Toy Story was the industry’s first full-length CG film, so it isn’t surprising to see Disney release the Toy Story trilogy on Blu-ray 3D, a still-fresh technology that’s bound to take over your living room someday. Toy Story has been out on standard Blu-ray for a while, but its 3D appearance presents a whole new take on the Buzz and Woody experience. Ironically, though, it’s not necessarily the 3D effects that stand out most.
The new 3D presentation opens with a Pixar logo that’s got depth and rotates, and follows that with a great “gotcha” effect as Mr. Potato Head points his gun at the camera and waves it around. Even the opening credits have nice depth as they float above the film. Yet what you really notice in these opening minutes, and indeed for the majority of the film, isn’t the quality of the 3D (which is nice, for the record). Instead, you’ll notice that the crispness, saturation and color depth look even better in Blu-ray 3D release than it did on the original Blu-ray version. Is it possible that Disney updated the film or sweetened it somehow for Blu-ray 3D? I hadn’t heard anything about that prior to the film’s release, but it sure seems that way.
The sharpness is notable in part because most of the film looks like it’s in normal 2D, which makes you pay close attention to the graphics rather than the gotchas. Granted, when the characters are fully shown in the frame, and their feet, head or hands aren’t cut off, the depth is noticeable. But, that doesn’t happen all that often. The film is also edited with pretty fast cuts, so you can’t absorb much of the on-screen action at any one time and therefore can’t appreciate what depth may be there. The first time I noticed this on a Blu-ray 3D movie was on Clash of the Titans 3D, which suffered from incredibly fast edits. In my Clash of the Titans Blu-ray 3D review, I noted that the depth was there in spades, but the movie moved too fast to appreciate it. Likewise, although Toy Story isn’t edited nearly as spastically, it still switches camera views quickly and thus detracts from your overall appreciation of the depth. Oddly enough, I never noticed the quick edits in this film until I watched its 3D presentation.
That’s not to say it’s all downhill after the opening scene with Mr. Potato Head. The scene at the Dinoco gas station has some nice depth due to the serious differentiation between foreground and background, and Buzz and Woody’s first encounter with the green aliens at Pizza Planet is one of the most effective 3D scenes in the film. The way their heads show depth and their antennae jut toward the sky is great, and it makes you want to reach out and hug the little simple-minded buggers.
Other 3D effects are a bit more revolting — in a literal sense. When Sid takes Buzz and Woody to his home and the two heroes encounter the creepy toys, the 3D treatment makes them all the creepier. The spiked hair poking from the arachnid doll’s head, the zombie hand grasping out from the jack-in-the-box, and all the other odd creations just look all the more disturbing in 3D. It really is too bad that this scene is so brief, and that the majority of the films 3D just looks “OK.”
The 2D visuals are so overwhelmingly great that they significantly overpower what little 3D effect is there. Some animated films, Pixar or not, haven’t performed well in 3D, and this seems to be one of them. That’s not to say it isn’t a great-looking film, it’s just that there isn’t anything that makes it stand out among its 3D kin. Watching the on-disc previews — all of which are in 3D — shows some promise for Pixar’s upcoming 3D releases, including Planes (similar to Cars and slated to release in 2013) and Brave (a fantasy film coming in summer 2012). Brave, in particular, looks like it could be awesome, with a red-headed girl dismounting her horse in the forest and firing an arrow at a monstrous bear after it rears up to attack her. But those previews account for about four minutes of 3D — not much to justify a purchase.
If you’ve never purchased Toy Story on Blu-ray, the 3D set is definitely the way to go, since it includes the 3D, 2D, DVD and Digital Copy versions. But if you’re looking to upgrade from the 2D Blu-ray Disc you already own, you’d better make sure you’re a big Toy Story fan to begin with.