Toy Story 2
There are many things in life that are completely predicable; the sun will rise in the east, the IRS will make you pay your taxes and studios will make a sequel out of a financially successful movie. The good part of that is that fans get to revisit some of their favorite characters as their stories are continued. On the flip side of that coin the vast majority of sequels fall far short of achieving the level of success or quality set by the original. Of course there are a few notable exceptions such as ‘The Godfather, Part II’ and ‘Aliens’ but more times than not the follow up movie is a mere shadow of what went before. Fortunately for millions of fans, not to mention Pixar/Disney’ another sequel can be added to that elite list’ ‘Toy Story 2’. This sequel almost comes up to the extraordinary level set by the original missing only by the smallest of margins. This movie embodies the spirit of the sequel taking the characters on another journey yet able to stand on its own as a new story. That is the all important factor that binds the two movies together and makes them such a wonderfully rare experience. They both relate the audience members of all ages by relating a little tale directly out of the imagination of a child. While the craftsmanship of the story carries the film there is no doubt that the presentation adds greatly to the overall experience. it was only three years between the first and second ‘Toy Story’ movies but in terms of computer animation software that time represents a couple of generations of advancement. There are noticeable advances in the animation techniques once again taking an ancient art form boldly into a futuristic means of expression. The underlying story is one that depends on something that may have been lost to us adults; the belief that our toys are both an extension of our consciousness and possessing of a mind and life of their very own.
It usually is a major benefit when the creative people that made the original movie a hit return for the sequel. Once again the primary creative forces behind this movie are John Lasseter. He reprises his jobs as writer and director rejoined with Pete Docter for the scripting and co-directing with Ash Brannon, moving up from animation director. Lasseter has been part of the Pixar team from the beginning even producing the break through piece of animation that would provide the company with their logo and mascot; ‘Luxor Jr. All the old characters are back including cowboy puppet Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and space age action figure Buzz Light-year (voiced by Tim Allen). Using a plot device common to all sequels we get some insight into the previously undisclosed back story, in this case Woody. The origins of Woody ties in to the universal appeal of the story across the generations. Woody was once the star of a black and white kids show in the fifties much like the cowboy puppet icon for us baby boomers, ‘Howdy Doody’. This permitted the inclusion of little inside jokes to make sure the grownups are fully and humorously engaged for the entire movie. Overall this sequel is sharper than the original. While it does lack a touch of the novelty inherent in the ground breaking first installment.
The owner of this group of toys, Andy, is about to embark on a typical rite of passage of his own, going off to summer camp. Woody has a ripped shoulder and is left behind. Inadvertently Woody is included in a toy’s worse nightmare, a yard sale. Although Andy’s mother refuses to sell him a nefarious collector steals Woody after realizing his nostalgic value. With Woody gone it falls to Buzz to rally the other toys and mount a rescue mission in the dangerous outside world. When they get to the apartment of the collector they find a lot of memorabilia devoted to the old show ‘Woody’s Round-up’ including a toy based on Jessie the Yodeling cowgirl (voiced by Joan Cusack), his trusty horse Bullseye and his faithful sidekick Stinky Pete the Prospector voiced by Kelsey Grammer), trapped in mint condition inside the original packaging. The new toys are excited about the prospect of being sold to a museum in Japan where they will be a featured exhibit but Woody remains faithful to Andy. For a bunch of animated toys it is amazing the humanity that comes across in the themes used here. Friendship and loyalty are topics that can be understood by all ages and is presented here with incredible style and sensitivity. There is plenty of action here as the toys venture out of the relative safety of Andy’s room. Just a few minutes of watching and you are going to be completely captivated by this film.
Both ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Toy Story 2’ are now available in Blu-ray and the results are spectacular. Although both films had been re-done for a combined 3-D presentation it was not included in these releases. I’m not a big fan of wearing those glasses but it would have been interesting to use some of the format’s extended capacity to include that version. The look of the toys is pretty much the same but the 1080p video is well showcased with the shots of the outside world. Combined with the expansive DTS-HD audio you will feel as if you are right there with the toys.
New Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek