The Truth About Woody From ‘Toy Story’ (As Well As His Age) Will Likely Shock You

woody toy story
Credit: Pixar Animation Studios/Canva

Pixar’s Toy Story franchise is nearing its 30th anniversary, and as a fifth film enters production, it’s interesting to look at the intricacies in each of the four films, especially as they relate to one of the franchise’s main characters, Sheriff Woody.

toy story woody

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

After recently learning some new things about Woody, we’re willing to bet you didn’t know all there is to know about the pull-string cowboy doll either. Let’s see how many of these things you already know about Buzz Lightyear’s best pal–and how many of them are complete surprises.

The Story of Pixar’s ‘Toy Story’ 

Pixar likely knew it had a good thing going when the studio released Toy Story in 1995. While there are any number of things to love about the franchise, there is one thing that made the series a hit from the very first film: relevance and reliability. (Okay, so that’s two things, but they’re intertwined.)

woody and the toys in toy story 1995

“Toy Story” (1995)/Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Toy Story introduces viewers to Andy and his toys–Woody, Rex, Hamm, Mr. Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head, Etch, Bo Peep, and more–all of which function as mere playthings for Andy when the young boy is around them. But when Andy’s at school, at dinner, or at a friend’s house, the toys lose their inhibitions and come out to play . . . literally. They have feelings, friends, and even phobias.

In short, the Toy Story films definitively answer the questions we’ve all had at one time or another–Do my toys have feelings? And what do they do when I’m not around?

toys in toy story

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

At last count, there are nearly 100 unique characters in the first four Toy Story films, but one of them seems to stand head and shoulders above the rest–and not just because he’s tall and lanky.

He is, of course, Woody, or Sheriff Woody, the pull-string cowboy doll that’s synonymous with Toy Story.

woody toy story

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Who is Sheriff Woody?

Though simple on the surface, Sheriff Woody is complex underneath. He’s a leader, but he still has to face his fears. He cares about his friends, and he’s loyal to a fault. Yet in Toy Story 4, he finds himself choosing a former love that he hasn’t seen in years over his best friend with whom he’s shared all those years.

Related: Every Single Pixar Film Has This Code Hidden In It & Many Fans Don’t Know Its Meaning

woody and bo peep toy story 4

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

(Click here to read about why that storyline simply doesn’t work in the franchise.)

Long before he ended up in Andy’s bedroom, taking in the scenic vistas of the blue-sky-and-cloud wallpaper and attempting to determine why he suddenly found himself playing second fiddle to a space ranger action figure from the Gamma Quadrant of Section Four, Woody had a long and successful run on his own television show, titled Woody’s Round-Up, which aired in the 1950s.

woody's round up

“Woody’s Round-Up”/Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

The show, which starred Woody, Jessie the Yodelin’ Cowgirl, Pete, the Old Prospector, and Bullseye, was a big hit–until the launch of Sputnik in 1957, by Stinky Pete’s own admission in Toy Story 2.

While it’s not specifically spelled out for fans in any of the Toy Story films, the general understanding is that Andy finally ended up with Woody as his toy because Woody belonged to Andy’s father when he was a boy. Per Screenrant:

Although every child that is growing up watching the “Toy Story” films would give their left arms for an official Woody doll, in truth, he would be an odd choice for a child’s favorite toy. Let’s be honest, a pull-string doll doesn’t have the bells and whistles that most toys have.

However, if [former Pixar head] John Lasseter is to be believed, Woody may mean more to Andy than he would to most people. Lasseter says that, in everyone’s opinion, Woody was a hand-me-down toy from Andy’s father, so Andy’s love for Woody may actually be a sentimental one.

Woody Was Originally a Very Different Character

If there were no such things as rough drafts and do-overs, Sheriff Woody would have been a very different character from the Woody fans know and love today.

When plans for Pixar’s first installment in the Toy Story franchise were being hammered out, the film was envisioned as the sequel to Pixar’s 1988 animated short, Tin Toy. Because of this, Woody was originally going to be a discarded old ventriloquist’s dummy whose purpose was to foil the best efforts of Tinny, who was to reprise his role from the short in the new feature-length animated Toy Story film.

pixar animated short tin toy

“Tin Toy” (1988)/Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Before too long, however, then-Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, John Lasseter, decided to do away with Tinny in the new film, upping Woody’s role in the project. The change gave way to Woody’s current appearance as a pull-string cowboy doll, as opposed to an awkward and creepy ventriloquist’s dummy.

We Bet You Didn’t Know These Things About Woody

For all his simplicity, Toy Story‘s Woody is a bit of a mystery in some ways.

