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the toys are back

Two years after the release of Toy Story, Pixar and Disney decided it was time to re-open their box of tricks. What they unleash in cinemas this month is the best computer-animated movie ever!

TEXT DAVE ROBERTS / ANWAR BRETT From Film Review March 2000

Currently in cinemas in two films in America, Tim Allen's starring role in the sci-fi comedy Galaxy Quest has earned surprisingly strong reviews.

But far more successful an affair is Allen's other current project, Toy Story 2, which reaches the UK this February having won almost unanimous praise and racked up over $200 million in the US. Allen returns as the voice of Buzz Lightyear and also speaks for the new and improved Buzz, while Tom Hanks reprises his role as Woody.

Allen doesn't quite come out and say "I told you so" but swears he knew that Toy Story would go through the roof and that the sequel would, too. "I told [Walt Disney head] Michael Eisner a long time ago, and he really didn't know about the first one, `This story is so wonderful. People will love it. They just need to get used to the digital animation,'" recalls the former star of The Santa Clause and TV's Home Improvement.

"I love the digital animation. Toy Story 2 has such a wonderful story. It was getting so good when John [Lasseter] came on board and directed us. It's so frigging clever. Every age group can find something funny or inventive in it. I'm real proud to be a part of Toy Story 2. I can't say enough about it. I love being Buzz Lightyear."

As for the possibility of a third Toy Story adventure, don't rule it out. Allen's certainly up for it, and he's already brimming with ideas. "We don't know what Buzz and Jessie would do," he says. "That's a fascinating idea. Buzz found Jessie pretty cute. We also don't know what Buzz would do if he encountered the next generation of toy. That would put him in the same position Woody was once in.

"So he and Woody would have to team up and deal with this other guy, woman or thing. They hinted at that in Toy Story 2. Andy is getting older, and it really hit home that kids grow up and move on. That whole sequence with the Sarah Maclachlan song was very moving."

Allen is similarly enthusiastic about Galaxy Quest. "My gut instinct is that it's a big meal," he enthuses of the sci-fi comedy in which he so perfectly sends up William Shatner while creating a likeable, sympathetic character. "It's a wonderful meal. You'll cheer. You'll get emotional. You'll adore Sigourney Weaver and I together.

"The characters are so well defined. If trouble really erupted, you wouldn't mind being with us. I've never seen anything quite like it. You've got actors playing actors playing actors. We've got the sci-fi. It's pretty much like a great Star Trek movie, but we admit we're actors..."

DAVE ROBERTS

Image copyright: Buena Vista / Pixar. Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.

If the name of Pixar does not ring any bells, the films made by this ambitious and highly-skilled San Francisco-based company surely will. Toy Story and A Bug's Life have both come out of a company that was a low-key computer animation outfit, headed by the man who founded Apple computers and a handful of creative types who honed their craft at Disney Studios.

Now Pixar is big news itself, and will be bigger still with the release of Toy Story 2. The real appeal of Pixar's movies comes from the seamless marriage of technical achievement - all of the films are computer animated but almost every element is designed by hand - with a genuinely funny script.

Yet for all that Toy Story 2 was, originally, to have been a straight-to-video title, in the manner of other sequels that have been release by Pixar's close partners at Disney. One of the film's co-directors, Ash Brannon, recalls the history of the project. "It was about three-and-a-half years ago," he explains, "and while it was supposed to be a direct to video title we felt we had a lot of things going for us.

"We had what we thought was a really good story, and unexplored territory in terms of where the characters had been, and the great thing was that all the voices came back - Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, everyone was so excited to sign on again and reprise the characters, they knew they were a big part of the success of the first movie.

"Everyone started to realize that the scope of the film seemed so much better for the big screen than for a home video, and it was decided about a year later that we should expand the film from 60 minutes to about 85, and do it right..."

ANWAR BRETT

Get the whole colourful feature and review coverage of Toy Story 2
in the March 2000 issue of Film Review

Toy Story 2 • Film of the Month Review here

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