When Toy Story first came out in the fall of 1995, the film proved to be an event as it was the first computer-animated feature film of its time. The film drew rave reviews and massive box office giving Pixar Studios the power it needed as they returned three years later with their second film A Bug’s Life with Walt Disney Studios as its distributor. While Disney wanted a sequel to Toy Story to be a direct-to-video release, Pixar and the people involved with the film refused as it eventually became a feature-film that finally came out in the fall of 1999.
Directed by John Lasseter, with additional direction by Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, and screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsaio, Doug Chamberlain, and Chris Webb that was based on a story by Lasseter, Stanton, Brannon, and Pete Docter. Toy Story 2 tells the story of Woody being kidnapped by a toy collector as Buzz Lightyear and other toys go on a rescue mission. During his captivity, Woody discovers that he was an old TV star as he is about to be sold to a Tokyo toy museum with other toys. The second film is a more ambitious film that blends all sorts of genres as it also introduces to new characters for the franchise.
Featuring the voices of previous players like Tom Hanks Tim Allen, Jim Varney, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris, and R. Lee Emrey plus Joan Cusack, Estelle Harris, Jodi Benson, Wayne Knight, and Kelsey Grammer. Toy Story 2 is an adventurous and heartwarming film from Pixar.
After being accidentally ripped by Andy (John Morris) before going to cowboy camp, Woody (Tom Hanks) gets shelved as he finds the old squeeze penguin toy Wheezy (Joe Ranft). When Andy’s mom (Laurie Metcalf) takes Wheeezy to sell for a garage sale, Woody with help from the dog Buster saves Wheezy only to be found by a toy collector named Al (Wayne Knight). Andy’s mom refuses to sell Woody as Al decides to steal him while Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) tries to save him. With a chicken feather and a license plate ID as clues, Buzz finds out who Al is as he organizes a mission to save Woody with help from Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky the Dog (Jim Varney), Rex (Wallace Shawn), and Hamm (John Ratzenberger).
During his captivity, Woody learns he was a popular toy/TV star in the 1950s as he meets Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (Joan Cusack), the horse Bulls-Eye, and Stinky Pete the Prospector. Learning that Al wants to sell him and the other toys to Japan to a toy museum, Woody doesn’t want to go only until he gets fixed and learns about Jessie’s story of abandonment. When Buzz and the gang finally reach Al’s toy store and his apartment with another Buzz Lightyear joining them. They learn what Woody wants to do as Buzz reminds Woody about being a toy as they’re stopped by Al prompting Buzz and the gang to go on a more daring adventure to save their friend.
In this sequel to the 1995 landmark film, director John Lasseter and his team create a story that is far more ambitious than its predecessor. Even as it recalls themes of growing up and abandonment which would play out in the third film eleven years later. Yet, the heart of the film is the friendship between Woody and Buzz as it grows much stronger in the second film. When Woody gets kidnapped, Buzz feels that he owes Woody for rescuing him in the previous films as supporting players like Slinky, Rex, Mr. Potato Head, and Hamm join in the rescue. Woody meanwhile, learns about Jessie’s own issues in a wonderful sequence that recalls Jessie’s brief life as a toy to a young girl until she got abandoned and be sent to Goodwill.
Jessie is a new character to the franchise as she is a rare female character that is more active and is willing to go out there and do what’s right. She is definitely an equal to Woody and Buzz while the character of Stinky Pete is also interesting as he is someone who had been inside a box that hopes to be loved and seen. Yet, when he realizes that Woody wants to return home, Pete’s sudden change of character becomes evident since he had never been played. Other antagonists like Al and Zurg aren’t fully-realized antagonists as Al is just a greedy man while Zurg is just a villain that wants to destroy the other Buzz Lightyear.
The direction of John Lasseter, along with help from Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, is truly spellbinding from the way he opens the film with a wonderful sequence of Buzz fighting aliens. The look of the film is broader with a wide depth of field as Lasseter allows the frame to show more space and characters in the film. At the same time, he mixes all sorts of genres for the film while bringing in a few film references to give it some humor. From the wide shots and close-ups Lasseter uses to the wild, intense camera movements such as Woody’s first ride with Bulls-Eye is truly amazing to watch. Overall, Lasseter and his team of co-directors and animators create a film that is equal to its predecessor.
