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Toy Story 2 Is Not Your Typical
Hollywood Sequel

by Karl Cohen

The gang is coming our way again in Toy Story 2!© Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios.

In 1996 when Pixar announced they were going to do a direct-to-video sequel to the original Toy Story, a lot of people expected the finished results to be a mediocre low budget video made to cash-in on the company's initial success. Animation World Magazine wanted to find out how this project became a major animated feature that could very well set new box office records.

A talk with Ash Brannon, co-director of the film, quickly laid the matter to rest. He explains that, "When we started the film in 1996, the thing to do was to make a direct-to-video sequel. That's the way Disney did it and we follow suit. Nobody was making animated theatrical sequels (with rare exceptions including American Tail 2). So that was what we did, but we knew we had a great story. We worked on the film keeping the standards of a theatrical film. And to top it off, all of the original cast returned. The entire cast is back including Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. In addition we have some great new voices including Kelsey Grammar, Wayne Knight and Joan Cusack. We started developing the project in 1996. We went into production around 1997. We soon realized this film was going to be much better than a direct-to-video product. At the beginning of 1998 we announced it would be a theatrical feature."

Emmy Award-winning actor, Kelsey Grammer, provides the voice for The Prospector. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios.
Wayne Knight brings to life the toy collector, Al. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios.
The voice of Jessie is proved by Academy Award-nominee, Joan Cusack. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios.

Randy Returns
One of the strengths of Pixar's features has been their soundtracks. Brannon reveals that once again Randy Newman has provided "an amazing score." The musicians include many members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. "They are amazing. The score is a real highlight of the film. It's just beautiful."

He adds, "Randy doesn't sing in the film. He wrote a couple of songs that other performers do. None of the characters sing. We really don't like that." Pixar doesn't interrupt their strong stories with characters breaking out into song. They do not share Disney's fondness for having characters sing. "It changes the reality of the film."

Developing The Script
According to Brannon the film's script grew out of "story ideas from the early Toy Story treatment that John [Lasseter] developed eight or nine years ago. The basic premise of the new film comes from John thinking, `What if Woody was kidnapped by a toy collector?' It was inspired by the realization that John has a lot of toys in his own office that his kids cannot play with because they are collector's items."

Developing scripts at this studio is not the work of one person. Brannon explains, "It's a real collaborative environment at Pixar. It's not important that ake ownership of ideas. It's more important that ideas reach their full potential. You throw something out in a discussion and anyone else is free to say, `That's a good idea but what if you did this?' You may come up with a better idea. You build on ideas and take it is far as you can.

"You just kind of go along a path. We had the premise that Woody was kidnapped by a toy collector. It begs questions. It means he must have been valuable. And if he is valuable, why? So we had to come up with a good reason for that. After a number of good ideas we thought the best one was what if he were a toy based on a 1950s TV show. It seemed like a lot of fun to go back into the past and create a history for Woody that never existed in Toy Story. So Woody is kidnapped because he is valuable and he completes a collection.

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Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.