Toy Story 2 features quite a few inside jokes in an effort to uphold the standards of Pixar.

  • The canyon that Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) flies through in the opening sequence is from A Bug's Life.
  • When Hamm (John RatzenBerger) is changing channels very quickly on the television, everything playing, with the exception of the "Al's Toy Barn" commercial, is from a Pixar short.
  • As revealed in the outtakes, Heimlich (Jon Ranft - A Bug's Life) is on a branch that Buzz pushes out of the way while efforting to find Woody (Tom Hanks), but, unlike the outtake, Flik (Dave Foley) is not.
  • At the top of the hill in Jessie's (Joan Cusack) song, When She Loved Me performed by Sarah McLachlan, is a tree. That tree is the tree on the island in A Bug's Life.

The Bottom Line

Andy's gang is back. When Woody is kidnapped by an evil toy salesman, Buzz and the rest go to the big city to rescue him. Meanwhile, Woody is reunited with the other characters from his old-time TV show. When the gang arrives, Woody has second thoughts about returning home.

The Rest of the Story

Toy Story 2 picks up sometime in the near future after the end of the first movie. Andy is about to head off to cowboy camp - a yearly treat for Woody (Tom Hanks), who gets some quality time with his owner as Andy's favorite toy - when he decides to play one last game of "damsel in distress." Unfortunately, Andy's roughhousing causes a tear in Woody's arm, and Andy leaves him in the house instead. Woody is inconsolable. Is he washed up?

Woody's worst fears are confirmed when his friend Wheezy the Penguin is thrown into a box for a yard sale by Andy's mom. He immediately embarks on a rescue mission with the help of the family dog Buster (whom he has a taught a trick or two.) He even succeeds in saving Wheezy from his castaway fate - but ends up in a sale box himself. A visiting buyer hears Woody's inner voicebox and becomes overjoyed. He tries to buy Woody, but to no avail - so instead he steals him! Buzz (Tim Allen) attempts a second rescue, but it doesn't work. However, he does catch the license plate - LZTYBRN. A quick application to the Speak 'n Spell and the group figures out it stands for Al's Toy Barn. The gang takes off into the heart of the city to rescue their friend.

Meanwhile, Woody awakes to find himself in a glass box. After a bit of panicking, he escapes, only to realize he's not alone - there's a toy horse, too! Suddenly, he's ambushed by a cowgirl (Joan Cusack) - "Jesse's the name" - and meets "The Prospector" (Kelsey Grammer). Confused at first, the group enlightens him by showing him the collectibles behind him. It turns out that Woody was based on a popular children's show "Woody's Roundup" - one of those terribly cheesy early 50s puppet shows - and his face graces lunchboxes, piggy banks, yo-yos, and bubble gum. Even more importantly, Woody himself is a rare doll, and completes an invaluable collection - a collection destined for a toy museum in Japan. He's impressed, but still decides to leave, making Jesse quite upset. Unfortunately, his escape attempt is thwarted by the television suddenly turning on - was it sabotage?

Adventure ensues as the gang finally makes it to Al's Toy Barn. Buzz is abducted by a second, uninitiated Buzz, who leads the gang on a mission to "defeat Emperor Zurg"; Rex (Wally Shawn) desperately tries to figure out how to finally beat his Buzz Lightyear videogame; and Mr. Potato (Don Rickles) has to fight off temptation from the statuesque Tour Guide Barbie. Meanwhile, Jesse tells Woody the hard truth - that kids grow up, and abandon their toys without a second thought.

As the gang makes their way to Woody, what adventures will ensue? Will Woody be convinced to stay with his new family after all? Will the real Buzz escape his cardboard fate? And will Rex ever defeat Emperor Zurg?

My Thoughts

Although some people might be more impressed by the visual depth of Finding Nemo, the inspired originality of Monsters, Inc., or the fear of technology theme that runs rampant in the original Toy Story, it is this writer's humble opinion that is the best Pixar film to date.

I'm not sure how Pixar does it year in and year out. Writer Andrew Stanton an director John Lasseter continue to completely dominate the animated film industry with their fascinating humor, pathos, and storylines. The animation is of course superb, but only in the context that it doesn't distract from the adventures going on behind it. Perhaps what's really amazing is that Pixar continues to find compelling bigger-than-life stories in the smallest subjects - bugs, fish, toys - things that are ideal for animating with a greater scope. People have always expected their toys to do amazing things - why not come through on that promise?

The voice acting is excellent, with Hanks especially shining in essentially the main role. After twenty years, he still is the best feel-good Everyman in Hollywood, and it shows through in almost every line he delivers. Allen and the rest are well-crafted to their roles, with a special nod going to Wally Shawn's Rex, who seems to get all the kid-friendly jokes and turns them into just the right amount of adult frustration to make them stick.

With lots of sly references to films renowned for their CGI (Jurassic Park and The Empire Strikes Back, for starters) and plenty of gags for the 12 and over crowd, the film also resonates with an open and unintrusive message about leaving things behind. Without resorting to nostalgic melodrama or stoicism, the film reminds us that everything in life will pass us by eventually. A pretty thoughtful message - could you expect the same from the latest Adam Sandler drivel?

Rating: 10 out of 10. Kids, adults, and everyone in between simply must see this effortlessly amusing film. Don't forget the memorable Pixar outtakes at the end.

Credits

Directed by:
Ash Brannon
John Lasseter
Lee Unkrich

Written by:
Andrew Stanton

Music:
Randy Newman

Starring:
Tom Hanks .... Sheriff Woody
Tim Allen .... Buzz Lightyear
Joan Cusack .... Jessie
Kelsey Grammer .... Stinky Pete the Prospector
Don Rickles .... Mr. Potato Head
Jim Varney .... Slinky Dog
Wallace Shawn .... Rex the Green Dinosaur
John Ratzenberger .... Hamm the Piggy Bank
Annie Potts .... Bo Peep
Wayne Knight .... Al
Estelle Harris .... Mrs. Potato Head
R. Lee Ermey .... Army Sarge

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