Pixar Review 9: Toy Story 2

toy story 2After the drama with Bug’s Life Pixar’s next release couldn’t have been more eagerly anticipated.  A sequel to one of the most iconic animated movies ever released.  How could it possibly measure up?

Then everyone saw it and Toy Story 1 and 2 are the only original and sequel I’m aware of that both have 100% on rottentomatoes- a rating that is near impossible to get.  Toy Story 3 has an embarrassing 99% ;).

So I think folks liked Toy Story 2! And with good cause.  It is a great movie!

There are so many things that are smart about Toy Story 2.  First of all, they didn’t try and  redo the first movie.  It would have been so easy for them to introduce another new toy into the room and rehash the same story over again.  But instead they go in an entirely new direction and make an adventure!

Toy Story 1 introduced us to the characters and followed Woody as his leadership is threatened.  He feels jealous, frustrated, frightened, and deals with insecurities he didn’t even know he had.  That’s why people related so much to it.  Haven’t we all been there where a rival threatened to displace us?  Where we worried we would be forgotten or passed over? Where we felt jealous and envious of another who seemingly has it better? Toy Story 1 crafts a narrative around all those very human emotions.

toystory2-11Toy Story 2 has that emotional core but it is mainly an adventure story.  It starts out with Woody getting stolen by a greedy toy collector voiced by Seinfeld’s Wayne Knight.  (When you see that character don’t you expect him to sound like Newman?).

toy story2-5It turns out that Woody is a valuable collectible Al has been hunting for to complete his Woody’s Roundup collection to sell to a museum in Tokyo.  The rest of the set includes Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammar), Cowgirl Jesse (Joan Cusack) and Bullseye the horse.

toy story2-4They are thrilled to see Woody because it will mean they can get out of storage and be on display at the museum.  Woody at first is dazzled by all the collectibles and can’t believe he is the star of a show.  The Prospector is also very manipulative in the way he describes the museum leaving out the details that Woody will no longer be played with by children.

toy story2-12Meanwhile Buzz, Slinky, Ham, Potato Head, and Rex all head out to find Woody and bring him back to Andy’s Room.  This includes an amazing sequence with them trying to cross the road in cones and a series of adventures in a large toy store.

toy story2-13All the scenes in the toy store are so funny.  We get our first appearance of Barbie who moves in the stiff way a barbie moves and is bright and happy.  I loved it.

toy story2-9There is also an entire row of Buzz Lightyear action figures and a Delusional Buzz that still thinks he’s a Space Ranger gets mixed up with the real Buzz.  This gives so many great laughs and is very nostalgic to the original movie. Tim Allen is great as both versions of Buzz.

toy story2-14At first Woody is set on going back to Andy’s Room but Jesse and Prospector beg him not to go.  They don’t want to go into storage and Jesse warns Woody what will happen when Andy is done being a kid.  I defy you not to cry during this song (if you don’t then I don’t understand you!).  A fabulous job by Randy Newman and Sarah McLachlan.

This puts Woody in a difficult spot, which is our new, different emotional core than we had in Toy Story 1.  The original is all about overcoming personal demons where this film is about how much of our own dreams and life we are willing to sacrifice for others.  Woody has to decide whether he is willing to give up his life with Andy in order to keep his new friends from a dark life in storage.  It’s a very tough question.

toy story2-3But I don’t want to make it sound morose because it’s absolutely hilarious.  The writing is so funny with superb vocal performances from the entire cast especially Don Rickles and Estelle Harris (another Seinfeld alum)  as Mr and Mrs Potato Head.

Toy-Story-2-IIAnd like I said everything with Delusional Buzz and the Barbies is funny.  I also love Wallace Shawn as Rex who is preoccupied for most of the movie with defeating Evil Emperor Zurg who we get to meet in this movie (so funny).

toy story2-6The ending at an airport is stunning where the characters get mixed up in the various belts and  mechanisms that deliver luggage around the airport.  When you think of where they were in Toy Story 1 it is an especially amazing visual.

airportThere is even a tense horse ride down the tarmac.  It really has the feel of an old Western chase scene and I always get those butterflies wondering how they are going to get out of this mess (again like a good action adventure should do).

toy story211In the end, Woody realizes things may change but it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the moment while it is here.  His purpose is to be played with not looked at under glass.   It’s a sweet lesson for all of us.  We all need to find our purpose and not let anyone manipulate us into giving that up.

Toy Story 2 is a total and complete delight.  As I always do with these reviews I watched it 3 times over the last 2 weeks and it never felt old or tired.  I smiled, laughed and was completely engrossed in the tense sections.  Mostly I just love spending time with these characters.

toy story2-10Everything new they tried worked while still holding on to the emotional core and likability of the original characters.  The addition of Jesse is the cherry on the sundae.  Her journey from being a nervous, depressed character to full of life is wonderful.  Her song is gorgeous and I love her spunk!

