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''Toy Story 2'' stars an American legend

Barbie joins the cast for the second installment of the hit film

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Barbie may have acted like a dumb blond — but at least she learned from her mistake. In 1995, the superdoll was noticeably absent from the computer-animated hit ”Toy Story” (Mattel didn’t like the idea of pigeonholing Barbie as a tough action hero). But guess what? The perpetually tanned plaything is most definitely in the just-out ”Toy Story 2.” ”A missed opportunity to be in the No. 1 movie of 1995 probably has a little to do with it,” chuckles the films’ director, John Lasseter. ”But [Mattel] also trusted that we would treat Barbie with the utmost care.”

The film’s version of the doll, modeled on the classic swimsuit Barbie, plays a perky — yet stiff-limbed — tour guide who shows Slinky Dog, Mr. Potato Head, and other playthings around a toy store. ”We reviewed and read [the script] before she accepted the part,” maintains Mattel PR director Sara Rosales. As for voicing the figurine, actress Jodi Benson (”The Little Mermaid”’s Ariel) says: ”Portraying Barbie was a heavy role. She’s an American icon. I just had to get that out of my mind and play her like I would confront any new role.” Smart.