While I admire the 'Toy Story' saga being so good altogether, this is probably the one I manage to get the least out of. It's still a great movie, but I'll get to my various nitpicks about it later. It otherwise introduces new characters who develop with the rest of the toys we already know, plays with new ideas, and certain things follow through from the original. For example, Andy now has a dog, and Mrs. Potato Head has now come into play. One of the best things about the writing of these movies is the way things stay consistent, and for that, I admire this one along with all of the others in their own way.
It all starts when Andy (John Morris) starts getting ready for Cowboy Camp. He's playing with Woody (Tom Hanks) and accidentally rips his arm. As a result, Woody is left behind, and placed on a shelf where he runs into Wheezy (Joe Ranft); a penguin squeeze toy with a broken squeaker. He talks to Woody about being a "forgotten toy", and when Andy's Mom gathers some of Andy's old stuff up for a yard sale, she takes him, prompting Woody to try to rescue him. In the mix-up, Woody is discovered, and stolen by a greedy collector named Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight), who the other toys actually recognize from an ad where he dresses up like a chicken. The other toys, lead by Buzz (Tim Allen), then begin a search and rescue mission for Woody, using the "Al's Toy Barn" ad to help them find where Al probably took him.
Meanwhile, at Al's apartment, Woody meets the rest of a set he had no idea he belonged to; "The Roundup Gang". Said gang includes Woody's horse, Bullseye, a cowgirl named Jessie (Joan Cusack), and Stinky Pete, the still-in-the-box Prospector (Kelsey Grammer). Jessie has a real problem with claustrophobia; a fear triggered when Woody expresses his desire to get back to Andy. As a set, they are to be put on display in a museum to be admired, but if Woody leaves, that means being put back into storage for Jessie and the others. She also suffers from the trauma of being a forgotten toy, so Woody's desire to get back home is much to her chagrin. Woody is now faced with a choice; find a new home as part of a display collection, or get back to his home knowing the day will eventually come when Andy has to move on.
This choice of Woody's is actually part of my issue with this one. He can eventually be forgotten, donated or left behind in some way as an eventuality that may not even really come to pass, or he can be shelved permanently anyway with his Roundup gang and live a life behind glass forever. The choice seems pretty obvious to me, but to the film's credit, Buzz does point out how silly the latter choice seems. Beyond that, I do have a certain pet peeve when it comes to animated family films like this involving a closing musical number. 'Shrek' did it, and suddenly "everyone" seemed to have to follow suit. I think this is the one and only time Pixar does it, but they also do it here along with the animated outtakes we got from 'A Bug's Life' which nowadays seems kind of corny to me. To be fair, however, this was still very early for Pixar, and they were trying new things.
With all of that said, there's still so much to like about it. The good absolutely outweighs the bad here as far as storytelling and character development goes, and I won't deny that when Jessie sings her song about being forgotten, it provides the old Pixar heartstring puller - and probably the first one that really exists in the library. We all know that Pixar has a way of getting to your emotional core, but the previous two movies in the collection were much more fun than they were deep. This was something that actually made you think and even feel for the characters involved. Although it follows the infamous "Toy Story Escape" trope, the underlying ideas here are very different. While the first film is very much about getting back to Andy, this one, though basically the same idea, actually offers Woody a choice in the matter, and has him think about his potential future as Andy's favourite toy.
'Toy Story 2' is a very good balance of serious and silly, balancing Woody's more dramatic side of things against he comedic mission of Buzz and the other toys from the original. The search and rescue mission gets very funny at points, some of which includes Andy's Buzz Lightyear facing off against a store-shelved Buzz and even his nemesis, Emperor Zurg (Andrew Stanton). We get more of the other toys here than we got in the first, and they really add to the fun of it all. It's interesting to think of 'Toy Story 2' being the peak of emotional response in the Pixar library at one point, but it would have nothing on its eventual sequel, ten plus years (and eight more reviews) down the line. In the meantime, Pixar would expand its universe into some really memorable moments - many of which completely dethrone Jessie's song here as the big emotional Pixar moment. We can, however, at least give Jessie credit for being Pixar's tear-jerking pioneer!
Writers and Directors