While Andy (John Morris (voice)) is away at Cowboy Camp, his mom (Laurie Metcalf (voice)) has a yard sale. While rescuing a toy from being sold, Woody (Tom Hanks (voice)) gets stolen by Al (Wayne Knight (voice)), a toy collector and owner of Al’s Toy Barn. In Al’s apartment, Woody discovers he is a rare toy and part of The Round-Up Gang, along with Jessie (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer), and Bullseye. Meanwhile, Buzz (Tim Allen (voice)) and the rest of Andy’s toys go on a rescue mission to retrieve Woody before Andy returns home.
I make no point in hiding that Toy Story is one of my all-time favorite films and was instrumental in shaping my childhood. It tells a great story, the characters are relatable, and the computer animation was groundbreaking. It’s almost impossible to think that a sequel could hit just as many emotional strings. But by George, John Lasseter and his crew at Pixar managed to do just that, creating a Toy Story sequel that is almost almost (almost) as good as its predecessor.
In 1999, Pixar was still growing, still proving themselves as fantastic, emotional storytellers. They came out strong with Toy Story in 1995then kept the momentum going in 1998 with their sophomore film, the good not great A Bug’s Life. When it came to their third outing, they returned to the characters that got them started. What I think really makes this work, like any good sequel really, is that it doesn’t retread the previous movie. Instead, it builds on it, telling a unique story that honors the first and expands the world it inhabits. We get to meet Al and explore Al’s Toy Barn, previously only seen in the Buzz Lightyear commercial. More toys are seen, like Barbie, Zerg, and the rest of the Round-Up Gang. But most importantly, it teaches a new message.
Toy Story was about friendship, getting past your differences, and understanding one another to become closer. Toy Story 2‘s message is about accepting that things change, or eventually will change, and you have to accept that and make the most out the time you have. This cleverly expands on the concept of the first movie and will be expanded even further in Toy Story 3. Not only is it a sequel in name and chronology, it is a sequel in story. Pixar you clever bastards.
Another film series I have mentioned over and over that has had a big impact on me was the original Star Wars trilogy. There are a ton of Star War references in this film. I recognized a few when I was younger but there are more than I realized after watching it more recently. That’s so cool! Mixing two of my favorite things it the best.
Another thing about the story I got a kick out of was meeting another Buzz Lightyear. This time, Buzz got to experience what the rest of Andy’s toys went through when joined the group in the previous film. I love seeing the changing of roles and Buzz needing to deal with himself.
The Toy Story films could almost be considered ensemble films. Kid don’t have only one or two toys. No, they have many. For as many characters there are that are returning, Jessie and Pete, the two biggest (speaking) new characters, get plenty of development. Jessie is my favorite of the two. She has so much spunk and energy it’s hard not to smile along with her. But underneath all that playfulness, she has a rich past that is slowly and effectively unfolds as the film moves along. Until only recently, I didn’t realize Kelsey Grammer voiced Stinky Pete. Is voice work is tremendous! I want to see him as animated villain again.
It’s hard to imagine a sequel to one of the most beloved and emotional animated films living up to its predecessor, but Toy Story 2 comes awfully close. This is a sequel that does everything right: A fun, new story that honors what has been told before while expanding on it, a great message that young and older audiences can relate to, and outstanding new additions to the cast that are well fleshed out. In terms of sequels, you can’t do much better than Toy Story 2.
Also read my reviews for Toy Story and Toy Story 3.
Cast & Crew
John Lasseter – Director / Original Story
Ash Brannon – Co-Director / Original Story
Lee Unkrich – Co-Director
Pete Doctor – Original Story
Andrew Stanton – Original Story / Screenplay
Rita Hsiao – Screenplay
Doug Chamberlin – Screenplay
Chris Webb – Screenplay
Randy Newman – Composer
Tom Hanks – Woody (voice)
Tim Allen – Buzz Lightyear (voice)
Joan Cusack – Jessie (voice)
Kelsey Grammer – Stinky Pete (voice)
Don Rickles – Mr. Potato Head
Jim Varney – Slinky Dog (voice)
Wallace Shawn – Rex (voice)
John Ratzenberger – Hamm (voice)
Annie Potts – Bo Peep (voice)
Wayne Knight – Al (voice)
John Morris – Andy (voice)
Laurie Metcalf – Andy’s Mom (voice)
Estelle Harris – Mrs. Potato Head
R. Lee Ermey – Army Sarge (voice)
Jodi Benson – Tour Guide Barbie / Barbie on Backpack (voice)
Jonathon Harris – Geri the Cleaner
Joe Ranft – Weezy (voice)
Andrew Stanton – Evil Emperor Zerg (voice)
Jeff Pidgeon – Green Aliens (voice)