Collectability (Toy Story 2, 1999)

Toy_Story_2_PosterToy Story had almost cemented itself as a classic in the public mind within a few short years.

This time, they open with a massive space adventure sequence which introduces Buzz’s arch nemesis Evil Emperor Zurg.

When Woody gets stolen by a collector at a yard sale, Buzz mounts a rescue mission. But for Woody, it turns out to not be as simple.

Woody discovers that he is not some random doll…but that he was originally part of a popular fifties toy and TV show combo.  And he finds out he was the last piece of the puzzle for a toy collector who plans to sell his collection to a museum in Japan.

At first, Woody is terrified by the notion.  But the rest of the collection (A cowgirl named Jessie, a horse named Bullseye and Stinky Pete-a toy still in his box, never opened) slowly convinces Woody that maybe life in a museum would not be so bad.

The film has a lot of fun, expanding both Woody and Buzz’s respective worlds.  They also find a new way to advance the story and give us “Buzz Does Not Know He is a Toy” in an entertaining way.

Jessie and Bullseye are engaging and lovable, making it easier to understand why Woody might consider abandoning Andy. Kelsey Grammer gives Stinky Pete just the amount of charm at the beginning to hint there may be more for him than we think. Admittedly, he is a bit of an indictment of collectors, as being left in the box plays a major motivation for Pete.

The animation shows some improvement here, though the human characters look…uh….freakish.  However, with Wayne Knight’s toy collector Al and the old man are much more cartoonish.  And it works more effectively when we see them on screen.

Toy Story 2 is a terrific follow up to the original, improving some things in the technical aspects and giving us a pretty tale revisiting characters we have come to love.

4K Review: Under the Sea (The Little Mermaid, 1989)

Little_Mermaid_CoverThe Little Mermaid is famous for being the film that brought Disney back to prominence as the source of classic animation. With top notch animation and memorable songs, it really earned this reputation. Borrowing from Hans Christian Anderson’s fable, Disney worked its magic by ignoring, you know, the super depressing bits.

But the film’s visual flair, music and vocal performances are effective and charming. Ariel is a lovable lead, you really root for her. In part, Jodi Benson and completed by the fluid animation. The attention paid to Ariel’s body language and facial expressions make her a character the viewer cannot help but adore.

Of course, you cannot ignore one of Disney’s finest villains. Ursula (inspired by John Waters Muse Divine) is a visual treat. Instead of a fish’s tail, Ursula has an octopus body (which doubles as her dress). She is brash and revels in her wickedness in that way only certain villains cannot without losing the audience.

And Menken’s score  along with the songs he and Howard Ashman  wrote are infection.

Now, what does the new Signature 4k offer?  There are some new features, the most notable being Menken sitting down with five of the voice actresses from some of Disney’s biggest hits, including Ariel herself, Jodi Benson.  This is not greatly illuminating but it is pretty fun.

The set also imports all the special features from the Diamond edition several years back.

The audio is great, and I don’t have much to say beyond that.  The songs sound wonderful and unless you are just using your TV speakers, I did not notice anything that should trouble a viewer.

But what about the video?  I was a bit concerned because, as I understand things, Disney simply used the scan of the film from the previous blu-ray edition.  And at first, I felt like the 4K picture was not really any stronger than the blu-ray.  However, once you get to more colorful sequences, you start seeing the benefits of the High Dynamic Range.

Overall, if you have a 4k TV and player, I think this is a pretty worthy purchase. If this is a double dip, you may want to take that into account.  If you don’t care about the new features, then really, you should be fine with your prior blu-ray.  The 4k version is not so drastic that you are cheating yourself with the blu-ray.

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