Pixar is always one to make evolutionary leaps in technology, with subtle changes between in films that somehow make all the difference. Yet when it comes to the Blu-ray 3D presentations of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, the jump is more drastic than any Pixar has taken to date. The straight-up graphical improvements cannot be denied, but it’s the little nuances between the first and second outings of Buzz Lightyear and Co. — things like depth of field and improved animations — that help make the 3D effects so much more robust and refined. The differences are striking, and they’re a bit surprising as well, considering the entire Toy Story trilogy released on Blu-ray 3D at the same time.
Toy Story 2 has the franchise’s most awesome opening scene whether viewed in standard 2D or in 3D, but seeing it in 3D is nothing short of astounding. As Buzz bursts forth toward the camera the 3D effect is great, truly as if he’s poking from the TV, and his trench run-like race through the canyon will have you holding your breath until Star Wars: Episode IV releases in 3D. Even something as simple as the spiked hallway wall that chases after Buzz has great depth, with its points jutting from the center and nearly poking you in the eye. Heck, even the stars in the background sky seem to have depth.
Generally speaking, the scenes in which characters and props are contained fully within the frame “pop” off screen more than anything else, as was the case with the original Toy Story on Blu-ray 3D. However, the Blu-ray 3D presentation of Toy Story 2 looks much more impressive than its predecessor because of Pixar’s advancements in animation between the first and second film. As Pixar grew up, so did its animation techniques; the studio made greater use of depth-of-field blurring, for instance, to indicate a sense of depth even in two dimensions. The result in 3D, though, makes it really feel as though you’re looking at an object or character that’s really there.
As we noted in our Toy Story Blu-ray 3D review, the overall video sharpness seems much crisper than we’ve ever seen in Toy Story 2, even when compared to the film’s normal Blu-ray release. The character models and animations, though, seem much more refined than the first outing, and environmental surfaces don’t have the same “overly-glossed” reflections that victimized the original. These factors all make Toy Story 2 look much more realistic in 3D. Yet it’s truly the advancements in depth of field that make Toy Story 2 a step above when it comes to 3D effects. Remember, the original Toy Story was the first feature-length computer-animated film, so a jump in technology was inevitable between the first and second. It’s just funny now to see how that the technology advancements also have unintended but noticeable impacts on the 3D effects, as well.
The whole movie has much better scene composition and cinematography than the first, probably attributed to these same technology changes. It also has more outstanding 3D scenes. Perhaps the best 3D sequence in the whole movie is Woody’s dream of Andy leaving him at home rather than taking him to cowboy camp. In this scene, Woody imagines himself falling from Andy’s grip all the way down to the floor. While the camera pans back, it makes the fall seem that much farther. As he approaches the floor, Woody actually ends up falling through it and into a garbage can, where a slew of abandoned toys assemble Voltron-style into a monster. The camera pan and the visage of Woody falling completely in frame toward the camera is astounding in 3D, and the process of monster assembling looks great.
Another effective 3D scene comes in the apartment of Al’s Toy Barn’s owner, when Woody first learns his backstory and plays with the licensed toys. One of the toys is a hat that, when pumped like a water well pump, blows bubbles. The visual fidelity and animation of the bubbles is great, but seeing the bubbles in 3D is a total riot. Shortly after that sequence, Woody’s friends meander through the city to Al’s Toy Barn, and as they wave through plants and underneath a mailbox, the 3D effects are remarkable. Truly, if there’s a fault in this 3D presentation, it’s that I can’t come up with enough creative ways to praise it.
Even just the first half-hour of Toy Story 2 has more dimensional effects than all of Toy Story 1 on Blu-ray 3D, and you don’t have to pause the video to appreciate them. Part of it’s the visual quality, part of it’s the animation adjustments, but most of it is the evolution of the CG industry between the first and second films. I never thought depth of field could be so impactful, but watching these films back to back, it’s amazing to see the impact such a seemingly minor aspect can have on perception. Toy Story 2 is a classic Disney*Pixar film; its 3D effects are destined to go down as classics as well.
Check Amazon’s pricing for Toy Story 2 on Blu-ray 3D: Toy Story 2 (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy).