Woody is unquestionably one of the most iconic characters of the Toy Story franchise, as well as of the Disney oeuvre as a whole. Alongside Buzz Lightyear (and others like Rex and Mr. Potato Head), Woody brings a relatable heart and soul to the Toy Story series; he grounds the action, and much of the emotional drama in later instalments revolves around him. Of course, since Toy Story was an epic, monumental production undertaking, Woody went through many phases before arriving at the lovable cowboy we recognise today. Here are 15 facts you may never have known about Woody!
1. He’s got a surname
Most Toy Story characters are known by a single name, right? Rex, Hamm, Jessie, and…okay, perhaps not Mr. Potato Head, but Buzz Lightyear is something of an anomaly in that regard. Well, it turns out that Woody has a second name as well! According to the director of Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich, Pride is Woody’s last name, which makes his full name “Woody Pride”. We don’t think it’s going to be as popular as Buzz Lightyear, but it’s neat nonetheless.
2. He wasn’t going to be a cowboy
It’s common knowledge that Buzz Lightyear was originally a tin toy by the name of Tinny, as Toy Story was intended to be something of a followup to Pixar’s 1988 short film Tin Toy. However, did you know that Woody was also intended to be something very different to the incarnation in which he eventually ended up? It’s true; he was originally slated to be a ventriloquist’s dummy, and he would have teamed up with Tinny in the original draft of Toy Story.
3. That Woody fan theory isn’t true
A popular fan theory at one point stated that Woody was actually given to Andy by his dad, who died of post-polio syndrome. Woody, along with other toys Slinky Dog and Mr. Potato Head, was then gifted to Andy, but if you’re a proponent of this theory, then you may want to head back to the drawing board, as it’s actually been debunked. Disney’s Andrew Stanton has said that this theory is “fake news”, so if you like it, you’ll have to think of something else, unfortunately.
4. He was originally slated to appear alongside Barbie in Toy Story
Famously, Barbie appears in Toy Story 3 alongside Ken, speaking iconic lines like “authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not the threat of force”. Did you know that she was originally slated to appear alongside Woody in the original Toy Story, though? Alright, so this isn’t really a fact about Woody, but Barbie almost appeared as part of the first movie’s core cast, so we would have seen her interact with Woody much sooner than she did.
5. Toy Story 2 was a cinematic movie because of Woody
Disney is well-known for its straight-to-video releases, and originally, Toy Story 2 was going to be another one of those. However, Pixar legend John Lasseter was taking a flight shortly after the release of the original Toy Story. He spotted a young child who was playing with a Woody doll, and it was only then that he realised how popular and wide-ranging Toy Story’s influence was. This inspired him to turn Toy Story 2 into a cinematic release, and the rest is history.
6. He wasn’t always going to be voiced by Tom Hanks
Everyone knows that various actors were in the running for the role of Buzz Lightyear, including Jim Carrey (which we have some trouble imagining, if we’re honest). However, everyone’s favourite actor Tom Hanks wasn’t always the one slated to play Woody. At one point, Hollywood legend Paul Newman was in the scope for Woody, but just like Carrey, Newman’s price was just a bit too high. He would eventually go on to star in Cars, though, so he didn’t cut ties with Pixar.
7. His name comes from an African-American football star
Have you ever heard of an actor by the name of Woody Strode? He was an African-American footballer (that’s football in the US sense, not the British sense) who was also an actor; you might know him from his turn in Stanley Kubrick’s iconic Spartacus. Pixar named Woody after Strode, likely casting around for names for a while before doing so. Strode’s legacy hence lives on not only through his own work, but through one of the most beloved children’s characters ever.
8. He wasn’t a good person originally
In Pixar’s original draft of Toy Story, Woody was far, far less relatable than he is in the finished movie. Woody was originally going to act like a sadistic dictator, ruling over the toys with an iron fist rather than simply living among them as a friend (and something of a de facto leader). We’re very glad that Pixar decided to change this, because it would have been very difficult to watch. The Woody we know and love today is much more agreeable.
9. He was going to murder Buzz
As part of the aforementioned original draft of Toy Story, Woody was originally going to straight-up murder Buzz Lightyear. We don’t know too much else about how that story would have panned out, only that it was so upsetting that it got canned. Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the chairman of Disney between 1984 and 1994, hated this version of Toy Story so much that he forced the team to change the entire setup, and we’re glad that happened.
10. He was a gift from Andy’s father
While it may be true that the Woody fan theory regarding post-polio syndrome turned out not to be real, that doesn’t mean Woody wasn’t a sentimental gift from a parent to his son. According to John Lasseter, who was the director on Toy Story (so he probably knows a thing or two about it), Woody was a gift from Andy’s father, which makes the conclusion of Toy Story 3 all the more emotional. Excuse us, we’ve got something in our eye.
11. He’s been attributed to an animation legend
Animator Bud Luckey is widely regarded as the man who gave life to Woody and made him what he is today. Luckey, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 83, was a long-time animator who worked closely with advertisers, as well as writing and animating for Sesame Street. Eventually, he would find himself working at Pixar, where John Lasseter would describe him as “one of the true unsung heroes” of the animation world. He designed Woody, so we have him to thank for that.
12. He originally had more quotes
Originally, Woody was supposed to enter the world of Toy Story with a full seven pull-string quotes, including famous ones like “there’s a snake in my boot” and “reach for the sky”, which are the ones we know him for now. However, some of the quotes that weren’t used in the original movie would subsequently turn up in later instalments, including “I’d like to join your posse, boys”, which appeared in Toy Story 3. Pixar likely just couldn’t find a place for the extra quotes in the first movie.
13. He’s a relic from a bygone age
In all of the excitement surrounding Lightyear, many people might have forgotten exactly where Woody came from. He’s a product of the late-40s-early-50s Western boom, wherein many filmmakers began creating and producing movies starring Wild West cowboys. Woody’s show, Woody’s Roundup, was cancelled when the space race began, thus igniting interest in science fiction and effectively killing the Western. It didn’t quite work like that in real life, but there are rough parallels to be drawn between Woody’s experience and that of real-life toys.
14. He’s crossed over into other movies
Woody hasn’t just appeared in his own Toy Story series. He’s also made appearances in other Pixar productions; look out for him at the conclusion of Cars alongside Buzz Lightyear, and make sure to watch the blooper reel for A Bug’s Life, where he can be seen as part of the production crew. You’ll also be able to spot him in Pixar short films like Small Fry and Partysaurus Rex. He’s truly one of the most iconic fictional characters of all time, so we’re not surprised he keeps popping up in this way.
15. The first full-scale Woody figure appeared in 1995
Have you heard of a company called Thinkaway Toys? If not, you might be familiar with their most famous product, which is a to-scale model of Woody as he appears in Toy Story. He came complete with a drawstring that would play his famous quotes if it was pulled, and he was “life-size”, too, so you could set him up in whatever scenarios you wanted, especially if you bought the other life-size toy models from the movie. This model features five quotes, including the iconic “there’s a snake in my boot”. Naturally, it wasn’t the last Woody toy, but it was one of the first.