Like other great sequels, Toy Story 2 gives us a completely new universe where the film is set but populated with the same characters that we love. The opening sequence is different and fun to watch. The filmmakers are intelligent enough to give us situations that seem similar enough to events in the original to provide us with a thematic link, but are then twisted enough to become something original in itself. An simple example occurs when the gang set off to find Woody. In the original Woody had to leave his friends behind to rescue Buzz after he mistakenly knocked him out of a window. This time it's Buzz who has to lead the rescue, but he has all his friends working alongside him, which leads to necessary (and comical) support from Slinky, Rex, Mr Potato Head and Hamm. Another example found later in the film is having effectively two different Buzz's, one of which is still stuck in Space Ranger mode, and our own, now wiser Buzz who just looks on with embarrassed detachment.
The movie has a fast pace. After the stunning opening Buzz Lightyear sequence, Woody is soon stolen by a nasty little toy collector known as Al. Once Buzz and the rest of the troops discover where he is, they lead a search and rescue expedition to Al's Toy Barn. Meanwhile Woody is being primed to be sold as part of a collection to a toy museum in Japan, and it's here Woody realises that he has roots stretching far beyond his little textile legs. As leader of the Round-Up Gang, Woody was one of THE original classic toys of yesteryear with enough merchandise to make Barbie blush. He even had his own TV show before Sputnik launched and space toys then found their way into the hands of children. Completing Woody's Gang are Jesse the cowgirl, Stinky Pete the prospector and Bullseye his horse. His cohorts are overjoyed to see their long missing centrepiece until they realise he actually likes the idea of being played with merely as a toy, while they've been in storage for years and want to be museum pieces.
Back with Buzz and the rest they make it to the Toy Barn, and among other discoveries which include Barbie so she can get onboard is a whole aisle worth of Buzz Lightyear's, one of which manages to escape and cause much consternation for our hero. I really love the symmetry that they play with in this film. The original had Buzz discovering his roots via a TV commercial and realising that although he wasn't as important as he thought, being simply a child's plaything and not an Intergalactic Space Ranger, his purpose was for a much greater good in being a companion for not only Andy, but also for Woody. This time around it's Woody who discovers his ?real' past, also via television. But while he is already happy in the knowledge that Andy is his main occupation and that Buzz is his equal in the toybox, when he realises he's a hugely popular toy, he's forced to make a choice.
They actually have the character of a toy making a serious philosophical decision as to whether it's better to be in contentment or to risk it all by venturing into the unknown! The unknown brilliantly depicted by a long empty elevator shaft. The fact that he chooses the most unlikely option, but then decides he can have it all anyway. It's the way that Pixar manage to incorporate both of Woody's choices; his past (Bullseye) and his present (Buzz) in order for him to effectively save the day.
Rather than just concentrate on Woody and Buzz, some of the other characters have also been well fleshed out. Rex has his own sub-plot involving Zurg which is well paid off throughout the film. Mr Potato Head gets to adopt a family with Mrs Potato Head! Even Zurg gets his own mysterious past and a wholly unexpected family reunion. There are a number of humorous hooks to other movies BTW. And Pixar gets brave enough to show kids that one day they will forget about their toys, and that they will turn into something as horrible and cynical as an adult. Even Woody and Buzz ruminate on what it will be like when Andy forgets about them and provides for me, what I think is the perfect end to the Toy Story saga. Buzz turns to Woody and asks if he's worried about what will happen when Andy grows up and Woody replies that he isn't worried as long as he has old Buzz Lightyear to keep him company, To Infinity And Beyond. This is great stuff!
The DVD rates as high as the movie in the audio and video categories. The roughly 4 years gap between the two movies is noticeable. The animation quality, which was already good, is even better. I have fond memories of cel animation, but after this kind of 3D animation, how can you go back to it?! Its a pleasure to watch, and my sound system got a pretty good workout with the movie's lively audio. The DVD is a 9/10, but don't expect many extras unless you get the 3 disc Toy Story saga.