"A Winner - and a big improvement on its predecessor"
I didn't think much of the original Toy Story back in 1995. How revolutionary could this computer technology be if it couldn't reproduce children on screen that even vaguely resembled human beings? Well, the dog, children and adults in Toy Story 2 aren't photo-realistic yet, but they're a big improvement. And it doesn't matter so much now since the new film is a winner, compared to its predecessor, in every possible way.There aren't a lot of plotting options left open in the Toy Story universe. The climax has consistently been a variation of toy-gets-lost/stolen and toy-gets-rescued-by-other-toys, with resourcefulness that would put humans to shame. In Toy Story 2, there's a couple of these rescues but they don't feel repetitive because different characters face different perils, and resolve them all in different ways (the daring airport rescue at the end, and the crossing of a busy highway are both highlights).
The regular cast of characters (voiced by Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and the very funny Wallace Shawn) are joined by some newcomers - the complementary toys to Woody's cowboy set (the family he never knew he had). Most notable is Jessie (voiced by a feisty Joan Cusack). Jessie's background is detailed highly effectively during Sarah McLachlan's rendition of the Randy Newman-penned "When She Loved Me" (which could've replaced the whole first movie and its score, as far as I was concerned). The addition of Jessie begins to redress the gender imbalance and boys' own feel of these films, and if there's another sequel, hopefully she won't be left behind when "the boys" set out on their adventures. There are scripted bloopers at the end (as there was with Pixar's A Bug's Life), but funnier are the occasional movie in-jokes (a homage to Jurassic Park in the toy store springs to mind) and self-referencing when the toys visit a toy store and meet Barbie and Buzz Lightyear's doppelganger(s).The animation is beautifully fluid (despite the occasional static background). John Lasseter (who shared directing and principal writing credits with Ash Brannon and Peter Docter, respectively) and his team of animators have done a terrific job. Toys with lives of their own are a perfect subject for animation, as it is hard to imagine how they could otherwise be made as realistic on screen. The best thing about Toy Story 2 (and unlike too many effects-driven movies) is that its makers realised that spectacular animation and effects aren't enough on their own. It's worth the extra time to develop characters and an exciting and varied storyline.