Toy Story – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

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Film Title: Toy Story
Release Date: 1995
Rating: G
Runtimes: 81 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: Disney / Pixar
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
High Dynamic Range: HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Formats Available: 4K UHD Blu-ray | Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 6/4/19
Director: John Lasseter
Voice Cast: Tom HanksTim AllenDon Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris, Erik von Detten, Laurie Metcalf, R. Lee Ermey

Jump to Sections: Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs can be found at the very bottom.

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The Movie

When “Toy Story 4” was announced I was overjoyed at the chance to revisit characters I’ve grown so very fond of since I was 14. I also knew this would be the absolute best chance I’d have to see these films get a UHD release… Disney did not disappoint. Here I am with all three movies in glorious 4K Ultra HD with new Dolby Atmos soundtracks on all films, truly sending this film geek into infinity and beyond. Let’s dive in!

I’m very much into film production as the process of how things get made creatively fascinates me immensely. It also gives me further respect for the craft of filmmaking. With all that said, few movies fascinate me more than Toy Story‘s beginnings. Let’s get in our way-back machine to 1982 where director John Lasseter first watched the film Tron with his buddies and saw the new possibilities of this emerging tech for furthering animation. Fast forward to 1987 where John and Glen Keane (Academy Award-winning character animator) just finished a 2D/3D test film of Where The Wild Things Are” and are both so blown away by the results they want to make a full feature-length film this way.

Finally, the opportunity arises with the script called The Brave Little Toaster. Both men pitch the idea to Disney top executives Ed Hansen, then Animation Admin and Head of Disney Studios Ron Miller. The meeting doesn’t go well and its deemed far too expensive to do and minutes after the meeting ends Hansen calls Lasseter and fires him. Lasseter had made some friends during the WILD Things Production, among them Ed Catmull from Lucasfilm. John eventually gets a job with Lucasfilm. Lucas’ divorce forced him to sell off “Lucasfilm Consumer Graphics” which was renamed to Pixar Graphics Group with Catmull and Lasseter among its founding members with financial backing from a man very vital in this. That man who offered the financial backing was named Steve Jobs (yes, the co-founder of Apple) who had purchased a majority stake in the company in 1986 after they were rejected 45 times by other investors.

Pixar transformed from a computer company into an animation studio. John would create short computer-animated films to demonstrate the Pixar computer systems and eventually created a short film entitled Tin Toy. “Tin Toy” tells the story from the perspective of Tinny, a one-man band toy who is trying to escape Billy, a nasty little infant who likes to break toys. The film goes on to win an Academy Award in 1988 for Best Animated Short. “Tin Toy” gained Disney’s attention and they licensed Pixar animation production systems making them the largest customer. Forcing collaboration with a Pixar group that’s not very happy, however it continues on.

Now we begin to tie this tale in… Disney gets pitched the idea to make a movie, a sequel to “Tin Toy” called “A Tin Toy Christmas” made for TV short. By this time Pixar was on the verge of bankruptcy and took a rather awful deal with the chairman of the company at that time (Michael Eisner) to make a full feature film based on “Tin Toy” entitled — drum roll — “Toy Story”. The initial draft had Tinny with a ventriloquists dummy going on an adventure eventually encountering the main villain, Woody who abused all the toys until the revolt against him. Eventually, the script changes and incorporates a new hero inspired by action figures and space, enter the new star Buzz Lightyear and his new friend with ventriloquist’s pull string, Woody.

The script became inspired by Midnight Run (1988), The Odd Couple (1968), and the animated film Castle in the Sky (1986). The final draft of the script was finished in 1993 with the role of “Woody” envisioned for Tom Hanks, but Paul Newman was also once considered. “Buzz Lightyear” was offered to Billy Crystal, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Jim Carrey who all declined the role. Tim Allen was finally offered and accepted. The film went through production hell with Disney executives, namely studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg who attempted many times to change the story. Things eventually became so contentious that production was frozen and only when a new script was brought in and the characters significantly changing did it begin again.

