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 pi&ntild;ata 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 Woodyesque, 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+