Film - Toy Story

Toy Story

Previously on... Toy Story? Susan Omand puts a twist on a classic that you may not know is part of Joss Whedon’s back catalogue...

Yes, it’s true. In between Buffy the movie and Buffy the TV series, Joss Whedon wrote the screenplay for Woody and Buzz’s first adventure. I was surprised too when I found out, and then even more surprised that the film is now 20 years old. I’ll let that thought sink in for a little while and fill in a bit of the story for those that don’t know it.

Six-year-old Andy is playing with his toys in his bedroom, including Mr Potato Head, Rex the plastic dinosaur, and his favourite toy, Woody, a cowboy. After talking to his mother about his birthday party later that day and their imminent house move, Andy leaves the room to help with his baby sister and the toys all come to life, discussing the party and the likelihood of a new toy coming in the presents which will replace one of them. The party itself proves to be quite eventful as, after the toy soldiers do a reconnaissance, they discover that a new toy has indeed arrived, in the form of Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger. Buzz is taken up to the bedroom and, when all the children have left, the rest of the toys welcome him. However all is not as it seems to Buzz, because he believes that he is a real space ranger, on a mission to capture the evil Emperor Zurg. The other toys are impressed by Buzz’s many features but Woody is unconvinced and gets jealous as Andy replaces many of his cowboy themed room decorations with space ones over the next few weeks, thinking that Buzz is going to replace him as Andy’s new “favourite”.

Going on a trip to the space-themed Pizza Planet restaurant, Andy asks if he can bring any toys and Woody, knowing Andy will choose Buzz, plans to trap Buzz behind Andy's desk so he won't find him. However Buzz gets inadvertently knocked out of the window instead and the other toys think Woody tried to kill Buzz out of jealousy. They then try to attack him, but Woody is rescued when Andy, unable to find Buzz, takes Woody on the trip to Pizza planet instead. It turns out that Buzz had grabbed onto of the family's car and the two toys begin to fight while the car is stopped at a petrol station and they are left behind when it drives away. A passing Pizza Planet van turns out to be their way to catch up with Andy. While at Pizza Planet, Buzz, still thinking he's a real space ranger, climbs into The Claw game, thinking that it's a spaceship that will take him to Emperor Zurg's location and Woody goes in to rescue him, but they are won by Sid, Andy’s next door neighbour, who is known to torture and destroy toys just for fun.

In Sid's room, Woody and Buzz find a group of mis-matched Mutant toys, who turn out to be not nearly as scary as they look. Meanwhile, at Andy's house, the other toys continue to look for Buzz in the garden but when Andy and his mother come home, Andy notices that Woody's gone too. Some of the toys are worried for both Buzz and Woody, while others express their hope that Woody has met a bad end. The next day, after a tortuous night at Sid's house, Woody and Buzz try to escape. But will they be able to get free before Andy’s moving van arrives?

So yes Toy Story is a story about toys. But it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about good versus evil, and how very few people are completely one or the other. It’s also about giving people a second chance and not prejudging based on looks or initial impressions. Most of all it’s about battling a full range of emotions and personal demons while still being able to fight the bad guys with your friends, once you work out who your friends are. Now doesn’t Toy Story sound a little bit more Whedon-esque after all that? Doesn’t it sound a bit like... Angel? No? Let me cement the idea in your head a bit more with this thought. What if we recast Toy Story using characters from Angel to show you just how similar the characters are? (Look, it’s my imagination and it’s going to do what it wants).

Angel Story

Woody – Surprisingly, I haven’t gone for Spike or Angel for this one. Woody to me really has to be Wesley. From being “top dog” for a while in Buffy as a watcher, Wesley is a much more humble character in Angel, but not averse to petty jealousies and betraying his friends to get what he wants. Yes, Woody was a bit of an arse really but it all works out all right in the end, just like Wesley. Eventually.


Buzz – Now THIS has to be Angel himself. Loyal to his followers, brave and (to some) romantic hero, the self proclaimed leader of the gang is always single minded, idealistic and has to win the day.

Buzz Angel

Hamm – the wise-cracking piggy bank balancing a strategic mind and disdain for both Woody and Buzz in equal measure, he always ends up begrudgingly helping out even though his loyalty is torn. This pretty much sums up ex street-gang member Charles Gunn.


Mr Potato Head – sarcastic, cynical, jealous, and often unfriendly and rude, deep down Mr Potato Head has a heart of gold. So that’s Spike then.

Potato Head/Spike

Rex – Obviously, the green and happy dinosaur has to be played by the green and happy bar owner Lorne. Both are enthusiastic and care deeply for their friends.


Bo Peep – Cordelia Chase fits this to a T. From ditsy airhead in Buffy, she settled down well as a character in Angel and becomes the strong, sensible independent woman with attitude that Bo Peep most obviously is.

Bo peep/Cordelia

Slinky – quietly loyal and less feisty than the others, Slinky has a pivotal role to play in Toy Story, as does Winifred Burkle in Angel but neither of them know it yet.


So there, see? it works in words and pictures. You’re never going to be able to watch Angel in the same way again either now are you? Rex as a singing empath? You’re welcome.

Images - IMDB and Pixar Wikia

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