Study Guide

Toy Story Woody (Tom Hanks)

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Woody (Tom Hanks)

In the world of Andy's room, Woody's used to being the head honcho. The big cheese. The host with the most. But what happens when Andy's most favored toy suddenly become…a whole lost less favored?

Basically the same thing that happens anytime anyone loses favor: the green monster of jealousy rears its ugly head.

The Leader of the Play Pack

Woody doesn't look like much: he's little floppy-armed cowboy doll with a pull-string cord. We learn in Toy Story 2 that's he's actually a vintage toy from the 1950's, but, even in Toy Story it's clear that this cowboy is pretty retro. That checked shirt isn't exactly making him look stylin'—even in 1995, when grunge fashion was in its first wave.

But, despite his age, Woody's been Andy's favorite toy since kindergarten. He's got a place in Andy's heart and a spot of honor right on Andy's bed. Life is pretty sweet for this cowpoke.

And, maybe because he's Andy's favorite, he's become the undisputed leader of Andy's other toys. Woody calls meetings, reassures and reasons with the other toys, and looks out for everyone's wellbeing. For the most part, the other toys look up to him. Sure, Hamm and Mr. Potato Head might get a little sarcastic with him sometimes, but even they know how important it is to follow Woody's moving-buddy plan. No toy left behind.

This is the Woody we meet at the beginning of the film: the cockiest cock of the walk since Foghorn Leghorn.

Green-Eyed Toy Monster

Okay, so obviously something has to go wrong with Woody's whole "I'm the boss" shtick, or this wouldn't be much of a movie. (It would be like a Woody Doll infomercial.)

Woody's big challenge comes when Andy gets a flashy new Buzz Lightyear doll for his birthday. High-tech Buzz has all the gadgetry that Woody lacks: instead of looking like a relic from the middle of the twentieth century, he looks oh-so-90's (which was present day when Toy Story dropped).

Plus, he doesn't even realize he's a toy, so he has no desire to fall in line behind Woody with the other toys…or even to be played with at all. This contrasts sharply with Woody's greatest desire: to be the apple of Andy's eye and the Commander-in-Chief of the toy chest.

Woody pretty much spirals into a panic that gets worse and worse every day that Buzz is there. Andy starts playing with Buzz more, re-decorates his room in Buzz merchandise, and even snuggles Buzz in his sleep. And it's not just Andy that's devoted to Buzz—all the other toys seem to adore him.

Less playtime for Woody means less status and influence among the rank-and-file toys:

BO PEEP: I know Andy's excited about Buzz, but you know, he'll always have a special place for you.

MR. POTATO HEAD: Yeah. Like the attic.

WOODY: All right! That's it![…] Listen, Lightsnack, you stay away from Andy. He's mine, and no one is taking him away from me.

BUZZ: What are you talking about?

At this point, Woody's jealous and insecure. He doesn't want things in Andy's room to change. And why would he? He's at the top of the toy pile. He's the big plaything on campus. Why on Earth would he want to lose all that?

So, that's probably why Woody starts making some very, very bad decisions. You know, like trying to knock Buzz behind Andy's desk and accidentally pushing him out the window instead. Whoops.

Tough Times Ahead for Toys

This is the start of big problems for Woody. The other toys rebel against him (there goes any love and good will they had for their leader) and Buzz attacks him at the gas station, which leads to the two toys getting stranded there. Oh, and then they end up going home with Andy's sadistic neighbor, Sid.

Seriously, what else could go wrong? (Lots. The answer is "lots.")

But through all these trials and tribulations, Woody is forced to come to terms with who he is, and what he's been trying to do. His big moment comes when he bares all in a private psychotherapy/confession session with Buzz:

WOODY: You are a cool toy. As a matter of fact you're too cool. I mean—I mean what chance does a toy like me have against a Buzz Lightyear action figure?[…] Why would Andy ever want to play with me, when he's got you?

This is Woody's biggest fear spoken out loud. Woody's always been secure that he's Andy's favorite toy, but now things have changed and Woody's checked his toy privilege big time.

What if Woody's not special, and he's just like any other toy? What if Andy doesn't want him anymore? What if his interests shift? What if he grows up? Up until this point, Woody has never had to worry about these things, but that's all changed.

Of course, change isn't always a bad thing.

Learning and Growing

Yes, Woody learns some Very Important Lessons—the kind of lessons that are uber-cheesy when they're put in after school specials, but are actually touching and hilarious when the geniuses at Pixar get their mitts on them.

Once Woody finally figures out why he's been lashing out at Buzz, he realizes that Buzz isn't his enemy. He's just a toy who needs a friend to help him out during tough times, too.

In the end, Woody realizes he's got a friend in Andy, too, and always will. He finally takes his own advice:

WOODY: Hey, listen, no one's getting replaced. This is Andy we're talking about. It doesn't matter how much we're played with. What matters is that we're here for Andy when he needs us. That's what we're made for. Right?

Even if Woody's favorite boy plays with him a little less, the kid still loves him. Woody means the world to Andy and the feeling is mutual. Woody doesn't have to be #1 and large and in charge at all times in order to be happy. He can bask in the glow of Andy's love and share it with everyone else, too.

Aww. Woody's learned so much.

Toy Troubles with Woody

Woody was probably the one character that changed the most during the development of Toy Story. Since Disney kept directing the Pixar crew to push their story to be "edgier," Woody ended up becoming super unlikable.

By the time Pixar screened a rough story reel of the first half of the film, Woody had become a sarcastic jerk who bossed around the other toys and gloated about his position as Andy's favorite toy. You can see that early story reel here. It's not pretty.

When the Pixar folks went back to the drawing board they decided that Woody had to become likeable again. Just because this cowboy was jealous or insecure around Buzz Lightyear didn't mean he had to turn into a total jerkface at every turn. The director, John Lasseter explained it like this:

Our goal was the make Woody so likeable then, when he started kind of becoming a jerk, it was like, "Oh, Woody, don't make those choices," instead of, "What a jerk. I don't care about this guy." (Source)

We'd say they succeeded.

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