Toy Story 2

In 1995, Disney and Pixar realized the dreams of millions of children worldwide: what if the toys you own are alive? What if, when you were away, they had their own little adventures? Toy Story was a landmark step forward in computer animation, a beautiful, realistic looking jaunt into the world of Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Now, four short years later, Disney and Pixar return with Toy Story 2, a movie originally scheduled to be released as a direct to video sequel. Thankfully, they changed their minds, because Toy Story 2 is a wonderful movie that continues the story of Buzz, Woody, and the other toys living in Andy's room.

This time around, Woody (Tom Hanks, The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan) falls into the hands of Al McWiggin (Wayne Knight, NBC's Seinfeld and Third Rock From the Sun), who steals him. Woody does not realize it, but he is a collectible doll from an old popular children's television show, Woody's Roundup. Al has slowly collected the various characters from the show over the years, and Woody is the final piece in the set. Now, Al wants to sell the set to a museum in Japan, where it will go on display behind glass cases. It is up to Buzz (Tim Allen, The Santa Clause, ABC's Home Improvement) and returning characters Mr. Potato Head (legendary Don Rickles), Hamm (John Ratzenberger, NBC's Cheers), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney of Ernest infamy) and Rex (Wallace Shawn) to rescue Woody and return him to the room.

At Al's place, Woody meets the other characters from his old television show, Jessie (Joan Cusack, Arlington Road, Grosse Point Blank) the cowgirl, Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer, Down Periscope, NBC's Frasier) the prospector, and Woody's faithful steed Bullseye. Unlike Woody, these toys are neglected. They are looking forward to going to a museum, where they can make children happy, instead of going into storage in a box. Without Woody's cooperation, the latter will happen. Woody, who is enjoying his newfound friends and history, now must decide whether he wants to return to Andy, and at some point in the future being forgotten, or be put behind a glass case where children can enjoy him, but not play with him. Other new characters include Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris, NBC's Seinfeld) and Barbie, kept out of the first movie by Mattel (who probably realized how stupid that decision was).

John Lasseter (director of A Bug's Life and the original Toy Story, and the voice of Buzz's arch-nemesis Emperor Zurg) once again delivers a marvelous family film. The computer animation in the sequel far outpaces the animation in the original, which is no small feat. The toys and surroundings are startlingly realistic. This time, the addition of shading helps realize the effect. Computers are a lot more powerful, as evidenced by Andy's dog, with each hair on his body individually rendered. Randy Newman again provides the music, with Robert Goulet singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" and Sarah MacLachlan singing "When She Loved Me," a beautiful, poignant theme song for Jessie. The story is both delightful and surprisingly moving. Adults will love the depth of characterization and hilarious references to other movies, and children will love the bright characters and story. Toy Story 2 is a great movie that deserves to be seen by everyone.

Haro Rates It: Really Good.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated G.

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