Toy Story 2
Directed by John Lasseter
Review by Matt Heffernan
My reviews for this week are a little late because of Thanksgiving. This delay, however, allows me to have a better perspective on Toy Story 2. Initially, Disney was going to make this direct-to-video, just like its other animated sequels to Aladdin and The Lion King. They figured out early on that this was too good for the small screen alone, and upped production to feature levels. All the voice talent is back, and the computer technology has dramatically improved since 1995. Combined with a strong script, this film has quickly beaten all the records set by Warner's Pokémon movie just two weeks earlier. The key factor was to make something that the parents actually want to go to.
We pick up after the first film, and the former rivals Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) are now friends. Their owner, Andy (John Morris), is going away to Cowboy Camp, so he naturally wants to take Woody. While enacting one more adventure with his toys, Woody's arm is partially torn from his body. Andy takes off without him, leaving his mother (Laurie Metcalf) to repair the arm. That day, she is having a yard sale, and some toys will be sold. Woody tries to rescue another toy from the sale, but ends up in the hands of Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight), a memorabilia collector. Andy's mom knows better than to sell Woody, so Al steals him.
Buzz, along with Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Hamm the Piggy Bank (John Ratzenberger), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), and Rex the Dinosaur (Wallace Shawn), set out to rescue Woody. It turns out that Al took Woody because he is actually a very rare doll, modeled after a marionette from a Saturday morning show during the 1950's. He is reunited with other dolls from the show, including Jessie the Cowgirl (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer) -- who is still in his original packaging, and Woody's horse, Bullseye. Al is going to ship them to a museum in Japan, where they will be together forever, adored by children from around the world. The rescue is complicated by Woody's conflict of loyalty between his new-old friends and Andy.
I wouldn't say that this dilemma makes Toy Story 2 more profound than Princess Mononoke, but it is certainly just as entertaining. This is easily Disney's best film of the year, surpassing Tarzan and even the original Toy Story. Not only has the animation improved, but the story is more compelling and humorous. Pixar has proven with this series and A Bug's Life that they are the best creative force at Disney, making consistently better films than their traditionally animated features.
I think the reason that Pixar's films are more successful is simplicity. Obviously, the process of computer animation is very complicated, but the stories are kept simple. They don't have an imperative to make grand adventures like The Lion King each time, and therefore they are allowed to be more creative. This film has the same quality that Disney's early shorts had: a boisterous energy that comes from charismatic characters. The adults that made Toy Story 2 had a lot of fun, and they knew that what they were making would appeal to everybody. It's truly a special thing to watch this all come together. I have rarely had so much fun at the movies before.
So there you have it. Disney and Pixar have created a ready-made hit, and backed it up with a quality product. If you have kids, no doubt they want to go see it, and you have probably gone already. There are no new major releases this weekend, so they should nearly repeat the estimated $80 million gross from last week. I'd definitely recommend that you see it, even if you don't have any kids. Sometimes it's OK to go along with the crowd.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Toy Story 2 (1999)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan