This weekend sees the release of Toy Story 4, in celebration of the Pixar sequel, we’re looking back at the previous films. Today we dive into Toy Story 2.
The first Toy Story was an introduction to two brand new worlds. On the one hand we had our first fully computer animated feature length film. It would change the entire market of animated films and essentially kill off the hand drawn animation styles that helped make Disney the empire it is today. On the other hand, we have a world where toys come to life when we’re not looking. They have rules for how their world works, and the most important thing in their world is to be loved by a child. Toy Story 2 would help expand the two worlds, and produce one of the greatest sequels of all time.
In terms of the animation, Toy story 2 is a clear step up from the original film. The greatest proof of this is in Andy’s dog Buster. In the first film the evil neighbor Sid had a dog named Scud- who was without a doubt one of the most simplistic designs for a dog in computer animation that you could possibly think of. Meanwhile, Buster looks like a real-life dog. The details added to Woody and Buzz in the second film are incredible as well. Woody looks much more human than he did in the first film, and it adds a lot more depth as he faces his biggest challenge yet.
In expanding the world of the toys, Toy Story 2 gives us a more emotionally complex narrative, and asks even deeper existential questions. When Woody is stolen by a toy store owner looking to sell a full collection of “Woody’s Roundup” toys to a Japanese museum, Woody begins to wonder how long he’ll have with Andy, and what his life may be like as Andy grows older. The insecurities Woody has concerning Andy outgrowing him only worsen when he hears Jessie’s story of how she was abandoned by her previous owner, Emily.
While the first film explored the idea of what makes life worthwhile, the second film says, what do we have when the things we hold on to have a chance of being torn away from us. While there’s no concrete answer, it essentially poses the idea that the importance of life is the journey we take. That we should hold onto the good things that we have, and that we should take these important elements of our life like love, family, and friendship, and let them last as long as they can. It’s a great message, and a powerful statement coming from a film about toys that come to life.
In some ways Toy Story 2 is an even better film than the original, and is without a doubt a perfect sequel. It’s a film that can stand solely on its own without having any knowledge of the first film, but is even stronger with the foundation of the original film. The film also does a great job of adding more heart to the franchise. At times the cynicism in Woody as he faces the inherent conflict of Buzz’s arrival almost makes Woody unlikable in the original film, but it redeems him thoroughly by the end. Toy Story 2 shows us a completely lovable, courageous, and honorable Woody. In the end Woody likely wouldn’t be as loved today if not for the way in which Toy Story 2 expands the character. The film also adds more warmth through the addition of the rest of the “roundup gang,” specifically Jessie.
Jessie and Bullseye have become staples of this franchise, and without much hard work, because of their perfect introductions. “When She Loved Me” is one of the best songs in any Disney film, even if it is the saddest, and years later it’s hard to watch that scene without still tearing up a bit. That moment with Jessie truly helped define her character, and seeing her still fight for her freedom and well being makes her one of the best characters in the entire franchise. She’s also the perfect midground between the tougher Buzz, and the more lighthearted Woody. As for Bullseye, he’s essentially a puppy, and who doesn’t love puppies?
After proving that they could craft an excellent film fueled by story and character with the first Toy Story, Pixar proved with Toy Story 2 that they could tackle sequels that were meaningful. They also proved that they could expand worlds we know, and in doing so it made room for bigger jumps in the films that followed. It would also help when the studio eventually released a third film 11 years later.