Woody From Toy Story Was Originally A Ventriloquist Dummy

In the first draft of Toy Story, Woody was a ventriloquist dummy and Buzz was a tin toy.

By Britta DeVore | Updated

toy story

Since first taking audiences to infinity and beyond in 1995, assuring us that we would always have a friend in them, the animated toys in Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story have been a household favorite, passed down from one generation to the next. And while Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear and Tom Hanks’ Woody are now synonymous with the franchise, a bit of trivia courtesy of IMDb reveals that this wasn’t always going to be the case. At the very beginning of shaping the now juggernaut franchise, director John Lasseter planned to use Tinny, the toy from his 1988 short film Tin Toy in place of Buzz Lightyear with a ventriloquist dummy stepping into the spot of the famous cowboy, Woody. 

The first draft of Toy Story saw Tinny, a tin one-man-band toy, accidentally left behind at a rest stop by his family, who was in a rush to get back on the wide-open road. Picked up by a junk man, Tinny would eventually become friends with a sarcastic ventriloquist dummy who would help the musical toy find his way back to his family. By the end of the film, audiences’ hearts would be warmed when both the tin toy and the ventriloquist dummy found their forever homes inside the walls of a preschool where happy kids would play with them for the rest of their lives. 

However, after the film’s first outline, one thing stuck out to the creative team behind Toy Story – Tinny wouldn’t play well with a young ‘90s audience who had moved on to plastic toys. Tin toys were now outdated, meaning they would need to pivot on their original idea. After much deliberation, the crew agreed on the toys to be an astronaut and a cowboy.

As for the names of the iconic Toy Story characters, there were several changes made to the Space Ranger who would become known as Buzz Lightyear. At first, they named Tinny’s replacement Lunar Larry and then Tempus from Morph before finally shaping him into a bigger size and giving him the name Buzz Lightyear. As for Woody, the quick-witted cowboy would be shifted from a sassy ventriloquist dummy to the brave rag doll that we know and love. 

And just like that – a beloved classic was born. While we may never know what would’ve happened to John Lasseter’s tale had he moved forward with his original idea of Tinny, the relatable material used for Toy Story has certainly kept it the powerhouse franchise that it is with the possibility of a fifth installment on the horizon. One of the first of its kind to use CGI animation, the years have continued to be kind to the story of Andy’s beloved collection of toys, with the artwork getting better and better. 

Spawning a multitude of spinoff productions from television shows to comics, video games, and even rides at Disney, Toy Story has proven itself to be a money-making hit for the studio. While fans may have not particularly loved the Chris Evans-led Buzz Lightyear origin story in Lightyear, there are still plenty of tales to make their way out of the toy chest should Disney and Pixar decide to go in that direction.