15 Surprising Things You Never Knew About the Toy Story Franchise

Woody as the villain? Billy Crystal as Buzz Lightyear? Those facts more Toy Story secrets might just blow your mind in honor of Toy Story 2's 20th anniversary

By Tierney Bricker Nov 24, 2019 11:00 AMTags
Watch: A Blast From Interviews Past: "Toy Story"

20 years ago, on November 24, 1999, the stakes couldn't have been higher for Sheriff Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of their toy friends.

After the surprise success of 1995's Toy Story, which was the first full-length movie to be made entirely using computer-generated imagery, the expectations were high for the long-awaited sequel, which had a troubled production shoot and many script revisions.

Fortunately, the magic was still there, with Toy Story 2, led by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, going on to gross almost $500 million worldwide and proved these toys still had a lot of playtime left in them. Toy Story 3, released in 2010, and Toy Story 4, released this year, proved just how much staying power the Disney and Pixar franchise had, with each follow-up grossing over $1 billion worldwide, with the third film winning the Oscars for Best Animated Film, Best Original Film and earning a Best Picture nomination, a rarity for an animated movie. 

15 Surprising Things You Never Knew About the Toy Story Franchise

However, Toy Story almost had a completely different story, with one of the two leading toys originally conceived to be the villain of the first time, and the other going through four name and personality changes before the filmmakers landed on the iconic characters we all know and love. 

You've got a friend in us, one that will reveal 15 secrets you probably don't know about one of the most beloved (and successful) film franchises of all-time. So let's go to infinity and beyond...

1. Toy Story was initially based on the animated short Tin Toy, which would the Oscar in 1988, with was about a toy named Tinny who reluctantly allowed a baby to play with him so he won't cry. 

2. While Tinny was initially supposed to be the protagonist, the filmmakers thought the toy was "too antiquated," eventually making the character a military action figure before adding the astronaut element as well. The character's name also evolved, going from Tinny to Lunar Larry to Tempus From Morph before the team eventually landed on Buzz Lightyear, inspired by famed astronaut Buzz Aldrin, according to The Pixar Touch, a 2008 book by David A. Price.

3. It might be hard to believe, but in the initial script Woody was actually the villain of the story, a ventriloquist dummy that abused the other toys. As screenwriter Joss Whedon put it to EW, "The original Woody was a thundering a--hole."

4. Hanks was the first *(and really only) choice to serve as Woody's voice. (His brother Jim Hanks voiced the character for video games and Woody-themed merchandise.)

5. For Buzz Lightyear, Billy Crystal was the first actor the filmmakers had in time, but the comedy star passed, a decision he later said was "the only regret I have in the business of something I passed on."

6. After Crystal, stars like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Jim Carrey were also considered before Allen, famous for his hit TV series Home Improvement, took on the role, partially because Chase was one of his inspirations. 

7. Because it was each of the stars' first time doing voice work, Hanks and Allen chose to record Woody and Buzz's scenes together. 

8. Brought in to punch up the underwhelming script, The Avengers director Whedon ended up adding essential elements, including the creation of Rex and changing Buzz's entire personality, making the previously self-aware and cheerful toy unaware he was actually a toy.

9. Known for his strong female characters (He did create Buffy the Vampire Slayer after all), Whedon tried to get Barbie in the movie as a savior for the two male lead toys, but Mattel ultimately did not give permission, according to Entertainment Weekly.

10. Oh, and Pixar debated whether or not to make the animated feature a musical, which Whedon revealed to EW. "It would have been a really bad musical, because it's a buddy movie," the writer explained. "It's about people who won't admit what they want, much less sing about it. Woody can't do an 'I want' number--he's cynical and selfish, he doesn't know himself. Buddy movies are about sublimating, punching an arm, 'I hate you.' It's not about open emotion."

11. When the studio initially started planning for a sequel, they envisioned a direct-to-DVD follow-up for Toy Story 2, as a majority of the animators were working on A Bug's Life. It would go on to score a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

12. During production of the sequel, the entire film was nearly destroyed in 1998 when a staffer accidentally hit a button that would erase all the files. When another employee noticed it in the nick of time, 90 percent of the film was still erased and the back-up files were nowhere to be found. Fortunately, Galyn Susman, supervising technical director, had back-up files at her home as she had recently given birth and had been working from home more often. 

13. The making of Toy Story 2, especially due to a late overhaul of almost the entire film, was so intense that many animators developed carpal tunnel syndrome, suffered strains and "y the time the film was complete, a full third of the staff would have some kind of repetitive stress injury," Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar, revealed to the Los Angeles Times.

14. Before Disney acquired Pixar, an animation studio, Circle 7, had come up with a drastically different storyline for Toy Story 3. After Buzz began malfunctioning, Andy's mom was set to send the toy back to Taiwan so he could be repaired. After learning it was actually a recall, Woody and the gang travel to Taiwan to save Buzz, who would be interacting with other recalled toys from around the world. But after Disney bought Pixar in 2006 and disbanded Circle 7, the movie completely changed. 

15. After Jim Varney died shortly after the release of Toy Story 2, Blake Clark took over the voice role of Slinky Dog in Toy Story 3, with producers later saying they were "really excited" when they learned the two actors were close friends. "They knew each other from way back,' director Lee Unkrich said in a statement. "When I'm in recording sessions with Blake, [he] just channels the spirit of his friend, Jim Varney, and he's done a really awesome job keeping that character alive."