When it comes to sequels, there are only so many ways that they are usually done. They are either more of the same, much more of the same with a few changes on the plot, or an expansion of the world created in the first one with the characters we all love, as well as new ones, and a plot that is different, but still touches on the important points set by the first one. Most of them tend to fall under the first two categories, and they tend to fail. But some of them successfully fall under the third category. The Godfather Part II, Spider-Man 2, Superman II, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and The Dark Knight, are some of the few that fall under that category. Also joining them is what I believe is the first animated sequel Toy Story 2, which like the other films mentioned, surpasses the original in just about every way.
Originally meant to be a direct-to-video sequel (Disney sure does love their DTV sequels), Toy Story 2 was released in theaters because when the studio-heads heard the story, they just couldn’t let it go by unnoticed like most DTV titles. And thank goodness they showed some sense during that time. The story this time mostly focuses on Woody (Tom Hanks), who after a little bit of rough play before going to cowboy camp with Andy, ends up having to stay because his arm was almost torn off.
After a series of events, a very creepy dream, Woody ends up in a garage sale. There, he is found by Al (Wayne Knight), owner of a toy shop and a toy collector. Woody is then taken by the person who the other toys know as the chicken man (because of his commercials) without a clue as to what is going on.
Once they reach his apartment, he is greeted by other western-themed toys, Jessie (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer), and Bullseye, who are actually the rest of the “Woody’s Round Up” gang, an old TV show starring Woody. But then it turns out that they are headed to a museum in Japan, so chaos ensues. Meanwhile, Buzz (Tim Allen) leads a group of toys through a perilous journey to save the cowboy doll.
Toy Story mostly took on identity crises. This time, the theme continues but this time with Woody. Here he must decide whether or not he wants to grow up with Andy and risk being thrown away eventually or spend a lifetime behind a glass case, but be admired for generations. And as you can derive from this, it also deals with the prospect of becoming irrelevant and forgotten. In fact, this theme is explored in a great and heartbreaking way in the montage of Jessie’s memories set to Sarah McLachlan’s “When She Loved Me.” That scene never fails to get tears out of me.
-In addition to the expansion of the themes, we get a new set of awesome characters and equally awesome performances. Joan Cusack and Kelsey Grammer shine in their respective roles. Bullseye may not speak, but his actions are greater than words, and those actions make him one of Pixar’s most endearing characters. Theres is also Wheezy (Joe Ranft), a squeaker toy in shape of a penguin. His role may not be big, but it is important. We finally get to meet Zurg, Buzz Lightyear’s archnemesis, as well as Barbie, who did not appear in the first film because Mattel thought it would be a flop. Silly, I know. As for the original cast, it was a great as ever.
-In terms of animation, it is way ahead of the original. CG animation is better now, but it has not aged quite as much as the original, and it has more tiny details. The music is still fantastic, particularly the aforementioned “When She Loved Me,” written by Randy Newman and performed by McLachlan.
Although Toy Story is a masterpiece, Toy Story 2 surpasses it in just about every way possible. Not only is it the rare sequel that manages to do that, it led the way of a decade for Pixar full of other great movies (and Cars), which, given the way thing seem to be going for them, will be known as its golden age.