After the original "Toy Story" became an enormous hit for Disney and creators Pixar, obviously the studios were going to combine for a second film(see their recent Pocahontas 2, Little Mermaid 2, Lion King 2...), although the way they went about it wasn't always clear. Originally concieved as a "video" release, the early results turned out well enough so that the two companies agreed to go forth with a full theatrical feature. It's amazing that the creators were able to come up with a new film that has a few very minor similarities, but takes this series in a totally new direction, and leads me to believe that a 3rd edition of this series is possible.
It certainly helps that the original voices return here, with the focus again being on Tom Hanks' Woody doll and Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear. Speaking of "Lightyear", the only thing that I ever think Pixar did wrong was spin off the "Lightyear" story into a less-than-average video release that came out recently. But, back to "Toy 2". After a wonderfully clever opening with Buzz trying to attempt to defeat his enemy, the emperor Zurg(I won't give away the details), we find out that not only has Woody been injured, today's the day of a yard sale. When Woody attempts a rescue of a toy that's being put up for sale, he finds himself toynapped by a collector who believes that he's a valuable toy that he'll sell to a museum.
The first film was stunning on its own, but there are scenes and moments here that are just so marvelous on their own. When Buzz and the gang find that Woody's been toynapped, they attempt to go across town to the collector's store - Al's Toy Barn - and get their beloved friend back - part of which involves crossing the street, the ending of which reminded me of a scene in "Daylight". There are more where that came from, including some hilarious gags.
But the story is well-done, as well. As we go on, Woody ponders the choices that he must face. As owner Andy gets older, he might not play with his toys anymore. In a museum, he can be displayed for people to enjoy for ages. But, isn't it better to spend those last remaining years of fun with their owner? A song by Sarah McLachlan is part of this plot thread, and it's so beautiful and sad that I think I had tears going.
But there's just so much fun to be had as the toys go into the outside world to rescue their friend. "Toy Story 2" is a marvel to watch - wildly entertaining, well-written and voiced, the film is a sequel that impressively lives up to the original's creativity. Another great film for kids and adults alike.
VIDEO: Like "Toy Story", the second feature also recieves a digital transfer that presents the film in its original 1.77:1 aspect ratio(I believe that there is also a full-frame presentation on the "Toy Story 2" disc in the 2 DVD basic set). It's a beautiful looking presentation, nearly perfect in every way. Sharpness and detail are magnificent, and like the first film, the presentation takes on a clarity and depth that is marvelous. Colors are simply stunning, taking on a rich and vibrant look that is at times amazing. Colors are very well-saturated and display no problems at all.
The picture also displays no problems. No pixelation, no shimmering and this digital presentation takes away any possible print flaws for a picture that's astoundingly clear and clean looking. Disney has put together great looking discs for both films - and the second one looks almost completely perfect. In terms of picture quality, this has to be one of the top presentations in memory.
SOUND: Again, sound designer Gary Rydstrom does a fantastic job at creating a universe of sounds for these characters to live in. Sounds almost have a freedom of movement on their own, a playfulness that is incredibly fun to listen to and adds greatly to the picture. Surrounds are used consistently throughout the movie and do a very effective job at adding a sense of space to the events and envloping the viewer in the world that the filmmakers have created.
Audio quality is perfect as well - the sound is warm, clear and clean, and is definitely comfortable to listen to. Bass is occasionally powerful, but not overwhelming or overdone. Randy Newman's score flows nicely throughout the listening space, and the voices are easily heard throughout. A great soundtrack that provides some thrilling and fun moments.
MENUS:: The opening menu is nicely animated, and although the sub-menus aren't animated, they still were very pleasing. With their creative use of images from the movie, they are still fun to look at .
Commentary: Again, we meet with the Usual Pixar Suspects: director John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich, Ash Brannon are here, and they have a lot of fun again discussing the ways that they went about animating the second feature, and the advancements that were made between the two, such as the introduction of the character of the dog, Buster and the detail that went into animating him. They also chat again here with plenty of amusing details about how they worked together to plan out some of the details of the plot, as well as their inspirations for some of the bits throughout the movie. As with the first commentary, the 4 point out work that other members of the Pixar crew did for a certain scene as well as what it was like to work with the actors who provides the vocals for the characters.
The commentary is both informative and entertaining, with almost no pauses throughout the track. There's even some other fun little bits as the group points out little jokes that the viewer may not have seen on their first time through the picture. A commentary track that's definitely worth a listen.
Outtakes: A number of extremely funny "outtakes" from the movie that are hilarious, including one with the little green aliens where one asks the other one if he made it into the first "Toy Story", and he says, "in the letterbox version you can see my arm grabbing Woody's ankle".
Short Film: Pixar's short film "Luxo, Jr."
Monsters, Inc.: A preview of Pixar's new project, "Monsters Inc.", in the form of a short trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Toy Story 2" is a wonderful, entertaining film that I highly recommend. Although it doesn't have quite as many extras as the first disc, the commentary is still very entertaining. Picture and sound quality are both first-rate, and next - I'll be looking at the 3rd disc, which provides extras from both films.