After the success of Toy Story had loudly announced Pixar’s arrival in the world of feature animation and A Bug’s Life continued their box office success, John Lasseter and friends went back to Woody, Buzz and the gang with Toy Story 2. Reuniting the same cast as the original, but with a new crew due to the work taking place on A Bug’s Life and during production Lasseter once again took directing duties and Toy Story 2 become a box office smash hit raking in $485m from a budget of $90m. Randy Newman’s original song When She Loved Me was even nominated for an Oscar.
Woody (Tom Hanks) is anxiously awaiting ‘cowboy camp’ with his owner Andy, when an accident tears his arm and he is left ‘on the shelf’ with other broken and forgotten toys. He discovers Wheezy (Joe Ranft) who suddenly gets put into a box to be sold at a garage sale, and during the rescue mission Woody is stolen by a toy collector, Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight) who needs him to complete the Woody’s Round-Up gang along with Jessie (Joan Cusack) and Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer) with a view to selling him in Japan. Buzz (Tim Allen) and the remaining toys set out in search of Woody to reunite all the toys before Andy returns.
Toy Story 2 benefits from not needing to explain who the older characters are, with references to the original film, which allows the plot to proceed at a fast pace, never letting the action or comedy lull. The voice cast, which remains unchanged but adds Cusack and Grammer, is on top form once again and brings life to the animated toy characters. The comic timing is as good as the original, but Pixar take a few more risks introducing more dark elements like Woody’s dream about being thrown into the garbage. There are heavy references to Star Wars and Jurassic Park as well as a host of other films and TV shows which raise the enjoyment levels above that of a simple kids film.
If you take Toy Story to be a story about the fear of being replaced by someone younger and newer, then Toy Story 2 is very much a story about finding yourself less useful and heading toward retirement. Woody sees himself in a more vulnerable state due to damage, wear and tear and is tempted by Stinky Pete’s offer of being put in display in a museum for the rest of time. It’s the offer of immortality for an aging toy that is the basis for the action as Woody must decide whether to stay with Andy, but risk being forgotten and never played with again. This story, combined with a host of characters we know and love allows Toy Story 2 to rise to equal and maybe even better the original, with a higher sense of threat and increased pathos.