I would definitely recommend adding Toy Story 2 to your blu-ray library as it is enjoyable for the entire family. I love it!

(Also the audio commentary on Toy Story 2 is hilarious and very interesting.  I highly recommend giving it a listen).

Overall Grade-  A+

21 thoughts on “Pixar Review 9: Toy Story 2

  1. Toy Story 2 is the strongest and the weakest of the trilogy. It is the strongest because it contains its emotional core. It is the weakest because it is very unfocussed. The complete subplot for Buzz feels like filler, and its only saving grace is that it is very funny.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Very interesting.

      You got to have that kind of humor in an adventure story or drama. All great writers know that. Shakespeare does that in all of his tragedies like the Porter in Macbeth. So I don’t see it as filler but as a breather for the audience. Comic relief is actually very important to these stories working. Without it these stories would feel manipulative and melodramatic.

      I don’t see it as unfocused either but I’m glad that you see it as the strongest in some areas. That’s cool. The emotional core is so moving and something we can all relate too. All the Toy Story movies get that just right.

  2. I love all 3 of the Toy Storys, though if I had to rank them this would probably be the lowest. It’s still great though. The story as a whole just isn’t as strong for me – but I love the introduction of some of the new characters, like Jessie and Barbie.

    1. I dont know how I will rank them. They will all get A+ from me so tough to say.

  3. I find this one to be better than the first Toy Story, though only slightly. It’s great that Woody’s background plays such a significant role in the story when we got so little about it in the first film – it fits what we already had about Woody so well that it makes me wonder if the writers had already come up with it at the time of the first film and intentionally saved it for the sequel.

    The opening is particularly good. When I was first watching it in the cinema with my sister, she thought it was a dream sequence and I thought it was the TV show on which the toy was based. The fact that we were both wrong shows how creative Pixar can be.

    1. That’s a very good point about the opening. It is very creative and gives Buzz his own backstory in a way like Woody gets. I also like there are little nuggets of the video game you see later on in the movie like the way Buzz talks to Delusional Buzz.

      Do you think 2 is better than 3? All 3 are so different it is tough!

      1. Huh interesting. It will be interesting to see what I think watching them all so close. We’ll see

  4. As you can imagine, I was excited as heck to see Toy Story 2 when it first came out, as mentioned earlier I was learning to really love the first Toy Story film but I found the emotion of Toy Story 2 hit me hard very early on – Jessie’s emotional backstory seemed so out of left field at the time, but it naturally ties this film (and later the first and third) all nicely together. The story works so well because it expands on the themes of the original and tells an original story with its characters.

    With the Randy Newman songs, it’s always a tough tie between “You Got a Friend in Me” and “When She Loved Me” in terms of Toy Story songs, heck they’re both wonderful as part of the Disney canon overall. I also love his score for the film, especially the theme that kicks in when Buzz and Woody ride to Jessie’s rescue on Bullseye – it’s like a theme from a John Wayne Western it’s such a thrill ride! I know it gets put down a lot but I’d say Toy Story 2 is just as good as the original, and even though the first is groundbreaking I find the emotional beats in Toy Story 2 and the dilemmas faced by the characters just a bit more compelling.

    1. I know what you are saying. It’s an extremely emotional and yet funny film. A true achievement. I just finished reading Creativity Inc and learned about the making of this movie and now I’m even more impressed it is as great as it is. It was a mad rush to put together and according to producers ‘a nightmare’. You would never know from how great the movie is.

      1. True, I heard it was supposed to be a DTV release but was saved at the last minute, and thank goodness! For a relatively young studio attached to Disney (with their checkered reputation for DTV sequels) it was a colossal accomplishment.

      2. Yeah and once they decided to make it a theatrical release they had 3 new directors who produced a rough draft that everyone hated. It all got scrapped and they had to start over with like a year to make the movie! Disney didn’t want them to scrap it because their attitude at the time was “it’s good enough for a sequel” but that’s not the Pixar way!
        In Creativity Inc Ed said one employee was so frantic about Toy Story 2 he forgot to take his toddler to day care and left her in the car. Luckily she was ok but had to go to the hospital. I guess that was when they said ‘never again’ will they make a movie like Toy Story 2. That’s why they will delay as we’ve seen in Good Dinosaur. Seriously it’s a good book Creativity Inc (I just finished it so fresh on my mind). Toy Story 2 is a terrific movie. All the Toy Story movies are great.

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