These days we are seemingly drowning in sequels, reboots and remakes (oh my). But when you look at companies like Disney, this concept is nothing new. I can look at my family’s collection of VHS tapes and find plenty of direct-to-video sequels to classic Disney titles that were probably collecting dust even when the VCR was still culturally relevant. Toy Story 2, released nationwide on November 24, 1999 as Pixar’s third animated film, was supposed to be one of them. It is truly amazing what ended up being made of the film given its tumultuous production. Arguments between Disney and Pixar occurred over who would produce the film as well as how the film would be produced. At one point, an animator nearly deleted all of the original footage. However, it was saved after it was discovered that a technical director had kept a backup in her home where she was working. Not that that mattered, given the film was essentially remade after that. This left the team with nine months to complete it in time for the release date. Oh, and did I mention A Bug’s Life was produced and released amidst all of this? Ultimately all of that hard work was rewarded with a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some have argued it has superiority over the original. I, for one, do not completely disagree with this assessment. The precision and care put into it is equal to that of “The Cleaner” who refurbishes a torn Woody as an inquisitive symphony complements the intensity of the stitching and polish-soaked Q-tip to eye rubbing at hand. Before we get into it, don’t forget your extra pair of shoes, angry eyes, cheese puffs, key, golf ball, plastic steak, rubber ducky, yo-yo, extra bouncy-bouncy ball, extra teeth (be careful they chatter), crayons, blue Play-Doh, dime and monkey chow (for the monkeys, of course!). Mrs. Potato Head insists.
What’s the first song you think of when you think of the Toy Story franchise? “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, right? Sure, fine, but all-in-all Toy Story 2 has a superior soundtrack. In addition to a jazzy, booming rendition of the aforementioned Randy Newman tune this time performed by the dusty, soft-spoken penguin Wheezy at the end of the film, there is “Woody’s Roundup.” The theme song to the fictional program of the same name, it is just a darn tootin’ good time. If you played the tape in full you would have seen after the iconic “blooper”-filled credits a full length music video in what can only be described as the most Southern experience of my life. Then, of course, there’s “When She Loved Me” performed by Sarah McLachlan, a woman who has seemingly made a career out of making me cry. She has done so with that alongside “Angel”, the unofficial but official anthem for abused shelter animals. That scene where Jessie, newly introduced to the franchise here, is left abandoned by her original owner as the thick piano keys and melodic yelps take over will forever make me sob uncontrollably. It hasn’t changed since I was little, back when you couldn’t stream the movie. But the movie sure could make you stream.
And as despicable of a character he is, I have always identified with Al of Al’s Toy Barn. The original Reddit user before Reddit existed, it is he who stole the famous toy cowboy from the yard sale where he was accidentally placed. This was done in order to complete his collection of Woody’s Roundup characters that were to be sold to a Japanese museum. Physically, he resembles my dad. Personality-wise, he resembles my affection towards nostalgia. Can’t you tell? My obsession with this film has gotten to the point that I find myself either internally or externally quoting it whether it is appropriate to the situation I’m in or not. These include, but are not limited to, “Let’s… go home” (after they escape the airplane storage), “But I don’t wanna use my head!” (Rex when the gang tries to pop open the vent to help Woody escape) and other random sounds from the film.
No, I’m not OK. On the other hand, and I kid you not, a bathroom stall at my high school read “Toy Story 2 was OK.” Appreciation for what is probably the purest form of graffiti in existence aside, I have to disagree. It expands on the original in terms of where it takes it characters both physically as well as within themselves. Whereas the original revolutionized how movies could be animated, its sequel revolutionized how their stories could be told. Up until that point, animated movies were never so emotionally raw, especially not their sequels. Even years later, the only one that could rival it in that regard is Up or its follow-up Toy Story 3. But on a happier note, I leave you all with one final quote courtesy of the overly-perky Barbie flight attendant: “We are so glad you came. Bye-bye. Bye-bye. Bye-bye. Bye-bye now. Bye. Bye-bye. Remember, please discard all candy wrappers and popcorn containers in the nearest trash receptacle. Thank you. Okay, bye-bye now. Bye-bye. Bye. Okay. Are they all gone? Is every — is everybody gone? Huh? Good. Oh, my gosh, my cheeks are killing me. I can’t keep smiling like this anymore. I am exhausted. I think I need a break. A little break? Okay. Phew!”