by Adam Riske and Rob DiCristino
Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
I was always of the opinion that the first Toy Story was the best in the series. It sets up all of the characters and the universe, so it gets maximum credit for launching the series. I was wrong. The best in the series definitely Toy Story 2. This was my first rewatch of Toy Story 2 since probably the year 2000, when it came out on DVD in a cool double feature pack with the first Toy Story, so TS2 felt pretty new to me in a lot of ways on this revisit. I mentioned this in our review of the first movie, but I’ve seen Toy Story so many times that it feels like I’m checking boxes more than enjoying it at this point so it was nice to feel some discovery with the sequel. Everything in this movie works and each separate story is just as compelling as the other so there’s no letdown when we move from Buzz in a toy store full of surplus Buzz Lightyear’s to Woody reacquainting himself with his own origin story. The new characters are all solid additions as well and it becomes very apparent on re-watch how much Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4 xeroxed the themes of Toy Story 2. Re-discovering a movie like I did with this is the ultimate prize for why I wanted to run a Pixar series with you. I can see myself coming back to Toy Story 2 many more times in the future, if only to listen to the “Woody’s Round-Up” theme which I think now is the best song in a series with a lot of songs.
What do you think of Toy Story 2? Is this your favorite in the series?
Adam: One aspect of the movie I find interesting is Al, and specifically his role as a collector. John Lasseter and co. seem to really reject the idea of toys as collectibles and frown upon grown-ups who collect with the intention of profit instead of simply nostalgia. As someone who grew up going to collectibles shows at malls and hotels (mostly for sports trading cards/autographs), I find it pretty awesome that these guys are getting taken down a peg or two. I think there’s room for every kind of collecting but I also have bristled at collecting just because you thought something was going to be valuable one day.
Adam: Was there a standout sequence for you in Toy Story 2? It might be because we watched Fast and Furious 6 not too long ago (which has its own elongated runway sequence), but the rescue at the airport and through the baggage area really works for me. I think it’s one of the best sequences Pixar has ever done. It’s just big enough. Even though I hadn’t seen Toy Story 2 in a while before this viewing, this movie has long burned the image in my head that the baggage claim at an airport is an endless highway of conveyor belts and that if you’re bag is late or lost its because of toy-related shenanigans. I also really enjoyed how this sequence is about 10 minutes or less compared to later Pixar movies that can, at times, get bogged down in overlong action sequences during the climax.
Rob: Agreed. I loved that sequence, but my favorite moment might be when Woody is introduced to his TV show and all the merchandise. We get little flashes of that egotistical/insecure Woody from Toy Story, but it’s mixed with such a good Tom Hanks performance that we feel the warm heart of that personality. It’s a wistfulness for youth.
In the end, it wasn’t the characters in Toy Story 2 that made me nostalgic for a bygone filmmaking era (era), it was the economy of the storytelling. The story is propulsive at every turn. It’s constantly introducing new opportunities for the characters to grow and new challenges for them to overcome. It’s subtle, but you rarely see it in mainstream blockbusters anymore, especially since the Marvel model taught us to read series as serials more than individual entries. Both Woody and Buzz are forced to contrast their identities as part of a toy line against what they’ve come to learn and grow into as individuals. I read it as a midlife crisis movie. Does Woody retreat into his past glory days when confronted with the possibility that his personal relationships may end, that Andy may one day grow up and leave him behind? Can Buzz save his family from what is essentially a headstrong and ignorant version of himself? His past mistakes? And then there’s Jessie, who is encouraged to trust again after being abandoned by her original owner. It’s a sensitive topic that the movie is willing to devote real time to — including a montage — and see Jessie through to the other side. It’s so good.
Who was your favorite new addition to the cast?
Rob: I’m Team Jessie, all the way.
Adam: One last question for you - why do you think Pixar animators always go for the “my agent/Hollywood amirite?” joke in the bloopers? I feel like they do this in every movie. It’s like they have to keep that part in check while making the actual movie and then they decide to get their hack comic out of their system for the end credits.
Rob: Yeah, that’s kind of weird, right? Do they think the adults aren’t paying attention and need to be won back in the end? If so, I can’t decide if that’s Pixar failing us or us failing Pixar.
I was really glad to revisit Toy Story 2. What’s up for next week?
Adam: We’re back on the Pacino beat with one of his greats, The Insider. It’s our course correction for The Humbling. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.