Toy Story 2(1999)
There are many that would generally consider a sequel to be a bad idea. But there are a few very strong exceptions to that rule. The mark of a good sequel is something that can hold up to the power of its predecessor while adding something new to the world it exists in. And in my opinion, a true sequel displays a natural forward progression for the characters previously established. This flick has new characters, new settings, new prospectives and is representative of that ‘true sequel’ category as it takes us back to that wonderful world of the life of a toy; kids, I give you Toy Story 2.
The first installment of this franchise was groundbreaking for being the first feature-length, computer animated endeavor. Pixar almost immediately went into production for this follow-up and in the span of just a few years were able to drastically improve the technology used for their unique brand of storytelling. The opening credits present an instant sense of epic-ness and are followed by a very exciting action sequence featuring Buzz Lightyear. The story picks up mere months after the events of the previous film and it is a good feeling seeing the continued lives of the gang of toys. An interesting new light is shone on life of a toy through another perspective; the aspect of toys as collectibles is introduced when Woody is stolen by a toy collector and its up to Buzz and the gang to save him. Woody’s back story, and the world his toy comes from, is allowed to be dramatically expanded when the new element of the existence of toys is introduced to the narrative. This collectible dichotomy for Woody creates some very tender and serious movie that play extremely well. The characters on the screen at some points cease to just be toys and become something more. Humor is another important element for the story this time but the better jokes are played much smaller but are also lend a greater sense of the world that the story takes place in. The story here is just as strong as what came before but plays at a higher and more intense level than previously seen.
Another important element for a successful sequel is, when mortality permits, having as many original players as possible reprising their roles and the gang are all back for this one. Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, Annie Potts, Jim Varney and John Ratzenberger all return to make up the established gang of toys. Estelle Harris is a new voice to the crowd as Mrs. Potato Head but its the antics of Rickles, Shawn, and Ratzenberger that pack the most comedic punch from the group. Tim Allen returns as Buzz Lightyear with continued heroic charm while Tom Hanks brings Woody to new heights with the yucks and with a decidedly more dramatic approach. The newer characters are rounded off with Kelsey Grammar as Stinky Pete the Prospector which, unfortunately, doesn’t have much about him outside of what him name would suggest. Wayne Knight as Al (of Al’s Toy Barn fame) drops some comedy gold while perfectly playing out the sleazy toy collector he is. But Joan Cusack as Jessie (the yodeling cowgirl) is on another level compared to the characters she’s playing opposite. It’s frightening (almost literally at times) the way she plays the highs and lows of the character and it gives Jessie a very unique fit to the group.
Visually speaking; Toy Story 2 makes a huge step forward, to infinity and beyond (sorry I couldn’t resist), in the detail of its models and the scope Pixar was able to achieve outside of the house and other interiors. With the first movie taking place mostly indoors, Pixar was able to really flex their modding and rendering muscles as the story called for more varied, and specifically outside, sets. But with the character models themselves, it’s plain to see how Pixar really pushed the limits of what they could do. And, to take a moment to be a format snob, if you are ever able to see any Pixar flick on Blu-ray please do so! There are moments in the flick when I have to remind myself that nothing on the screen is real; much like the snozberries tasting like snozberries, the puppets look like puppets! Bringing yet another solid story, strong and relatable characters (new and old) and serious visual upgrades, Pixar provides another gem.
- Toy Story 2, “the Force is strong with this one.”