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Toy Story 2
Director: John Lasseter
Co-Director: Lee Unkrich
Screenplay: Andrew Stanton and Rita Hsiao and Doug Chamberlain and Chris Webb
Voices: Tom Hanks (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), John Ratzenberger (Hamm), Annie Potts (Bo Peep), Wayne Knight (Al McWhiggin), John Morris (Andy), Laurie Metcalf (Andy's Mom), Estelle Harris (Mrs. Potato Head)
MPAA Rating: G
Year of Release: 1999
Country: U.S.
Toy Story 2 Blu-Ray
Toy Story 2 If only they had come up with a more interesting title for the sequel to 1995’s computer-animated mega-hit Toy Story. The bland, thoughtless title Toy Story 2 simply doesn’t do this wonderful comedy justice. Don’t be fooled by the “2.” In the last 30 years, any numeral after a title (whether it be Roman or Arabic) has morphed into cinematic shorthand for “unoriginal retread of earlier ideas” or, more directly, “lazy attempt to cash in on previous success.” It is only in the rare sequel--The Godfather Part II (1974), Aliens (1986), or, more recently, The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)--that filmmakers makes unique films that differ and/or expand upon the originals (that doesn’t always work, of course, as exemplified by mega-bombs like 1977’s Exorcist II: The Heretic, but, hey, at least they tried).

Toy Story 2 expands and builds upon the story and characters from the groundbreaking original in a way that is both meaningful and fun, which is why it is such great entertainment. Originally slated as a Disney straight-to-video release ala Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), it was readily apparent early on that this film was of such superior quality that it demanded a theatrical release. John Lasseter, who helmed the original Toy Story and takes co-directing credit this time around with Lee Unkrich, has marshaled an army of talent and put together a funny, fast-moving sequel that is as good, if not even better, than the 1995 original, and certainly more light-hearted and whimsical (there is significantly less threat of bodily harm hanging over the proceedings).

The story once again concerns all the toys in young Andy’s room pulling together in order to rescue one of their own. In this case, their leader, Woody (Tom Hanks), a spirited cowboy doll, has been kidnapped by a greedy toy collector named Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight, still best known as Seinfeld’s nefarious Newman), who realizes that Woody is a rare relic from the 1950s. Once kidnapped by Al, Woody is reunited with the rest of his “Round Up Gang,” including cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack), his horse Bullseye, and Stinky Peter the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer), who has never been taken out of his original packaging. By including Woody, Al’s collection is now complete and is ready to be shipped off to a Japanese museum as an exhibit.

Leading the rescue attempt is the determined Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), the spaceman action figure who now understands that he is, indeed, a toy (the original movie was centered around his dilemma of not understanding that he could not really fly). Buzz leads fellow toys Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Rex the dinosaur (Wallace Shawn), and Hamm, a plastic piggy bank (John Ratzenberger), from Andy’s room through the dangers of downtown (including an incredible sequence where they cross a major street amid rushing traffic) to where Woody is being kept.

Like all of Pixar’s films, Toy Story 2 is an astounding visual feat of ingenuity and imagination. Take, for instance, the opening sequence that reimagines a Buzz Lightyear video game as a full-scale space battle involving Buzz and thousands of evil robots. Or, for another example, witness the creepy sequence when Woody’s arm is torn, and he dreams that Andy has lost interest and thrown him away with other torn and discarded toy parts (it is only in this sequence that Toy Story 2 touches on the darkness that pervaded the second half of the original with its threats of dismemberment-by-rocket and a barbeque inferno). The imagination in both of these sequences is not just in the visuals on-screen, but in the screenplay’s vivid reworking of the everyday world through the eyes of a group of toys. Screenwriters Andrew Stanton, Rita Hsiao, Doug Chamberlain, and Chris Webb create a complex and believable point of view for their toy protagonists that makes Woody’s existential dilemma--whether to rejoin the toys in Andy’s room or to join the Round-Up gang in the museum, both places that need him equally--all that more affecting.

