Picking up shortly after the end of the original, Pixar’s Toy Story 2 is another amazing technological and creative feat. After brawling through the first movie Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz (Tim Allen) are now best of friends and everything is peachy keen in the world that is Andy’s bedroom. But the good life never lasts long, especially for toys, and soon many of their compadres (the forgotten, dusty ones at least) are being hauled outside so that they can sold for a quarter in a garage sale. Woody, dealing with his own mortality after a ripped shoulder causes him to miss a vacation with Andy, decides to play the hero and goes on a mission to save his penguin friend Wheezy (Joe Ranft). But, lo and behold, it turns out that in his day, in his own way, Woody was a celebrity himself and so by revealing himself to a slimy toy story owner named Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight in full Newman mode) he gets stolen and relocated to a high rise office. That leaves Buzz and company no choice but to go on a rescue mission which is rather reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz and is stuffed with some of the best writing children’s entertainment has ever seen.

The rather pedestrian search and rescue aspect of the plot works extremely well and will suck you in from the word go. No staring at your watch here. But what is even more enthralling is the way that they flipped the script from the original and made it so that Woody is the one who has to choose between being a toy and being a companion for Andy. Al has grand plans of selling Woody and the rest of his set (a cowgirl named Jessie, a horse named Bullseye, and a prospector named Stinky Pete) to a museum in Japan, and after seeing video footage of his days as a TV star and hearing a sob story from Jessie about how her owner turned her back on her so that she could obsess over makeup, Woody is ready to make the transition. And in reality it would make sense, kids do grow up and toys are abandoned, but in Woody’s case he also has a group of friends back home to consider as well.

The film was released in 1999 and was only the third feature released by Pixar, as back then we weren’t treated to one every year. It, like Toy Story, was directed by John Lasseter who has grown up to be the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and this should be exhibit A as to why he deserves that job. Take the scene where Woody has to navigate a mine field of Cheetos so that he can climb up and into the pocket of a sleeping money grubber in hopes that he can rescue his disembodied arm. Along the way he has to deal with a rather dim horse who insists upon following him, some of the most vile cheese breath imaginable, and a TV that turns on for no good reason at all. These are all things that this character in this situation would really have to deal with, but Lasseter and his team have woven it together so tightly and so beautifully that they manage to create art. And that is not even taking into consideration their take on why astronaut toys are more popular than cowboy toys, or all of the crazy inventive new ways that they implore us to look at our old playthings.

Buzz, on the other hand, is left to play the Woody role as he tries his damndest to convince another Buzz Lightyear, straight out of the box, that he is really nothing more than a play thingy for children. This leads to a case of mistaken identity as the new Buzz replaces the old one, and while this devise should have felt tired Pixar, as usual, provided fresh insights into older storylines. As with the original Toy Story, which was also released on Blu-Ray this week, the picture and sound are amazing and are almost a good excuse to go out and buy the HDTV you’ve been dreaming about. The sequel may not be as memorable as the first but it is equally as good if not better. If only the Academy Awards had been handing out ten nomination for best picture back in the day then this one surely would have accomplished what it’s younger brother Up did earlier this year.

Blu-ray Special Features:
*Making Toy Story 2
*Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station
*Deleted Scenes/Outtakes
*Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammar
Director: John Lasseter
Rated: G
Runtime: 92 minutes

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