This was the very first fully computer-animated film. Needless to say, costs rose, recruiting animators was difficult and the production was incredibly complex. For instance, to sync the mouths and facial movements to the voice actors, the process took 1 week per 8 seconds. Then would require new storyboards and 300 computer processors would render the final result.  Toy Story used 800,000 machine hours, 114,240 frames of animation all rendered at a 1536 x 922 resolution.

Steve Jobs had moments of doubt with Pixar and contemplated selling it but as the film progressed he felt they would truly change the film industry. The film opened on November 22nd, 1995 and was widely praised. TIME lists it as one of the 100 greatest American films of all time. The film grossed more than 350 million worldwide and was at release the 3rd highest grossing animated film of all time. Toy Story” was nominated for 3 Academy Awards as well as numerous other awards that year and currently holds a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

With that long backstory, you can tell I’m REALLY into the film and with good cause. Now for the film itself, “Toy Story” tells the tale of Woody and his fellow toys who are all owned and adored by Andy. The story takes a hilarious twist when Andy gets a new toy, Buzz Light Year, who doesn’t know he’s a toy. This leads to an entertaining and dangerous journey as the power struggle of Buzz and Woody plays out. All the while Buzz is discovering the truth about himself and his true place in the order of things with Andy. This film is one of my top 20 favorite films of all time and the accomplishments in production to bring this to life are to be marveled and admired. The story is heartwarming and engaging for all audiences and all ages. The cast is flawless and the voice acting is top notch. Buzz Lightyear is easily one of my favorite movie characters right up there with Bartholomew Marion Quint from “Jaws.”

Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)


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Video Quality

The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with the HDR10 form of High Dynamic Range. With such a low-resolution source (1536 x 922) this 4K UHD HDR version does its absolute best to shine and while it is not as much of an upgrade in resolution when comparing it to the 1080p HD Blu-ray. The colors represented in the HDR grade are amazing. The color palette is bold, bright, and just simply gorgeous. The image “pops” off the screen on my OLED display and it was an absolute joy to watch again. The image is razor sharp on the image with textures and plenty of fine detail for the eyes to see all throughout in 4K. While the animation is somewhat dated even in comparison to the third film it is still of really high quality.

If you want to show off a movie for the friends and family, it is this one. The HDR is that good despite the lack of uptick in picture quality versus the original Blu-ray but the source material is going to keep it from reference level for me.

Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)


toy_story_4k_3click to view a 4K Screenshot

Audio Quality

Audio here is presented in Dolby Atmos, with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core included for those without the proper equipment to decode the Atmos format. I’ll say this from the start, This isn’t what the internet communities call “AtMouse” by any means. The Dolby Atmos mix is loud and clear with great use of the surrounds and deep bass. The overhead channels aren’t engaged much except when needed and appropriate but this movie was never in any way an action movie, so I found it fantastic.

The lack of use in the Atmos channels for ambiance was a little it of a let down which is going to keep this from getting a perfect score, however, the mix does so much else right that it’s still going to be highly rated for me. It’s a much different experience than the lossless 7.1 sound mix that you previously heard on the Blu-ray release, that much is for sure. It’s just not one of the absolute best Atmos mixes I’ve heard, however, it’s still pretty impressive by my standards.

Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)


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Bonus Materials

Bonus materials physically included on this release include:

  • A Digital Copy of the film is included via Movies Anywhere which is compatible with services like Apple’s iTunes and VUDU. Here you get a paper insert inside the packaging that contains a code you put in at the URL listed.
  • A Blu-ray Disc of the film is included with bonus materials.

