It's hard to make a good sequel to a film that set the bar very high, let alone one that could be considered better than the original. There have been a few films that have been able to pull this off. Some examples include films like "The Godfather Part II", "The Empire Strikes Back", "Bride of Frankenstein" and often seen with those films is "Toy Story 2" and rightfully so. This film really was a big risk back in the day as making a sequel to a film as groundbreaking as "Toy Story" is a challenge not to mention the production problems it had which I'll get to in a bit, yet Pixar managed to pull it off and deliver one of the best-animated sequels ever.
Back in Andy's room, the toys seem to be having their average normal lives by being there for Andy. However one day after trying to rescue a toy from a yard sale, Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy store owner named Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight) and is taken to an apartment building far in the city. Wanting to rescue his friend, Buzz (Tim Allen), Hamm (John Ratzenberger), Mr. Potato Head (Don Rickles), Slinky (Jim Varney), and Rex (Wallace Shawn) set out into the city to rescue him. Meanwhile at the apartment, Woody discovers through the other toys there including a cowgirl doll named Jessie (Joan Cusack), a horse named Bullseye, and a prospector doll named Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer) that he is, in fact, a rare collectors item from an old TV show that Al is planning on selling to a museum in Japan and has to decide whether to go the museum or go back to Andy's.
It's still astonishing how Pixar was able to pull off a sequel this amazing given the crazy circumstances they had to go through to make it. Not only did they have to make a sequel that had to either meet or exceed the expectations of its predecessor, but also do it with the limited time they had. For those that don't know, the film really did have a difficult production. In fact, the film was completely scrapped and started over from scratch after the studio was not satisfied with current results and had to completely redo the whole entire film in a matter of nine months. Keep in mind, an average animated movie takes about four years to make. This film had not even half of that time and yet Pixar still managed to pull it off. The story continues everything that made the first film great, to begin with. It continues to expand upon the creative world and also manages to delve into interesting themes regarding the toys. It also doesn't repeat the first films main plot line which is a common fault for most sequels but rather continues it. This is something all great sequels do. The animation as well has improved from the first film with the models for the human characters as well as the CG backgrounds seen here all being great examples of this. I'm also still surprised how well this animation has aged given that it's almost twenty years old. Some CG from that time has shown a considerable amount of age yet here it doesn't show. It really does still look fantastic. Yet the thing that was really stepped up here are the characters. They all are given a lot more depth and personality here than they were in the first film. Woody and Buzz still have the same likable charm and great chemistry they had in the first film and yet they definitely feel more mature. They really do care a lot now about the toys being there for Andy rather than who got played with the most. Also, the new characters are certainly a lot of fun as well. Jessie is probably my favorite. While she's mostly energetic and bouncy, she's definitely not annoying and also doesn't end up as a stick in the mud character when we learn a little bit about her backstory. I should mention that the backstory with Jessie was probably the first major sad moment we had seen in a Pixar movie. While far more scenes were to come in the future, this one is still effective all these years later and is still a tearjerker.
And I think "Toy Story 2" still does really work all these years later. The story builds upon its predecessor without repeating it, the animation is improved and has held up fantastically, and the characters are all still fun and charming while given some more added depth. This really did set the example of how to do a fantastic animated movie sequel and I still think it's just as fun as ever.