Toy Story Turns 20 Today
You don’t have to go to infinity and beyond to find out these interesting facts about Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy, which made its debut on November 22, 1995—20 years ago today. A mean ventriloquist’s dummy Woody, a Sarah Connor-esque Barbie doll, and a sexy “Señorita Cactus” Jessie, anyone?
1. WOODY USED TO BE A TOOL.
In early drafts of Toy Story, Woody was—to put it lightly—a stone-cold jerk, verbally abusing Slinky Dog and intentionally pushing Buzz out the bedroom window into Sid’s yard. “He had to wind up selfless in the end, so our strategy had been, let’s make him selfish in the beginning,” co-writer Andrew Stanton said in The Pixar Touch. The Pixar team realized that no one would want to watch a kids' movie where the main character is so unlikable, so they altered Woody’s character to make him a well-meaning and kind—rather than cruel and tyrannical—leader of the toys.
2. WOODY WASN’T ORIGINALLY A COWBOY.
In addition to having a completely different personality, the original Woody was a ventriloquist’s dummy. Executives at Disney, which co-produced Toy Story, requested that he be changed to something else, as ventriloquist’s dummies were usually associated with horror movies, and they didn’t want their cute kids' movie to be terrifying. (Good call.)
3. JOSS WHEDON WANTED BARBIE FOR THE FIRST MOVIE.
Joss Whedon, who was brought on by Disney to do a script revision for the first Toy Story, wanted to include a butt-kicking Barbie, modeled after Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. She would roll up in her (pink, presumably) Corvette and rescue Woody and Buzz from Sid’s house, telling them to “Come with me if you want to live.” Mattel, however, refused to license the doll to Pixar. “[They] didn’t want Barbie in any kind of animated film because they felt it was important for her to be neutral, allowing girls to imprint any personality they wanted,” said Pixar camera artist Craig L. Good. “Obviously they later changed their minds,” as the Barbie brand appeared in both sequels.
4. TIM ALLEN WASN’T THE FIRST CHOICE FOR BUZZ.
John Lasseter approached Billy Crystal to play Buzz Lightyear, but the actor/comedian turned the part down, noting in a later interview that the decision was “the only regret I have in the business of something I passed on.” The silver lining, of course, is that it freed Crystal up to later voice Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University.
5. JESSIE WAS ORIGINALLY “SEÑORITA CACTUS.”
You can thank John Lasseter’s wife Nancy for the character of Jessie in Toy Story 2, as she is the one who convinced her husband that the animated sequel needed a female character of more substance than the first Toy Story’s Bo Peep. Originally, Jessie was a Mexican woman named “Señorita Cactus” who (via The Pixar Touch) “was to sway Woody with her feminine wiles.”
6. TOY STORY 2 WAS ORIGINALLY A DIRECT-TO-VIDEO SEQUEL.
Seeing dollar signs after their 1994 animated sequel The Return of Jafar pulled an estimated $100 million profit, Disney originally wanted Toy Story 2 to bypass a theatrical release and go directly to DVD. However, during production it became clear that Toy Story 2 was good enough—and, importantly, expensive enough (direct-to-video movies are typically done on the cheap to maximize profits, and “cheap” isn’t something Pixar does)—that a full theatrical release was the better option. With less than a year to go before release, the Toy Story 2 team had to retool their story to add an extra 12 minutes of footage.
7. A MISTAKE ALMOST DELETED TOY STORY 2.
As we’ve written about previously, Toy Story 2 faced a pretty major hurdle when a stray computer command entered by an anonymous mischief-maker deleted 90 percent of the work done on the film a year before it was to come out. Luckily, the film’s technical director, Galyn Susman, had a copy of the film that she’d been working on from home, and disaster was averted.
8. TOY STORY 2 SOUNDS DIFFERENT OUTSIDE OF AMERICA.
International viewers of Toy Story 2 were treated to an extra Randy Newman song: The scene where Buzz gives a stirring speech in front of the American flag with “The Star-Spangled Banner” playing in the background was replaced outside of the U.S. with one featuring fireworks, a globe, and the instrumental track “One World Anthem.”
9. BUZZ LIGHTYEAR STARTED OUT AS A TINY TIN SOLDIER.
In original drafts of Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear was Tinny, the main character from Pixar’s 1988 Oscar-winning short film Tin Toy. Eventually, “it became clear that Tinny was too antiquated. So we started to analyze what a little boy would get these days that would make him so excited that he stopped playing with everything else,” director and Pixar honcho John Lasseter explained. First, Tinny morphed into a G.I. Joe-esque action figure and then into a spaceman, first called Lunar Larry, then Tempus from Morph. The name “Buzz Lightyear” is a tribute to astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
10. PIXAR HAD A HARD TIME GETTING REAL TOYS ON SHELVES.
Hasbro and Mattel both turned down the toy license for the Toy Story franchise, believing that they wouldn’t have enough time to put a toy line together in the 11 months they had before the film came out. Small, Canada-based company Thinkway Toys got the license instead and created Woody and Buzz toys; Pixar tried to get them to manufacture Sid’s nightmare-inducing “Mutant Toys“ (a.k.a. a baby doll head with Erector set spider legs), but for some reason they passed on the idea.
11. THE TOY STORY 3 ANIMATION TEAM SHAVED THEIR HEADS.
Several members of the animation team on Toy Story 3 decided to shave their heads early in production in order to get a “‘clean start’ on the film,” according to animator Victor Navone. “Even [director] Lee Unkrich joined in. I had never shaved my head before and I quite liked it. I’m not sure if my wife did …”
12. SID SHOWED UP IN TOY STORY 3.
As with any Pixar movie, the Toy Story trilogy has a ton of Easter eggs. A small sample: The sadistic child Sid from Toy Story is seen in Toy Story 3 as a garbage man (recognizable due to his distinctive skull shirt). Buzz’s batteries, seen in Toy Story 3, are BNL brand—as in Buy n Large, the mega-corporation from WALL·E. And a briefly seen corkboard in Toy Story 3 displays a postcard from Carl and Ellie Fredrickson of 2009’s Up.
13. THE “LOTS-O’-HUGGIN’” BEAR GOT DISNEY SUED.
In 2014, Disney was sued by New Jersey company Diece-Lisa Industries (DLI) over Toy Story 3’s evil bear antagonist, named “Lots-O’-Huggin’” a.k.a. “Lotso.” DLI, which had been selling their own “Lots of Hugs” toy bears since 1995, argued that their ability to market their own product was substantially affected by Toy Story 3’s use of such a similar toy. Further, DLI alleged that Disney knew about their “Lots of Hugs” toys before Toy Story 3, as they previously licensed their “hugging technology" to a Disney affiliate company.
The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, by David A. Price