toy story

Toy Story remains one of the most beloved animated franchises for a reason. Besides wonderful visuals and a killer premise, the movies owe much of their staying power to endearing characters. It's hard not to love an (over)confident cowboy and his meathead space ranger buddy. But like a lot of great films, Toy Story went through a lot of iterations in pre-production before landing on the story we know and love. 

Woody himself seems to have gone through the most changes. Starting out as a ventriloquist dummy, he didn't become a cowboy until later. And when those snake-infested boots were first imagined, a much meaner Woody filled them out. 

toy story

Let's be real: Woody has always been kind of an asshole. The distinction being that he's usually a pretty likable asshole. Tom Hanks has a lot to do with it, but we root for Woody because deep down he'll always do what's right. But where the canonical Woody has a heart, the early versions of Woody has a knotted black void of despair and contempt. In this draft, Slinky Dog isn't Woody's best friend -- he's Woody's most pathetic and loyal lackey. 

It was during these preliminary stages that the "hero" of the movie got a last name: Woody Pride. That's still his full name according to official materials, but the movies haven't directly referenced it as of now. Probably because naming a character after their worst flaw isn't a great idea, as Buzz Oblivious and Jessie Abandonmentissues would attest. Maybe that idea came from Disney executives like Jeffrey Katzenberg, because he was the guy who initially wanted to make Woody a sarcastic dickhead.  

Pixar President Edwin Catmull explains as much in his book, Creativity, Inc.:

Jeffrey pushed relentlessly for more "edge." Woody was too perky, too earnest, he thought. That didn't necessarily jibe with our sense of the story, but being novices, we took his advice to heart. Gradually, over a period of months, the character of Woody--originally imagined as affable and easy going--became darker, meaner... and wholly unappealing. Woody was jealous. (...) He bossed the other toys around and called them demeaning names. He had, in short, become a jerk.

You can see a good example of Jerk Woody in test footage that has been public for a while:

As you may recall, this cruel "prank" recalls Woody's initial plan in the final movie; in both cases, Woody wants to hide Buzz behind the chest of drawers so that he remains Andy's favorite toy. In the movie at least, we're given a build-up to this moment. It comes from a guy who has felt slighted and pushed out by a blustery dummy with fancy lights and deceptive sticker buttons. When Woody plans to knock Buzz out of sight, it's so that he can have another night with just him and Andy. It's a terrible decision, but we see where he's coming from, and we like Woody enough to wish he'd made better choices. 

Of course, we know those choices go horribly wrong and Buzz is inadvertantly knocked out the window. 

A similar scene was planned in early storyboards for Toy Story, but with important exception: Woody didn't accidentally set off a Rube Goldberg-esque chain of events that knocked Buzz out the window -- Woody straight-up tossed his nemesis to his doom on purpose, using his own hands. 

We feel for Woody in the finished movie because the other toys turn on Woody for his crimes, we're the only ones who know he's innocent (or uh, at least only guilty of manslaughter). But when the gang accuses Jerk Woody of cold-blooded murder, there's no drama there, because it's completely true. If anything, it would be vindicating to see the rest of the toys toss Woody out that window. 

The development of Toy Story closely mirrors that of Zootopia, whose messed up early drafts also suffered from a cynical and unlikable protagonist. Somewhere out there, a negaverse exists where all these Disney movies were made with their mysanthropic origins intact. Maybe Toy Story 3 really would have ended with everyone holding hands in that incinerator.