Monday, January 3, 2011

Seeing Old Movies in New Way: The Commentary

Christmas is the time of giving and receiving, and I did a bit of both. What I gave isn't that important. I could mention how my gifts are all practical yet thoughtful and fun, but I don't want to brag. Plus, this post is more about what I received.
The "Toy Story" Box Set

Specifically, it's about the trio of "Toy Story" Blu-Ray's I got. Now, I've seen all three films about as many times and as many ways as possible. In 3D, in 2D, on DVD, Sneak Previews, re-releases. Just about every format they've released the films in, I've seen it in. So, the Blu-Ray format was great, but I've seen the films so many times, I could act out just about every scene at this point. But, I had these new shiny discs in this fancy format, so I had to find a way to watch these classic, familiar films that would excite me. 

Now, I know I'm not the first to discover the new-fangled director's commentary bonus feature, yet I've found something new in something old.

Like I said, I've seen each of the "Toy Story" films enough to have memorized most of the lines from all three films. I'm not someone who typically likes to view a movie multiple times. So, when getting these new Blu-Ray copies of the movies, I decided to turn on the commentary for the first time and see what the people who made the films have to say about them. 

Well, it turns out they have quite a bit to say, and all of it is superbly fascinating. On the orignal "Toy Story," the commentary features not just the Director John Lasster, but also Co-Writer Andrew Stanton, Supervising Animator Pete Docter, Art Director Ralph Eggleston, Supervising Technical Director Bill Reeves and Producers Ralph Guggenheim and Bonnie Arnold. That may seem like one too many cooks in the kitchen, but the group makes it work. Having been the first feature length film from Pixar, its brightest minds worked on the film, and it's a real treat listening to them discuss the obstacles overcome to making the first full length computer animated film. Think of if we could watch "Snow White" with a commentary by Walt Disney. It's not the same, but it's close. 

With "Toy Story 2," the commentary is provided by Director John Lasseter, Co-Directors Lee Unkrich & Ash Bannon and Co-Writer Andrew Stanton, once again giving you insight from the top talent at Pixar. Since "Toy Story 2" was the studios third film, they often discuses the different computer models their recycled from "A Bug's Life" and the original "Toy Story." Pixar is also known for its easter eggs, many of which are pointed out in the commentary. 

"Toy Story 3" takes a different approach, leaving out Director Lee Unkrich, this time featuring Supervising Animator Bobby Podesta, Supervising Animator Mike Venturini, Production Designer
Bob Pauley,  Head of Story Jason Katz and Supervising Technical Director Guido Quaroni. And, with the Blu-Ray, it's on the Bonus Features disk, instead of accompanying the film on the feature disk. That took a couple of Google searches and a argument (Which I lost) with my mom to find out. After watching the first two films with relatively the same people talking about similar things, it was great getting a different perspective on how the film is made. Being the most modern Pixar film,  and having come 11ish years after "Toy Story 2," the advancements in technology have been tremendous, and there's really no one better to talk about that occurrence than the people so heavily involved. Despite being people who work in front of computers fulltime, they've all got a great sense of humor, and are a joy to listen to.

Overall, all three of the films have a very unique commentary, and all three are very enlightening. They probably aren't very interesting to someone who is only watching the films for the second or third time, but for a Pixar veteran, they're a great way to give new light to a classic film.  

Next up: The "WALL-E" Blu-Ray coming from Netfilx, so I can get the commentary on Blu-Ray without having to make my mom buy it. I can't wait!

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