Cinematographer Sharon Calahan does some great work with some of the lighting used for the film to bring some mood to the look such as the scene where Woody tries to sneak out at night or the scenes on top of the elevator where Buzz and the gang try to rescue Woody. Editors Lee Unkrich, Edie Bleiman, and David Ian Slater do a fantastic job with the editing such as Jessie’s flashback scenes as well as the amazing rhythm for many of the film’s action sequences. The overall work in the editing is superb as it plays it straight while adding some stylistic flairs for some of the film’s dramatic and funny moments.
Production designers William Cone and Jim Pearson do some wonderful work in the look of Al‘s Toy Barn along with the apartment and the look of Zurg‘s base in the opening sequence. Sound designers Gary Rydstrom and Tom Myers along with sound editor Michael Silvers do a fantastic job with the sound from the opening scene to the scenes in the city as the sound work is masterful.
The music by Randy Newman is a highlight of the film as it plays a wonderful mix of bombastic orchestral pieces along with low-key dramatic and funny moments to country-western music for Woody’s old show. Featuring a jazzy version of You’ve Got a Friend in Me by Robert Goulet and the theme to Woody’s show by Riders in the Sky. The real moment of the film’s soundtrack is the somber song When She Loved Me that is sung by Sarah McLachlan in Jessie’s flashback scene. It is truly the most heart-wrenching song of the soundtrack as McLachlan’s vocal performance truly captures the sense of loss that Jessie endures in that sequence.
The casting by Mary Hidalgo and Ruth Lambert is phenomenal as it features cameo voice appearances from John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich as Rock N’ Sock ‘Em Robots, Andrew Stanton as the Evil Emperor Zurg, Jodi Benson as Barbie dolls, and Dave Foley in a cameo as Flik from A Bug’s Life. Other notable voice appearances include R. Lee Emrey as Sarge, Joe Ranft as Wheezy and from A Bug’s Life Heimlich, Jonathan Harris as Geri the Cleaner, Laurie Metcalf as Andy’s mom, John Morris as Andy, and Jeff Pidgeon as the Squeeze Toy Aliens. Estelle Harris is wonderfully funny as Mrs. Potato Head along with Annie Potts as Bo Peep. Wayne Knight is very funny as over-zealous toy collector Al while Kelsey Grammer is great as the manipulative yet charming Stinky Pete the Prospector.
John Ratzenberger and Don Rickles are amazing as in their respective yet hilarious roles as Hamm and Mr. Potato Head. Wallace Shawn is joyfully superb as the insecure yet video-game obsessed Rex. Jim Varney is excellent as loyal yet sassy Slinky. Joan Cusack is phenomenal as Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl with her lively vocal performance as well as the sense of anguish she faces about her memories in being a toy as she is the real highlight of the film. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are spectacular in their respective roles as Woody and Buzz. Hanks brings that every-man quality to Woody along with a sense of fear about not being played with only to remember the value of being a toy. Allen brings a performance that is very engaging as Buzz along with some humor about his own reaction to the Buzz Lightyear toys. Even as he gets to be very silly as the other Buzz.
Toy Story 2 is truly a superb sequel to its 1995 predecessor as John Lasseter and company step up their game in bringing a film that is entertaining and heartwarming. While it’s hard to say which of the three films of the Toy Story trilogy is the best as they each have something different to offer. The second is truly one of the most lively and imaginative thanks to the introduction of new characters like Jessie and Bulls-Eye along with old characters from the previous everyone knows and love. In the end, Toy Story 2 is a joyful film that allows the audience to spend more time with Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the characters of the beloved franchise.
Pixar Films: Toy Story - A Bug’s Life - (Monsters, Inc.) - (Finding Nemo) - The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - (Finding Dory) - (Cars 3) - Coco - Incredibles 2 - Toy Story 4 - (Onward) - Soul (2020 film) - (Luca (2021 film)) - Turning Red - (Lightyear) - (Elemental (2023 film)) - (Elio (2024 film)) - (Inside Out 2) - (Toy Story 5)
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