No 179 - Toy Story 2
Director - John Lassiter
Times are changing when it comes to children. Where Toy Story begins with a cardboard town and a toy western, Toy Story 2 begins in the vivid landscapes of space. A fully functioning, Jetpack flying, laser blasting, forcefield toting Buzz Lightyear adventuring their way to defeat the evil emperor Zurg. Only to be blasted to smithereens. Game Over. Welcome to the world of computer games. The geek in me is impressed that this is all played on a SNES (excellent graphics).
This film is impressive because it continues the themes of Toy Story, but inverts the story. So, where Toy Story was about fear of rejection and Buzz realising he is less than he initially thought, Toy Story 2 continues the fear of rejection but is about Woody realising he is more than he initially thought. A collectors item.
The film also continues ideas that were only slightly hinted at in the first film. Here Al's Toy Barn moves from being a fleeting advert for Buzz Lightyear, to becoming the pivotal surroundings as Woody is stolen to be part of a Woody's Round Up collection sold to a museum in Japan. This also gives us the films new characters.
The collection of Barbies add a fun slightly scary dead eyed perma-grin addition to the toy canon. But... as we all know from Small Soldiers. There is nothing scarier than living Barbie dolls.
However the real joyous new additions are the Woody's Round Up Gang of Jessie, Bullseye and Prospector Pete. They continue the franchise's theme of rejection. Pete is a bitter toy, still mint in box, he's never been played with and he believes that children just destroy toys. He tries to corrupt Woody by telling him that though Andy may care for him now but he will grow up, and Woody WILL be neglected. This is just strengthened by Jessie's story (which, I'm ashamed to say, I found the dullest part of the film in 1999 and still do, 10 years on). The idea of a child outgrowing their toys is also (I believe) the theme for the upcoming Toy Story 3.
However, what really shines about this film is just how silly it is - and it is REALLY silly. The film is self referential (a longstanding Pixar tradition) - playing with the concept of the Buzz Lightyear dolls selling out in 1995, including Geri from Geri's Game as the toy fixer and bringing back an arrogant ridiculous Buzz. This time with utility belt.
But the real thing that is odd about this film is the sheer number of movie references from outside Pixar's canon. From the first scene where musical blogs play the introductory tones of 2001. Through to Mr Potato Head using is bowler like Odd Job or Rex being used for a cheap Jurassic Park pun - the film is full of homages. However, the best one is the excellent, almost frame for frame, version of Empire Strikes Back using Utility Belt Buzz and Emperor Zurg, even down to fake James Earl Jones voices. Why is it only the Buzz Lightyear range that fail to realise they're toys?
But most ridiculous of all - is that Andi Peters has a voice cameo in it. I find it really weird, even though it is one line it always jars in the film. Find the one British voice in Toy Story 2. Andi Peters.
This is a film which covers a lot of the themes and plot points of Toy Story but expands on them further. It is about the lengths one would go for friendship. It is about overcoming the fear of being rejected and neglected. It is about co operation and loyalty.
But mostly it is about the importance of being loved.