Director: John Lasseter
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammar, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger
Plot: When Woody (Hanks) inexplicably ends up in a garage sale, his fellow toys rush to save him, unaware that his abandonment has left Woody with a crippling identity crisis.
You can see why Pixar returned to its original success early in its career. Toy Story was such an iconic film that inspired their following success with Bug’s Life that trying to continue the story of the beloved toys seemed like a sure-fire success. And it was a correct statement. People flocked to the cinema to reunite with Woody, Buzz and the others, achieving an outstanding box office record. However, there is still a touch of disappointment that Pixar felt compelled to return to a past glory, rather than trying to devise another original story, which they are clearly capable of doing.
Toy Story 2 continues the trend of asking how fallible toys actually are. Again, Toy Story 2 is more of a question of grand ‘what ifs’ rather than any moralistic debates. For example, if someone you are loyal to contemplated throwing you away, a movie that enforced sticking by them no matter what would be a little ill-advised. Instead, this is a story that just revels in the sadness of watching toys that have no other choice in living with this undying loyalty to an arguably lost cause. Here, it is not just the longevity of a relationship, but morality as well. Early on in the film, Woody receives a cut to his arm, throwing up several more questions in the air. Can toys heal? Can toys die? It adds a bigger sense of threat than the original Toy Story had, creating an unsettling sensation whenever things take a dark turn for the worse. The trend of identity is discussed again in this one, some interesting angles fished out from the topic of toys. Woody finds out that his calibre of toy was once the action figure counterpart of a successful show from before, giving him a form of celebrity. This brings up the discussion of the difference between a collectible and a toy, leading onto the more cinematic debate of which one is the better existence? To live protected in a museum, glorified yet encased in a glass case for the rest of time? Or to risk destruction in a short-term relationship with a boy maturing out of toys? Another case of identity crisis emerges from Buzz Lightyear finding a shop filled with other Buzz toys. Is the Buzz of Toy Story fame a three-dimensional figure or is his personality programmed into him like all the other Buzz action figures? And if he isn’t the one and only person like him in the world, does that matter? Finally, with the figure of Buzz’s arch nemesis Zurg, the script questions whether you can be programmed to hate someone. Zurg awakes from his slumber determined to kill any Buzz toy, a thought put into him by his creators. Can he become more than that?
From the sounds of it, Toy Story 2 has escaped the mediocrity of a sequel and actually pulled out some interesting debates. Well, yes and no. This is easily one of the greatest animated sequels out there, especially of its time, when the majority of animated sequels were dull direct-to-video Disney affairs. For that, Toy Story has to be respected for taking its story and actively making a decision of an interesting route to take it. However, looking back, with a thought of what Pixar movies could be, there are elements of Toy Story 2 that are slightly lacking. For one, it is hard to look at both Pixar and Disney projects and not see a cheap attempt to cash in on some merchandising. There is a plethora of colourful characters on display here from Woody’s female counterpart, Jessie, to a loveable steed for Woody to ride on. There is also a fun segment from an entourage of Barbie dolls. However, perhaps with an unfairly cynical tone, Toy Story 2 is reaching for ways to expand its universe-building. The end result are moments that are sorely under-cooked. Zurg, for instance, never quite hammers home that backstory, almost feeling like a villain to keep Toy Story 2 moving forward. This is a much slower beast than the last film and without Zurg, it might veer into the realms of dullness. Thankfully, Pixar are too good at what they do to make Toy Story 2 painfully bad, yet there is a definite sense of the first signs of flagging from one of the most exciting animation production companies out there.
Final Verdict: Toy Story 2 shows moments of promise, but it feels too much like a sequel to rank it with the other Disney entries.