Giving The Godfather Part II a run for its money as the best sequel in filmdom, Pixar's Toy Story 2 upholds the quality of Toy Story and arguably builds a better mousetrap. This CGI-animated adventure "plus"es the original without being remotely obnoxious about it: the adventure is on a tonally grander scale, while the emotions can be even more delicate than before—most notably in a montage set to Randy Newman's "When She Loved Me" that's an unbearably sad precursor to Up's marriage sequence.
Toy Story 2 continues to delve into the hidden anxieties of toys: troubleshooting a yard sale that threatens to break up the gang, old-fashioned cowboy doll Woody suffering the horror of being "shelved" (or, worse, cold "storage"), and Buzz finds himself temporarily replaced by a newer model. All, of course, are variations on the rejection all humans primally fear from their loved ones. The sequel also deals with an issue specific to toys: whether they are to be kept in their original packaging as collector's items or lovingly used. When a Shanghai'd Woody has an existential breakthrough—by watching episodes of the black-and-white marionette show that spawned him, "Woody's Roundup"—he feels obliged to stick by his original "complete set" family and break with his friends from Andy's room. "This is my only chance," says Woody. "To do what?" Buzz asks. "Watch kids from behind glass and never be loved again? Some life."
Toy Story 2 has a villain in Al (Wayne Knight), proprietor of Al's Toy Barn and a ruthless, weaselly toy collector. He's looking to score by selling Woody along with Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete the Prospector (Kelsey Grammer) and Woody's horse Bullseye. In Buzz's "universe," we check back in with three-eyed aliens and learn of Buzz's arch-nemesis, the Evil Emperor Zurg. Also among the new characters are Mrs. Potato Head (Estelle Harris), Barbie ("Little Mermaid" Jodi Benson), and squeak toy Wheezy the Penguin (Joe Ranft), who Buzz rescues astride Andy's dog Buster, and there's an indispensible cameo by Rock'em Sock'em Robots. A team of nine writers collaborated to produce the clever plot and witty dialogue, and an army of animators prove equally adept at fast-paced action and minute subtleties of "body" language, as when Woody does his best hip-swinging suave.
The whole endeavor is best summed up by a brief scene between Al and toy restorer Geri the Cleaner (Jonathan Harris), who crosses over from the Pixar short "Geri's Game." Impatient, Al sputters, "How long is this going to take?" Geri replies, "You can't rush art." Pixar's bliss in art and play is part and parcel of both the creation and the meaning of Toy Story 2, a celebration of the pure joy of doing.
Not surprisingly, Toy Story 2 is reference-quality A/V material on Disney Blu-ray, at least as good-looking and sounding as—if not better than—its predecessor. The new Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack clearly sets the standard for this title. Though not originally designed for 3D exhibition, Toy Story 2 is a CGI-animated film using three dimensional models for characters and other elements, so it's no great leap to 3D presentation. Plus, as it turns out, the swift action plays very well in 3D, with plenty of flaily bits to make the format feel more than justified. Taken as the extension of the likewise handsome 2D transfer, the 3D image maximizes the already featured brilliant color, rock-solid imagery and pinpoint detail. The picture shares disc space with a skillfully discrete DTS-HD Master 5.1 mix that well serves the fast-paced action as well as Newman's lilting ballads. Of course, the combo packs area feature-laden special editions with hi-def bonuses as well as a ton of archival extras.
Returning is the wall-to-wall audio commentary by director John Lasseter, co-directors Lee Unkrich and Ash Brannon, and co-writer Andrew Stanton, a sort of Pixar master class.
New bonuses include "Toy Story 3 Sneak Peek: 'The Characters'" (4:01, HD) with director Lee Unkrich; "Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: International Space Station" (3:45, HD), which finds an actual Buzz in actual outer space; studio staff profile "Paths to Pixar - Technical Artists" (4:24, HD) with Rick Sayre, Ana Lacaze Jordan, Guido Quaroni, Mike Krummhoefener, Bill Reeves, and Lisa Forssell; "Pixar's Zoetrope" (2:12, HD), with Docter, project manager Nick Berry, and animator Warren Trezevant explaining an ingenious device; and a trio of simply animated "Studio Stories": "Toy Story 2 Sleep Deprivation Lab" (1:27, HD), "Pinocchio" (2:16, HD) and "The Movie Vanishes" (2:34, HD), narrated by various staffers.
Best in show among the new features is the historically significant "Celebrating Our Friend Joe Ranft" (12:47, HD), featuring wonderful behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the late Ranft, Lasseter, story supervisor Dan Scanlon, Up co-director Bob Peterson, Up director Pete Docter, and Stanton.
The bonuses roll on with great archival features that will be familiar to owners of previous editions: "Making Toy Story 2" (8:10, SD); "John Lasseter Profile" (3:02, SD); "Cast of Characters" (3:28, SD); Toy Box with "Outtakes" (5:27, SD), "Jessie's Gag" (1:00, SD), "Who's the Coolest Toy?" (3:19, SD), "Riders in the Sky Music Medley" (3:11, SD) and "Autographed Pictures" (:45, SD), a few Deleted Scenes (4:11, SD), and sections devoted to Design, Production, Music & Sound, and Publicity that branch out to featurettes, galleries, early production footage, character interviews, music videos, and more.
This is definitely the way to see Toy Story 2 on home video—until the 3D Blu-ray rolls around, anyway...
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer