Toy Story 2 (1999)

“Woody once risked his life to save me. I couldn’t call myself his friend if I weren’t willing to do the same. So, who’s with me?”

As a kid, having a toy is like having a pet. The connection shared between the two is special, one that can’t be mimicked nor duplicated and if a second toy or pet enter’s the environment, the attention is split forcing one to think they are now lesser. Like one cannot survive without the other. It’s like the toy has a life and mind of its own and thanks to John Lasseter and the innovation at Pixar along with Disney’s support, the toy’s perspective is made possible. 1995 introduced the world to a group of toys that captivated a generation and 4 years later the cowboy, spaceman, piggy bank, slinky dog, dinosaur, and a potato head are back for a new adventure that will push a toy’s love for their owner to the limit – way past their own plastic legs or packed along parts can handle.

When the toys act as naturally as their living breathing human counterparts, Toy Story 2 surpasses the original in every imaginable way. We’re made to believe these toys have come to life when no one is around to conveniently witness this miracle which will leave the best of us questioning the fact as soon as the toys are left alone for any period of time. Those moments, and there are several that standout make the sequel another early success for Pixar. 

By the 3rd film, the dazzling animation brought to life by using computer technology is just as fresh and astoundingly eye catching with vast improvements made since the first film. Everything in the foreground, whether it be characters interacting with one another is complimented nicely with the moving background. An example being Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), Hamm (voiced by John Ratzenberger), Rex (voiced by Wallace Shawn), Mr. Potato Head (voiced by Don Rickles), and Slinky Dog (voiced by Jim Varney) crossing the street to get to Al’s Toy Barn to save Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) while under traffic cones, foreground, while in the background, cars are swerving out of the way of the cones causing a bottlenecked jam. 

Moments that made Toy Story prove that a toy can fly are multiplied in the sequel that will still feature a wide appeal to kids and adults alike. The kids will laugh at the funny dialogue that may go over their heads like with the Star Wars influence added between Buzz and his arch nemesis Zurg (voiced by Andrew Stanton) while the more adult jokes of Buzz’s wings popping out during a familiar racetrack sequence and Mr. Potato head getting an unexpected surprise at seeing the inner workings of an airport. If the brilliant yet simple writing doesn’t get a chuckle or two out of the adult audience, it will be the timing of the ensemble voice cast that brings Toy Story 2 to life. 

Beyond the comedic moments that are sprinkled throughout a lighter toned film, the heavier themes return dealing with friendship, self-worth, resentment, and fear of abandonment. After the events of Toy Story in which Woody risks his plastic to save Buzz from destruction by rocket, finds the roles reversed. Their friendship and respect for one another has grown exponentially since we last saw them. Woody becoming more selfless, plans a rescue mission of an old broken toy Wheezy (voiced by Jon Ranft) at a yard sale and ends up getting stolen by Al (voiced by Wayne Knight) to be sold to a museum in China. Unbeknownst to Woody is the fact that this sheriff toy is part of a collection called “Woody’s Roundup”, an early 50’s era show that spawned collectibles and paraphernalia that ran and was canceled years prior. Joining Woody to China is his trusty horse Bullseye, yodeling cowgirl Jessie (voiced by Joan Cusack) and the Prospector (voiced by Kelsey Grammer), the only toy mint in box out of the four. 

It’s with these new characters that the themes get their nuance this time around while the love and admiration for the returning toys only grows fonder. While the craze of westerns shifted into the space race, it’s toys like Prospector that sat on the shelf, collected dust only to be envious of the toys around him getting sold as his packaging collected dust. On the other hand, Jessie lived a lifetime watching her owner Emily forget about her only to be donated away. Grammer and Cusack both being a new energy to the cast that only benefited from their addition. While Hanks and Allen fit right back into their roles adding the sense of comfort into the sequel that doesn’t just redo the first one. Catching lightning in a bottle once is impossible but doing it 3 times in a row is unheard of. 

One moment Toy Story 2 will make you laugh and then a split second later, it will make you cry and have the memories flood back of all the toys played with as a kid. During those years growing up those toys held a special place in your heart only to move on and forget them as new interests developed but the toys don’t forget. Along with seeing everything, the toys will never forget the best times of their life, being played with, loved unconditionally, and valued over everything else. John Lasseter shifted the point of view to once again see how a toy see’s and feel all the pain they feel as kids grow up and move on. One day it will happen with Andy (voiced by John Morris) as it did the rest of us.   

At a hair over 90 minutes, director John Lasseter and writing team pack enough of a punch into Toy Story 2 with room to let the pace breathe here and there. In every way it’s a sequel that improves upon the first film’s success while expanding the lore of Woody and Buzz. Who doesn’t want to spend an afternoon watching Woody’s Roundup waiting those tense yet exciting moments to see if he and Bullseye save the day? Full of memorable moments that will stick to the subconscious and quirky, repeatable, and unforgettable one liners, Toy Story 2 is exactly the type of quality we have come to expect from Pixar studios. 

What makes a perfect movie even more bulletproof? Having the bloopers of filming the movie using the CGI as if the toys were on set themselves filming – genius, absolute genius. 

Written By: Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlin & Chris Webb

Story By: John Lasseter, Pete Doctor, Ash Brannon & Andrew Stanton

Directed By: John Lasseter

Music By: Randy Newman

Cinematography: Sharon Calahan

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Estelle Harris, Wayne Knight

Where to Watch: Disney Plus

Release Date: November 24, 1999

Running Time: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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