US Release Date: 11-24-1999
Directed by: John Lasseter
- Tom Hanks, as
- Woody (voice)
- Tim Allen, as
- Buzz Lightyear (voice)
- Joan Cusack, as
- Jessie - Yodeling Cowgirl (voice)
- Kelsey Grammer, as
- Stinky Pete the Prospector (voice)
- Don Rickles, as
- Mr. Potato Head (voice)
- Jim Varney, as
- Slinky Dog (voice)
- Wallace Shawn, as
- Rex the Green Dinosaur (voice)
- John Ratzenberger, as
- Hamm the Piggy Bank (voice)
- Annie Potts, as
- Bo Peep (voice)
- Wayne Knight, as
- Al the Toy Collector (voice)
- John Morris, as
- Andy (voice)
- Estelle Harris as
- Mrs. Potato Head (voice)
Woody and Buzz returned in Toy Story 2.
Toy Story 2 is, of course, the follow-up to the enormously successful Toy Story. Disney wanted Pixar to produce a 60 minute direct-to-video sequel, as it was doing to so many of its hits of the 1990s, thus milking their franchises with watered-down versions of their cartoons, often featuring completely different actors and much lower standards of animation. Pixar, backed by successful test screenings of early footage, pushed for and got permission from Disney to produce a full-length feature film. A decision that would prove them right and would be one of the nails in the coffin of the then relationship between Pixar and Disney.
This time around, Woody (Hanks) and Buzz (Allen) are good friends who have learned to co-exist in their toy world. But when Woody is ripped and accidentally "sold" at a Yard Sale, Buzz must lead a toy crew to rescue his cowboy friend. In reality, Woody has been stolen by a toy collector who wants to sell him to a toy museum in Japan. It seems that in the 1950s Woody was a famous toy with his own television show. The Toy collector already has Jessie the cowgirl (Cusack), Bulls-eye the horse, and Stinky Pete the prospector (Grammer), and with the addition of Woody, he can make quite a bit of money. What's even worse is that before long Woody's even starting to think it's a good idea.
While there are just as many laughs and all of the old characters and new ones are in this one, the plot in this one is a bit more outrageous. I know it's silly to even broach the subject of realism in a movie like this, but with the way the toys behave here, it would be impossible for people not to know that toys come to life. They venture outside, cross a busy street (disguised in cones), invade a toy store, drive a pickup truck, battle in an airport and drive an airplane loader home to Andy's house. It all makes for an entertaining ride, but in taking the toys so far outside the home, the movie loses a little bit. Don't get me wrong, this is still a great movie, it's just not as good as the original.
Eric, in your review of Toy Story, you mention how Woody is like a child and he must get used to the arrival of a new brother in the form of Buzz, the new toy. Here I might argue that Woody is more like a parent. He is faced with the knowledge that someday Andy will grow-up and move out; going off to college and getting married and he won't need Andy or his other toys anymore.
The script is also littered with lots of in-jokes, including one by Tour-Guide Barbie (whom Mattel was more than happy to license for this movie after denying that license for the first one), who mentions that "back in 1995 short-sighted retailers did not order enough Buzz Lightyear dolls to meet demand". (Which was true in real-life). There are also many small tributes and references to other Pixar films and filmmakers for those with a quick-eye and a pause button.
After the success of this movie, no one would second-guess Pixar again and there was no question that Toy Story 3 (due out in 2010, the 15th anniversary of the original) would be released anywhere but in theaters.
The characters do have quite an adventure trying to rescue Woody. It is fun and entertaining. Woody discovering who he is drips with sentimentality. The real heart of the movie though, is the understanding that children grow up and out grow their toys that once meant so much to them. Jesse illustrates this very well with her story.
Although the main thrust of the story is an adventure film, the message is that nothing lasts forever. It is a theme throughout the movie. It is demonstrated from Wheezy being shelved to Woody's Roundup being cancelled. Whereas humans die, toys get abandoned or sold in garage sales.
Woody must make a mature decision between boring immortality, or a few years of fun. As Stinky Pete says, "Andy's growing up, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's your choice, Woody. You can go back, or you can stay with us and last forever."
Although this movie has a theme worth discussing, it does not mean it is not entertaining. I always laugh when Mrs Potato Head packs her husbands "angry eyes." I also laugh when he ends up using them.
Toy Story 2 is a fun film for the whole family, but it also can touch your heart. Just as any parent would say about their child, Woody declares, "You're right, Prospector. I can't stop Andy from growing up... but I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Woody discovers his famous past in Toy Story 2.
The secret of the Toy Story movies is in how they encapsulate that special, magical relationship between children and their toys. Jessie explains it simply yet eloquently to Woody when she describes his bond with Andy. “Let me guess. Andy's a real special kid, and to him, you're his buddy, his best friend, and when Andy plays with you it's like... even though you're not moving, you feel like you're alive, because that's how he sees you.”
Then later she sums up the inevitable tragedy of a toy's existence. “You never forget kids like Emily, or Andy, but they forget you.” Toy Story 2 foreshadows the famous final farewell between Andy and Woody in Toy Story 3. Andy is beginning to grow up in this one but hasn't yet reached the age where he will part with his beloved playthings.
The second most important ingredient in the Toy Story phenomenon is the humor. These movies are genuinely funny. Like when Woody excitedly tells his old friends about his famous past. “Oh, you should have seen it. There was a record player. And a yo-yo. Buzz, I was a yo-yo!” To which Mr. Potato Head, in an aside to Hamm, remarks, “WAS?” These movies are also filled with amusingly clever satires of pop culture. Woody's 1950s fame borrows from both the Davy Crocket craze and The Howdy Doody Show. Woody, at the height of his fame, even made the covers of Time and Life magazines.
Third in importance, and certainly the least entertaining aspect of the franchise, is the actual adventure the toys embark on. And while the scenes in the toy store do allow for some fun moments I agree with Scott about its very nearly jumping the shark during their exploits at the airport. But to be fair these adventures are aimed mostly at the children in the audience. It's as if their imaginations have come to life on the big screen. The nostalgia factor in the form of conjuring up half-forgotten childhood memories is what draws adults to the franchise.
Toy Story 2 also teaches a lesson about participating in life versus sitting on a shelf observing. Buzz sums it up best when he questions Woody's decision to go to the Japanese toy museum. “To do what? Watch kids from behind glass and never be loved again? Some life.” Toy Story 2 may be the weakest entry in the series, but it's still a pretty darn good movie. To paraphrase another classic film, these Toys are the stuff that childhood dreams are made of.
Photos © Copyright Pixar (1999)