Toy Story 2 is also a wild pastiche of Hollywood conventions and recognizable parodies, which reminds us of the film’s multiple levels of operation in terms of audience address. The opening sequence is a funny and clever parody of both the Star Wars and Star Trek series, and the filmmakers work in great visual gags that play off scenes in Jurassic Park (1993) and Die Hard (1988). Lasseter even manages to work in a role for Geri, the wonderful old codger at the center of Pixar’s Oscar-winning short film Geri’s Game (1997).

Although visuals are the most oft-mentioned aspects of Pixar’s films, what many fail to fully appreciate is the masterful use of narrative in these films. Because they are so carefully planned and storyboarded prior to the expensive computer animation process, these stories tend to be shining examples of pure narrative economy. Not a single shot is ever wasted, and not a single character comes out one-sided or shallow. Even the corpulent and obnoxious Al is given a moment of sympathy, which reflects on the filmmakers’ good intentions and encompassing spirit. Of course, much of this is also due to the voice talent behind all the characters. They may be animated by computers, but the characters in Toy Story 2 are some of the most lifelike and affecting creations you’ll ever see.

Toy Story 2 Special Edition Blu-Ray + DVD Two-Disc Set

Aspect Ratio1.78:1
Audio
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital EX 5.1 surround
  • French Dolby Digital EX 5.1 surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
    Supplements
  • “Characters: An Exclusive Sneak Peek At Toy Story 3” featurette
  • “Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station” featurette
  • “Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists” featurette
  • “Studio Stories: Toy Story 2 Sleep Deprivation Lab” featurette
  • “Studio Stories: Pinocchio” featurette
  • “Studio Stories: The Movie Vanishes” featurette
  • “Pixar’s Zoetrope” featurette
  • “Celebrating our Friend Joe Ranft” featurette
  • Audio commentary by director John Lasseter, co-directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, and co-writer Andrew Stanton
  • “John Lasseter Profile” featurette
  • Cast of Characters” featurette
  • Outtake
  • “Riders in the Sky Music Medley”
  • “Autographed Pictures” featurette
  • “Who’s the Coolest Toy?” featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Design galleries
  • Production featurettes
  • Music & Sound featurettes
  • “Character Interview” short,
  • Two theatrical trailers
  • Six TV spots
  • Poster gallery
  • “Baseball Woody” spot
  • BD-Live
  • DistributorWalt Disney Home Entertainment
    SRP$39.99
    Release DateMarch 23, 2010

    VIDEO & AUDIO
    Toy Story 2’s 1080p high-definition direct digital port on Blu-Ray looks absolutely wonderful. The increased detail of the computer animation (this was only Pixar’s fourth feature) is presented with beautiful clarity, and colors and contrast are both spot on. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack is also impressive, particularly the opening sequence with Buzz Lightyear in space, which packs all the wallop of a massive action blockbuster. It’s a perfect sequence to impress your friends with your home theater set-up.
    SUPPLEMENTS
    The new Blu-Ray edition of Toy Story 2 combines the supplements previously available the 2005 DVD with some new material that is not quite disappointing, but not particularly exciting either. Since the DVD supplements have been well reviewed elsewhere, I will concentrate my comments on the new additions.

    The majority of the new supplements are short featurettes, including a two-minute sneak preview of the upcoming Toy Story 3 hosted by director Lee Unkrich, who focuses primarily on the new characters to be introduced in the film. “Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station” (4 min.) is the second in a series of shorts co-produced by NASA that uses Buzz to introduce kids to the international space station. “Paths to Pixar: Technical Artists” (4 min.) features interviews with several technical artists about their work at Pixar. The three “Studio Stories” featurettes (each of which runs less than two minutes) uses amusingly crude animation to tell fun stories about the folks working at Pixar. “Pixar’s Zoetrope” (2 min.) shows how the Pixar team built their own massive three-dimensional zoetrope (which, for those who don’t known, is an 18th-century optical toy that predated animation), and “Celebrating Our Friend Joe Ranft” (13 min.) is a tribute to story artist Joe Ranft, who doesn’t get nearly the exposure he deserves.

    Overall Rating: (4)

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Walt Disney Home Entertainment


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