Is Toy Story 2 King of the Toy Story franchise? What were the best moments? How does it hold up today?
The Star Wars nods from the opening of Toy Story 2 gets me choked up every time. In a sequel that nearly outdoes the original in every way, a hilarious and charming script interweaves deep themes including fear of abandonment and sense of self-identity. Toy Story 2 brings it home (pun intended) that Pixar is just as much for adults than it is for children.
Toy Story 2 came out 4 years after the original, but the technical advancements between the two is easily noticeable. I vividly remember watching 1995’s Toy Story for the first time and my jaw dropping to the floor from the animation on the big screen. The sequel here is just as much as a technical achievement as the original. Funny note- Woody’s nightmare of being throw into the trash by Andy is also an awesome foreshadowing of Forky’s character from Toy Story 4. Very cool.
In Toy Story 2 came out 4 years after the original, but the technical advancements between the two is noticeable.
In my opinion, Woody was the embodiment of the original. Tom Hanks’ Woody owned every scene and is still the heart and soul of the still-going franchise to this day. However, it is Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear who truly takes center stage in the sequel. The chemistry between Woody and the gang was perfect in the original. Buzz’s chemistry with Rex, Mr. Potato Head, Slink and Hamm is just as good. We’re talking masterclass writing here.
Buzz Lightyear is heroic, delightful and downright hilarious in this one. The scenes of Buzz leading the troops to rescue Woody are laugh out loud funny throughout the film. Buzz dealing with an aisle of Buzz Lightyear action figures had me rolling on the floor. Better yet, Buzz lecturing Woody about the meaning in life and purpose of a toy hits all the right notes. The sequel actually makes the original better in many respects, which is a huge accomplishment to say the least.
A Warm, Giant Hug: It would be criminal to not bring up Randy Newman here, the composer and songwriter behind Toy Story 2. In my opinion, Randy Newman is just as much of a character in the franchise as Woody or Buzz. Yes the songs in the original are more iconic, but Newman leaves the singing to others in this one. It’s a wonderful soundtrack and highly recommended.
Underrated Scene: An underrated scene of the film has to be when Buzz and the gang have infiltrated Al’s Toy Barn. When Tour Guide Barbie is driving away from a tsunami of bouncy balls, we see Rex get caught behind trying to save his “source of power,” a magazine detailing the strategy to defeat Emperor Zurg in the Buzz Lightyear video game. The Jurassic Park nod of Mr. Potato Head seeing Rex in the rear-view mirror is laugh out loud funny. So epic.
I’m Not Crying You’re Crying: Toy Story 2 owns one of the most emotional moments in the history of animated films. “When She Loved Me,” performed by the great Sarah McLachlan, is hands-down one of the biggest tear jerkers in any Disney film. As mentioned earlier, the themes of abandonment nearly ring too close to the vest. The sequence where Emily grows up and leaves Jessie behind is borderline unwatchable for how emotional it gets.
This scene is also a great example of how Pixar was truly ahead of its time. When we’re kids, we want to be adults. When we’re adults, we wish we could go back to the days when life was simpler. It’s something each and every one of us can relate to and it truly tugs the heart strings. We’ve all had grown apart from our closest friends during our childhood. It’s a simple part of life but that doesn’t make it any easier. To all the toys I’ve left behind- I am so, so sorry.
Nostalgia Time: The blooper reel of Toy Story 2 is a salute to the Pixar of old. I think I speak for the rest of us: WE NEED MORE PIXAR BLOOPER REALS. Every major and side character in the film gets a hilarious moment during the credits.
Final Verdict and Grade
Toy Story 2 ups the ante from the original in nearly every area. Better action set-pieces, improved storytelling, more emotional and laugh out loud moments… It is also important to note just how much better Toy Story 2 was over the massive Frozen 2. I didn’t hate Frozen 2 by any means, but they’re simply not comparable as films.
Yes, on the surface it’s a movie about toys. But you don’t need to look hard to realize how much love and thought went into creating this film. Toy Story 2 is about the choices we make in life and reminds us of what growing up really means. It’s a film that you need to simply stop and admire. I personally hate calling any film perfect, especially when it comes to sequels. But I cannot recommend this film enough. It’s a franchise that I hold very near and dear to my heart. It’s perfect.