Toy Story 2 (1999)
Directed by: John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, & Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Wayne Knight
‘Toy Story’ was a box-office smash in the summer of ’95, and it is no surprise that a sequel went underway so quickly after it’s release. ‘Toy Story 2’ was actually conceived to be a direct-to-video sequel, but Disney bumped it up to a theatrical release upon seeing how promising the story was. It has the distinction of being the third Disney-Pixar film to be released and their first sequel, but how does it fare in the scheme of things? For me, it actually outshines the original film, expanding the Toy Story universe without tarnishing what Lasseter and his team created in the first film.
‘Toy Story 2’ does something pretty great, and that is we get to see an expansion into both the world of Woody (Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Allen). The movie opens with Rex playing a video game based upon Buzz, in which we are introduced to Evil Emperor Zurg, and the main plot of the movie is Woody gets stolen by a toy collector (Wayne Knight) after being sent to the yard sale by mistake. After arriving at the toy collector’s home, we are shown that Woody actually is a collectible from a 1950’s TV show entitled Woody’s Round-Up.
We are introduced to three other characters from the show: Jessie, the yodeling cowgirl (Cusack), Woody’s horse Bullseye, and Stinky Pete (Grammer). Now that Al has a complete collection, he is able to complete the sale to a museum in Japan. While Woody explores his history and contemplates life in a museum, Buzz and a few of the other toys (Hamm, Slinky Dog, Mr. Potato Head and Rex) go out on a rescue mission to save Woody. Do Buzz and gang prevail in their mission, or does Woody and the Round-Up gang go to Japan?
As much as I love ‘Toy Story’, returning to the world and seeing an expansion of it makes ‘Toy Story 2’ that much more enjoyable. Lasseter does such a great job of adding new characters to the franchise in the form of Jessie and Bulls-eye, and we even get Jessie’s backstory in the form of a song (Sarah McLachlan’s When She Loved Me), which is one of the most powerful moments in the entire franchise.
Final thoughts: ‘Toy Story 2′ is wonderful and delightful movie, with a great story that has returning friends as well as introducing us to new ones. It’s a tough call, but I do believe it to be my favorite of the ‘Toy Story’ franchise.