Last year Disney amazed moviegoers with "Toy Story," a full-length animated motion picture that was entirely rendered using computer animation and graphics.
Though the movie had an involving story line and fun characters, what really astounded audiences was the photo-realistic quality of the animation, a product of powerful computer workstations using industrial-strength software developed by Pixar Animation Studios. Home computers can't run the kind of high-speed animation produced by Pixar for "Toy Story."
For that reason, Disney Interactive's "Toy Story Animated StoryBook," $39.95, is really quite an achievement. It has the same great 3-D look as the movie and even delivers these gorgeous images on a PC with a 486 processor. (The same CD will run on both Windows-based PCs and Power Macintoshes).
Of course, there are compromises. Instead of running like a video game or a movie, "Toy Story Animated StoryBook" has fairly static pages with very few moving objects. The format resembles a picture book.
The first page of the story, for instance, shows Woody, the leading toy-cowboy character, holding a meeting attended by 13 other toys. A voice reads some text along the top of the screen, followed by a brief animation reenacting what has just been read. In this case, it is Woody talking with the other toys.
In the movie, this scene would have been alive with motion. Faced with home computers' modest processing power, Disney's
programmers had to limit the number of objects moving onscreen. Woody moves as he tells the other toys that their owner's birthday party is about to start, then the other toys react.
In the movie, the room explodes with confusion. In "Animated StoryBook," although you hear the sounds of all the toys talking at once, only one or two move at any time.
Aside from that little sleight of hand, visually "Toy Story Animated StoryBook" is remarkably similar to the movie. Each location looks just as it did in the movie.
The story line is also similar to the movie's, with a few adjustments to compensate for lack of processing power. These changes don't affect the entertainment value.
"Toy Story Animated StoryBook" does have one major deviation. In the movie, Tim Allen plays the voice of Buzz Lightyear, a toy spaceman; Tom Hanks is Woody; and John Ratzenberger (Cliff in "Cheers") is Ham, the piggy bank. In "Animated StoryBook," only Wallace Shawn ("Princess Bride," "The Goofy Movie") among the original cast is on this CD-ROM. (Shawn plays Rex, the toy dinosaur.)
The new voices are pretty good, and most resemble the voices in the movie. But the differences are noticeable and prevent the software from completely re-creating the feel of the movie.
The biggest problem with "Toy Story Animated StoryBook" is that it takes less than two hours to view every screen and find every interactive hot button. There are some clever spots where you point and click and funny things happen. There are also a dozen puzzles and activities to enhance the story. You can tour this product in a single night.
That may not be a problem for the 3- to 9-year-old audience for whom "Toy Story Animated StoryBook" was designed. Kids love repetition, and this CD will provide a lot of that. Adults, on the other hand, may find themselves bored silly.