Sequels to beloved films always tread on delicate ground. They must try and live up to the expectations of the first film without simply repeating what worked first time around. Most come up short, but a few manage to pull off the trick. Pixar faced this massive challenge on Toy Story 2 but pulled it off with aplomb.
But how things could have been so different. Disney were originally set on making a straight-to-video release as part of its strategy to produce sequels of varying quality to some of its classic films. Thankfully, Pixar head honcho, John Lasseter, was brought in and decided that if a sequel was to be made, that it should be done properly. Therefore, Lasseter and his team set about crafting the film, having ditched everything that had been put in place up to that point. Due to this, they had a restricted production period before the expected date of release. Remarkably, they were successful, producing a movie that not only met the standard of the original but, in many people’s opinions, even managed to surpass it.
The plot revolves around Woody having to cope with the fact his owner, Andy, is starting to grow up and that his days of being played with are running out. However, after rescuing a toy from a yard sale, Woody is taken by a toy collector who intends to sell him to a museum in Japan. Its left to Buzz to lead the rest of the toys on a rescue mission across the city.
Alongside the regular cast comes the addition of Joan Cusack as the voice of Jessie the cowgirl and Kelsey Grammar as Stinky Pete the Prospector.
This is a film that successfully develops its characters and further explores its central relationships. The new characters also play important roles. Jessie allows Woody to see what his existence could be like and Stinky Pete offers him a glimpse of life beyond Andy. This is a film, much like its predecessor, that has many layers and works on many levels to cater for a multi-generation audience.
One obvious element of the film is the confidence of the filmmakers. John Lasseter and his team at Pixar were very much in the ascendency as a studio and this is demonstrated by a number of stunningly executed sequences including a hilarious attempt to cross the road and the airport set climax.
This is a film with so many wonderful moments that it becomes hard to single out just one. It also benefits from multiple viewing to allow you to spot things you might not have seen first time and appreciate the hidden easter eggs and in-jokes.
The test for a sequel is whether it can build on the original film and justify its own existence, and this is test that Toy Story 2 passes with flying colours. Many people questioned whether Pixar could live up to their own standards but by doing just that, and even exceeding them, they were able to mark themselves out as a studio to watch.