I usually don't do film reviews on this blog, but I wanted to throw in a glowing review to add to the other 99% on rotten tomatoes. Sequels are usually a pretty mixed concept to begin with, as they usually tend to mine nostalgia to drive a story forwards. I think the Shrek franchise has done it with mixed results. I think Toy Story 2 was one of the few sequels other than Aliens that really amplified the drama and storytelling. I don't even know what it is about the Toy Story movies that resonates on such a deep level with me - possibly how it captures the best of what it is to be a child; the innocence of imagination and ability to find wonder in the fiction kids naturally create for themselves. Maybe it's because seeing the first Toy Story cemented my desire to be an animator and really created that sense of wonder in my adult life, in wanting to breathe life into things. I think that's the greatest aspect of animating, finding that place of unfettered imagination when you're just capturing something for your own amusement.
That's really what amazed me about the film - it was a celebration of the imaginative process. The toys themselves, while they have distinct personalities, are fundamentally representative of parts of the creative process, and in a way, the best of what we have to offer. Bravery, nobility, loyalty are all part of who these toys are. Then again, pettiness, bravado, bluster, crankiness, fear of the unknown, of change, sibling rivalry - all these are also part of who the toys are. The conceit of the toys existing as a reflection of the owner was really beautifully done, and also on how they reflect back. The idea that Andy grew up to be a decent person, in part because of how the ideals of the toys reflected back onto him was incredibly touching.
I really wasn't expecting a film with that much emotion to it...from the trailers I really was expecting a lot of gags (and there were - it was definitely tailored more towards those who saw toy story earlier, and it was a little scary at times for my kids, sadly) but I was really surprised with how the themes of friendship, loss, becoming obsolete with the passage of time echoed past the closing credits.
Above all that, it was incredibly inspiring in terms of animation...some really broad physical stuff and humor coupled with some moments of extreme subtlety - loved the bits with the little girl acting like a 2.5 year old.