Story 2.  From the astounding opening action-adventure sequence with Buzz Lightyear (which is chock-full of gorgeous imagery and wonderful jokes, such as the battery-shaped “source of Zurg’s power” to the Also Sprach Zarathustra chimes emitted by the holographic steps Buzz jumps on in Zurg’s lair) right through to the very, very funny fake out-takes that play over the closing credits, this film fires on every cylinder.  The story is remarkably complex, filled with interweaving narratives and some surprisingly sophisticated story-lines.  The tragic nature of the limited time that Woody and the gang have to be enjoyed by Andy before he grows up and discards them is laid bare, and the film doesn’t provide any easy answers to that dilemma.  And Jessie’s lament, set to the song When Somebody Loves You, is as powerful a two-minutes of animation as I’ve ever seen (perhaps only equalled by the opening scenes of this year’s Up).  Despite those tough issues, there is also an extraordinary amount of humor in the film.  The voice-cast is really let loose, and it’s the side characters (including Wallace Shawn as Rex, John Ratzenberger as Hamm, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, and Jim Varney as Slinky Dog, not to mention all the new additions to this sequel including Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head, Kelsey Grammer as the Prospector, Joan Cusack as Jessie, and Wayne Knight as Andy “the chicken man”) who really make the film.

All of which brings me to the new 3-D.  Wow.  As with Up, this isn’t gimmicky, in-your-face 3-D.  (This is hardly surprising, as these films weren’t originally designed for 3-D.)  Instead, the 3-D effects are used to create an expansive, immersive environment.  While it might be an exaggeration to say that you, the audience member, feel as if you’re right there amongst the characters, the 3-D does serve to open up the visual world of the story to a remarkable degree.  It’s the highest compliment that I can pay the artists and technicians involved to say that after a few minutes I completely forgot about the 3-D effects, and just found myself carried along by the films.  I am also happy to report that I didn’t experience any annoying 3-D-created headaches, despite watching two complete films back-to-back wearing the 3-D glasses.

I wish more studios would re-release classic films to be enjoyed again on the big-screen.  It was a great pleasure seeing Toy Story and Toy Story 2 again, and the wonderful new 3-D enhancements to both films were just the icing on the cake.