The bonus materials are primarily found on the Blu-ray Disc which contains the following:

  • Audio Commentary: Director John Lasseter, co-writer Andrew Stanton, art director Ralph Eggleston, supervising animator Pete Docter, supervising technical director Bill Reeves, and producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold discuss Toy Story and its production.
  • Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: Blast Off” (3 minutes, HDBuzz, Hamm, and Rex introduce NASA, the space shuttle, and space exploration to their younger viewers in an animated/live-action short.
  • “Paths to Pixar: Artists” (5 minutes, HD) Pixar artists candidly reflect on their introduction to Disney’s worlds and characters, their early infatuation with animation, the time they spent at art school, and their experiences at Lasseter’s acclaimed studio.
  • “Studio Stories” (5 minutes, HD) 3 animated shorts give the Pixar team a chance to reminisce about various stories in the studio.
  • Buzz Takes Manhattan” (2 minutes, HDLasseter chats about Buzz Lightyear‘s Macy’s Day Parade balloon.
  • “Black Friday: The Toy Story You Never Saw” (8 minutes, HD) this featurette presents a version of Toy Story that never made it to the big screen.
  • “Filmmakers Reflect” (17 minutes, SD) comes from the original DVD. This consists of a roundtable discussion between John Lasseter and his Pixar team. The group here obviously looks back on the production of the film.
  • “Making Toy Story (20 minutes, SD) Lasseter and his Toy Story team examine the development, design, and animation of Buzz and Woody‘s first adventure.
  • “The Legacy of Toy Story (12 minutes, SD) Here you get the director John Lasseter, his voice actors, notable critics, and a number of filmmakers (including Peter Jackson and George Lucas) sharing their thoughts on Toy Story.
  • “Designing Toy Story” (6 minutes, SD) goes into the technical realm of CG (computer generated) animation and discusses Toy Story‘s design.
  • Deleted Scenes (19 minutes, SD) gives you 10 unfinished deleted scenes.
  • “Design” (28 minutes, SD) includes character and environment galleries, 3-D visualizations, and color tests.
  • Story” (14 minutes, SD) view a “Green Army Men” pitch, an “Andy’s New Toy” storyreel, and a “Chase” storyreel-to-film comparison.
  • Production (14 minutes, SD) presents you with production and animation department tours.
  • Music & Sound (26 minutes, SD) includes the “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” music video and a “Designing Sound” featurette.
  • Publicity (24 minutes, SD) includes:
    • Advertising materials
    • A “Character Interview” short
    • Two Theatrical Trailers
    • Four TV Spots
    • Twenty-Five Domestic and International Posters
    • Merchandise Photos
    • Fifteen “Toy Story Treats”

Overall the bonus materials here are just the original Blu-ray extras, but they still hold up to be just as amazing as they were all those years ago. This is one great set of supplementals. It does, unfortunately, mean that the audio commentary has to be listened to while watching the HD version of the film on Blu-ray, and not in 4K, but it’s still nice to get all these extras included. I can’t justify reducing the perfect score for bonus materials that this deserves just for it lacking the audio commentary on the 4K disc. That’s just me.

Bonus Materials Rating: 5 (out of 5)


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Closing Thoughts

“Toy Story” was one very memorable and influential film in the world of computer animation. It also launched the company Pixar and would spawn a total of three sequels to this film. It’s a film, as you can tell, that I obviously that care a lot about and I’m very happy to say that this UHD presentation in 4K with HDR is enough of an improvement over the previous Blu-ray to be somewhat impressed by. It’s not perfect though, but that’s because of a limitation due to the resolution that the film was originally rendered in.

The Dolby Atmos sound mix for this film is impressive at times (as well) but its lack of ambient use really kept it from achieving a perfect score. Still, all and all, this is one very highly recommended 4K release and is for certain a must-own for most those of all ages.

In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
5 (out of 5) for bonus materials


Overall Verdict:
Very Highly Recommended


Available As:

2019 4K UHD Blu-ray Release


4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshots:


Packaging:

Coming Soon!

4K UHD Blu-ray Technical Specifications:

Coming Soon!
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