It’s a hard-knock life for toys. We play rough with them, lose them, break them, then throw them out when we think we’ve outgrown them. Usually, we don’t even think about it, but Toy Story 2 made us sit up and pay attention.
This sequel to the first-ever all-CGI feature was originally designed as a direct-to-video release, but one look at preliminary footage from computer animation pioneers Pixar was enough to convince the powers-that-be at Disney to make this a big-budget, full bells and whistles affair. Co-director and story writer John Lasseter (who helmed the first Toy Story) didn’t disappoint, turning out a picture that many considered even better than the groundbreaking original.
After a cosmic opening on the video game homeworld of the evil Emperor Zurg, Toy Story 2’s first big crisis rears its head. Young boy Andy is on his way to camp, but favorite cowboy toy Woody can’t come along because Andy accidentally rips his arm. Woody’s space pal Buzz Lightyear convinces him it’s no big deal, but broken squeak toy penguin Wheezy has another perspective. All toys get old, and one broken part can mean the difference between a spot on the toy shelf and a box in the yard sale. In fact, Wheezy does end up in a yard sale bargain box, but Woody mounts a dangerous rescue operation. Unfortunately, greedy toy collector Al McWhiggin spots Woody and thinks he’s part of the sale. When Andy’s mom refuses to sell, Al simply steals Woody and drives away.
Upstairs, Buzz and fellow toys Slinky Dog, dinosaur Rex, piggy bank Hamm and Mr. Potato Head plan a daring run to get Woody back, figuring he’s being held at Al’s Toy Barn. In reality, Woody is up in Al’s high-rise apartment, where he’s shocked to learn he’s part of the Woody’s Round-Up Gang, stars of an old black-and-white TV puppet show. Round-Up members Bullseye the horse, Stinky Pete the Prospector, and cowgirl Jessie are delighted Woody’s here, because now they can be sold as a complete set to a Japanese museum.
Loyal cowpoke that he is, Woody just wants to get back to Andy, but Jessie’s sad tale of abandonment reminds him that no toy is loved forever. Buzz and company are still riding to the rescue, braving the dangers of Al’s Toy Barn (and the delights… Helloooooo, Barbie!), but Woody may not even want to be rescued.
Voice cast members Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney and others all returned for Toy Story 2, as did songwriter Randy Newman, who contributed the heartbreaking, Oscar-nominated song “When She Loved Me.” The movie was another smash hit for the Disney/Pixar duo, and the team sweetened the pot by adding A Bug’s Life-style “outtakes” over the closing credits after the film had been in theaters a few weeks. Riding on the film’s success, Disney produced a cel-animated, direct-to-video feature called Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins in summer 2000, paving the way for a Buzz Lightyear Saturday morning series in the fall.