Over the next six months, theaters will be abuzz with Toy Story fever.  Stories 1 and 2 will be re-released in 3D on October 2nd and February 12th respectively, and on June 18th, 2010, Toy Story 3: No Toy Left Behind will be making its debut.

Since the news of the 3D re-releases, the range of reaction from the fans has gone from hyper-enthusiastic to downright remorseful (one blogger wrote that it would be like “putting two types of syrup on pancakes.”)  It’s worthwhile to remind ourselves that Toy Story was the very first computer animated film, so its historic value is immense.

It is long regarded, by both general audiences and the animation community, as the gold standard by which all other animated films are measured. It is also just about unanimously considered one of the best stories of all time. Long-time film historian and critic Leonard Maltin put it best when he called it “story telling of the highest order married to animation of the highest order.” With this in mind, it is easy to understand the nostalgic reluctance and skepticism.

After having seen Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3D at a recent double feature screening at the historic Mann Chinese 6, I have to say that I am on the side of the skeptics.  This is not meant to dissuade anyone from seeing either film as it was wonderful to revisit them on the big screen and to hear the audience laugh as if it were their first time. I mean only to say that like two types of syrup – I found it rather unnecessary and perhaps even a little distracting.

The first film I ever watched in 3D was the recent Sony/Paramount project Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. (Read Review) This film was so exhilarating that I thought perhaps all animated works should be in 3D – after all, it couldn’t hurt. But Meatballs was designed with these effects in mind and its wild visuals were greatly enhanced by 3D technology. Toy Story, on the other hand is not first and foremost cinematic “eye candy.”  While the animation is epic and impeccable, at its core, it is a story with depth, character and a range of emotions. It is a film that can be as equally rewarding on the big screen, as it can be on the 13-inch you might have in your spare room. It’s just that good.

The remaking of these two films in no way destroys the originals it just doesn’t do much for them. Contrary to it’s basic function, with the 3D effect I actually felt further removed from the characters. I couldn’t quite apprehend them in the same way I could when they were played out on a traditional screen.  It became more about the visuals than the story and this is something that should not happen to either Toy Story 1 or 2.

Conversely, some may find that the 3D format lends perfectly to the films’ already very precise three-dimensional quality. With razor sharp outlining, careful and plentiful modeling and very close-up action, it could be argued that the new effects simply take them all the way.

Whether or not you prefer the 3D action, you will almost certainly enjoy the occasion to see both films again and to get pumped up for Toy Story 3 where Woody, Buzz and the rest of the crew get dumped at a day care center when Andy leaves for college. And, if the fact that Andy is college-bound starts to make you feel old, the beauty of all the Toy Stories is that they have a way of keeping us young at heart.  May the fun never end!

Check out the films in 3-D October 2nd!