A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Toy Story 2

June 27, 2010

Toy Story 2

This movie is one of those rare sequels that is better than the original. And it’s not just that the technical wizardry caught up with the vision of the people at Pixar. It’s a heart-touching tale of toys in peril, addresses dilemmas new to the Toy Stoy universe and has bigger adventure and more great jokes and references for the adults. By the time Pixar got around to doing a second Toys Story movie they’d had opportunities to hone their craft through A Bug’s Life and Monsters, Inc. They had upgraded their animation toolkit to include detailed hair shaders (seen here on the new puppy that has joined Andy’s family) and huge complex locations that would have been impossible in the days of hand-drawn animation (like the behind the scenes luggage sorting operation in the airport at the end of the film.) At the same time Lasseter and company have been perfecting their storytelling art, and this movie is a celebration of both technical prowess and great drama. In a computer animated kids movie no less.

The way I heard it Disney had ordered up a second Toy Story movie as a direct-to-video nugget for their money-mill. Part of Disney’s business model that started in the 90s was to keep their properties alive through lower quality animated fare for the secondary video market. Things like Aladdin: King of Thieves and Beauty and the Beast’s Enchanted Christmas. But they didn’t have anything like that from Pixar yet, so they demanded a sequel to their most successful property to date. The problem was that Pixar wasn’t really into the notion of doing lesser films for a direct-to-video market, so they crafted this masterpiece, which eventually went back for more special effects and was freshened up for a big theatrical release.

There are a couple things the film makers did to make the new movie a worthy successor to the first. For one, they created back story for Woody, creating a whole fifties retro Howdy Doody type show and companions and sidekicks for him. Unlike some sequels, which just try to re-make the first movie but with more explosions (I’m looking at you Die Hard) this expanded universe seems perfectly natural, and the aesthetic of the Woody’s Roundup show is such that you can almost believe that it really did exist in the first movie, just slightly off the edge of the screen. It seems an organic extension of the world rather than an unnecessary addition intended simply to wring money from the franchise. Furthermore, they added a lot of heart to the movie as well.

I was careful to make sure before putting the movie in today to have some issues handy. Part of the motivating force behind the plot of this movie involves the deepest fear of a toy, which is not to be played with too much or broken, but to be forgotten. There’s a heart-rending montage that tells the tale of how one of the new characters, Jessie, was abandoned by her owner when she grew up. It never fails to make me tear up, and it’s that deeper story that lends power to all the action that takes place in the later half of the movie. It’s like a dry run for Up. (Speaking of which – was that some kind of hidden reference to Up when Rex suggests using balloons to float up to the apartment where Woody is being held prisoner? Had they begun hashing out the story of Up way back in 1999?)

The movie is packed with cute references and nods to other films. There’s a Jurassic Park ref, a bit that steals directly from Empire Strikes Back (but with a much funnier outcome) and in the commentary they acknowledge that one of the bits near the end involving the use of flash photography to defeat an enemy was a nod to the end of The Rear Window. Oh, and there’s the “Cleaner” – a character hired to repair and spruce up Woody – who is Geri from the Pixar short Geri’s Game. I also think I spotted Tin Toy in the channel flips when Ham is searching for the Al’s Toy Barn commercial. So many little details and jokes.

Sometime soon I’m going to have to go see Toy Story 3 in the theaters. In 3-D if I can, since I’m such a a fan of 3-D in the cinema. And I’ll be sure to bring along a whole box of tissues.

June 27, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

2 Comments »

  1. two boxes

    Comment by David | June 28, 2010 | Reply

    • ??

      Comment by tanatoes | June 29, 2010 | Reply


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