Since the very first Toy Story film, fans of the franchise have known the full name of the space ranger action figure that arrives during Andy’s birthday party and threatens Woody’s rightful place on Andy’s bed as his favorite toy. He is, of course, Buzz Lightyear. But did you know that Woody also has a last name as well?

toy story woody

Woody and Bullseye in “Toy Story 2” (1999)/Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

It’s not that he needs anything more than just Woody, but the pull-string sheriff has a last name, too, according to Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, who explains that though his full name isn’t used in any of the films in the series, Woody has had a last name since Pixar’s finest were first developing the original 1995 film.

So if you want to address him by his full name, just ask for Woody Pride or Sheriff Woody Pride if you’re feeling formal.

The Origins of Woody’s Name

We now know Woody’s last name, but how did Pixar come to name the famous pull-string cowboy sheriff “Woody” in the first place?

UCLA Hall of Famer Woody Strode began his career as an offensive and defensive end in the late 1930s and went on to play professional football for the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams in 1946.

Read Also: Pixar and the NFL Merge to Bring Fans a Whole New Take on Fantasy Football

woody strode football and woody toy story

Credit: LA Rams/Pixar Animation Studios/Canva

He was one of the first African-American football players to do so. Though he played only one season in the NFL, Strode is credited with helping to break down barriers related to race in the NFL’s earliest days. He went on to become a successful actor in television and in film, with roles in The Ten Commandments (1956), Spartacus (1960), and The Quick and the Dead (1995).

Read More: Pixar’s Newest ‘Toy Story’ Shocks Fans & Does Something Disney’s Never Seen Before

After considering several names, Pixar finally decided on “Woody” for the beloved Toy Story character, naming him after the legendary NFL star and–more fittingly–the Western film star, Woody Strode.

How Old is Woody in Each ‘Toy Story’ Film?

We often think of toys as ageless, but when you consider the background details Pixar has so graciously divulged about Sheriff Woody over the years, it’s easy to calculate Woody’s approximate age in each of the four Toy Story films that have been released so far, as well as in the upcoming Toy Story 5 film.

Related: Disney’s Counting on ‘Toy Story 5’ For the Entire Company’s Redemption

toy story woody

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

In Toy Story (1995), fans really don’t know how old Woody is unless they are familiar with the era of pull-string cowboy dolls. For the rest of us, there’s Toy Story 2 (1999), which gave us so much information about Woody’s background that we were able to determine his age in the first film, giving us a clue about his age in each of the films.

Toy Story 2 revealed that Woody got his start in a Western-themed puppet show on television in the 1950s. We even learn that the popular children’s show, Woody’s Roundup, was canceled because of the general public’s sudden preoccupation with the launch of the Russian satellite, Sputnik-1, which took place in 1957.

russian satellite Sputnik-1

Russian satellite Sputnik-1, launched in October 1957/Credit: National Geographic

Assuming Woody was first manufactured in 1950, we can assert that Woody was already 45 years old in the first Toy Story film, which debuted in 1995.

If that’s the case, then, in Toy Story 2, which debuted at the box office in 1999, Woody is 49 years old, if fans can assume that time passes in Pixar films in sync with the passing of time in real life. That age seems to fit, as we learn in the second film that Woody isn’t just an old toy with no bells and whistles.

Big al and woody toy story 2

Big Al, the less-than-scrupulous toy collector, and Woody in “Toy Story 2” (1999)/Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

Rather, he’s a collector’s dream find–one from a bygone era that, when presented alongside the other toys from Woody’s Roundup, is worth a lot of money to collectors who are willing to pay the price.

Toy Story 3 debuted in 2010, adding 11 years to both the passage of time and Sheriff Woody’s age, meaning that the beloved cowboy doll is 59 years old in the third installment of the Toy Story film franchise. Though he does show some minimal signs of wear and tear, Woody looks great for a nearly 60-year-old toy, don’t you think?

Related: Woody and Buzz Fans Are Freaking Out Over Tim Allen’s Announcement on Social Media

woody toy story 3

Woody plans to make a break for it in “Toy Story 3” (2010)/Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

The final film in the franchise, Toy Story 4, had its box office release in June 2019, adding nine years to the Toy Story timeline, as well as to Woody’s age, making the lovable cowboy Woody Pride closer to 70 years old in the fourth toy-inspired film.

In February 2024, Disney announced plans for a 2026 release date for the highly-anticipated Toy Story 5 film. If the film does debut in 2026, seven more years will be added to the timeline and to Woody’s age, making the beloved pull-string sheriff 75 years old in the film.

toy story woody

Credit: Pixar Animation Studios

There’s a lot more to Toy Story‘s Sheriff Woody than even diehard fans might have realized. We’re just thankful that he doesn’t seem to age like the rest of us do.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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