Friday, November 16, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Toy Story 2 (1999)

By 1999, "Buzz" and "Woody" had become household names.  It would be another three years before I'd be skipping out on a day of a conference at Disneyland and stop short, realizing that the two characters were as cemented in the minds of most people as Mickey and Donald when 6'5" versions of Buzz and Woody wandered past me at the Happiest Place on Earth.

In 1999, the sequel to Toy Story arrived and was met with a sort of exclamation point of surprise that somehow - against all expectations - a beloved kid's movie had turned in a sequel that was its own story/ film and which pushed the characters forward with genuine narrative purpose.

There's a certain existential undertone to the Toy Story movies that this film acknowledges, and which the 3rd film fully realizes: toys are a disposable part of a human lifecycle and toys are at the mercy of the giants above them.  Childhood doesn't last forever, and children one day put away toys.  The theme is tied in with the idea presented in the second installment in unwanted fourth wheel toy "The Prospector" who never had an opportunity to be loved by a child, sitting on a shelf somewhere, unsold.

But the toy that's been loved and abandoned?  It tells us that sooner or later, all toys meet a tragic fate of some sort or other.

In its way, this movie has Woody embracing that fate rather than seeking enshrinement in a Japanese Toy Museum as part of a collection that could last for decades or longer.  Jessie's story shows the audience how important the child/ toy relationship really is - at least to the toys - and its of course the heartbreaker of the film, and the inevitability that sets the stage for the third movie.

It's a terrific film with some neat call backs to the first movie (Buzz coming face to face with an aisle full of Buzz Lightyears and a Buzz as certain of his Space Ranger-ship as our Buzz is just gold), and while it would have been a fitting and fine conclusion, I am happy that they did go on to make the 3rd.

I'd have more of a critique of the "collector", Al, voiced by Wayne Knight, as some sort of unfair stereotype - but I'm not sure it is all that unfair.  It's not like these guys aren't out there making money exactly this way.  It's just a whole lot less malicious if you're pretty sure your toys or collectibles aren't springing to life when you're out of earshot.
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