“Toy Story 2” makes natural, insightful contributions to the franchise

How do you satisfy theater audiences with a follow up to a film that revolutionized its medium, brought back a studio whose renaissance had fizzled out and satisfied the people in the merchandise department? When “Toy Story 2” began, they didn’t even try, scheduling it as a direct to home video release, much like the “Aladdin” sequels releasing at the time. But Disney executives were so satisfied with what they saw they greenlit it for theaters. Now, it’s safe to say, they made a great follow up.

It begins with an over the top sci-fi parody, complete with “Star Wars” and “2001: a Space Odyssey” references, expanding its universe with topics such as toy collecting and media tie-in strategies seen throughout properties such as “He-Man.” Introducing new, later deemed, classic characters and themes of growing up that its sequel would build its entire plot on, “Toy Story 2” does everything a sequel should do, expanding its universe, themes and characters, all with a new plot and energy that never tires. 

The original film was great, but certainly a product of its time. Crew members worked on the film with technological requirements in mind, hiding human faces when possible and making accommodations with environments and the way the story was written. With “Toy Story 2,” the technology had advanced. This is clear in the film, with human faces now prominently featured, looking far better than they did previously, and long, winding environments such as Al’s Toy Barn. 

Technology wasn’t all “Toy Story 2” had as it also established an interesting and relatable story with pizzazz. 

This story, like any good sequel, expands its universe in ways that simply make sense. Of course Woody is part of a brand, of course Andy will one day abandon his toys and of course toy collectors present their own danger, or blessings, to the inhabitants of this world. In dealing with these ideas, the film poses a great question: what happens to toys when their children grow up? Expanding it and playing it up to pose yet another, far more relatable question: should we choose self preservation or relationships? Not an easy question to answer, especially for a family film, and yet it does it well. 

“Toy Story 2” isn’t some sad, technologically avant-garde movie though; it knows how to have fun. The film, from beginning and even reaching into the credits with its fake bloopers, is constantly running with new jokes that know how to have fun with itself. Be it dust worsening a coughing toys condition, references to old Pixar shorts, “Jurassic Park” nods and rants on the practices of the video game industry, the film moves between a plethora of jokes without a sweat. I know I’m not alone in noticing this, for this energy has translated into it becoming a meme goldmine. Be it the zoom out of the Lightyear aisle, Piggy rushing through TV stations or Andy dropping Woody in a dream sequence, this film’s pacing and content of its humor has been repurposed to this very day: a claim its sequels can’t hold.