Walt Disney, the man who turned animated features into a gold mine, never produced a single cartoon sequel. He refused to make Snow White and the Eighth Through Fourteenth Dwarfs or Pinocchio II: The Wrath of Jiminy or Dumbo and Dumber. So when director-CEO John Lasseter of Pixar, who pioneered feature-length computer-animated films with Toy Story in 1995, decided to go where Walt never had with Toy Story 2, it seemed a compromise. Shouldn’t Pixar always be pushing some new envelope instead of re-licking an old one?
Well, shame on anybody that ever doubted Pixar’s resourcefulness. Toy Story 2, as many a moviegoer discovered last year, is a big, bursting pinata of a movie, running over with cleverness, detail, and heart. The basic scenario is a turnabout: Woody (still voiced by Tom Hanks), the floppy cowboy doll who proved to plastic spaceman Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) that he was only a child’s plaything and not a ”real” interstellar ranger, now has to relearn the value of being a mere object of amusement when he’s kidnapped by a money-hungry collector geek.
Even on the Woody-esque, broken-down old medium of VHS, Toy Story 2 looks terrific, thanks to a video transfer that uses the original digital-realm information. Of course, if you long to see into the deepest corners of Pixar’s imagined universe, it’s the movie’s DVD editions you’ll want to have. A two-disc package presents the original Toy Story plus the follow-up with a full-blown clarity that’s like having your retinas squeegeed. Better still is a three-disc set that adds a staggering encyclopedia of behind-the-scenes and explanatory info. To enumerate the merest fraction, there are dozens of hidden gags explicated (”French Impressionists Action Figure Claude Monet — Now with Water Lily!”), a sound-effects-only track that uncovers witty details (like the infinite variety of piggy bank Hamm’s rattling change), and every one of the Saturday-morning interstitial spots Pixar did for ABC featuring the Toy ensemble — practically another sequel in themselves (there are about 50 of them). The more you deconstruct these movies, the more they look like the Citizen Kanes of computer animation: So visually fluent, they make you want to pick up a mouse immediately and start rendering your own cinematic fancies.
The movie: A- 2-DVD set: A 3-DVD set: A+