Within the universe of the Toy Story films, Woody is a toy based on a character of the same name from a 1950s children's TV series called Woody's Roundup, as revealed in Toy Story 2.
"Woody is a cowboy sheriff with a pull-string that, when pulled, proclaims Woody's signature catchphrases from the 1950s TV show Woody's Roundup. He's always been Andy's favorite toy. Even though his owner is now grown, the loyal sheriff Woody maintains a steadfast belief that Andy still cares about his toys. As the toys venture into their unknown future, Woody remains the voice of reason. As their dependable leader, he ensures that no toy gets left behind."
In the original story pitch of Toy Story, Woody had a markedly more distasteful personality; having the character of one who had let his role as "leader" go to his head and had little compassion towards his peers. One notable example of this from the original script is that Woody actually throws Buzz out the window on purpose, and doesn't care one bit about what had happened or what the other toys thought of the incident, even saying in a casual tone that it was a "toy-eat-toy world" when accused of doing so. He also proceeded to heavily insult the toys, especially Slinky, during this time, which resulted in all of them turning on him and beating him senseless. This choice in characterization for Woody had been forced upon Pixar by then-Disney Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg due to the latter wanting more of an adult, cynical, edginess to the story, resulting in Woody becoming jealous, sarcastic, narcissistic, belligerent, cynical, and mean toward Buzz and the other toys. This nearly led to Toy Story being canceled after a Black Friday viewing. However, Pixar was given another chance, and over the next two weeks, they reworked the movie plot, giving Woody a more likable and sympathetic character. According to John Lasseter, they wanted the audience to be like, "No, Woody, don't make those choices," instead of just, "Wow, what a jerk." In addition, the change was also brought about because Apple and Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs and the rest of the production team did not like how Woody ended up and decided to change his personality by making him the wise and loyal leader of the toys, and his jealousy over Buzz was more sympathetic.
Woody is a loyal toy who has been Andy's favorite toy since kindergarten. Woody is a smart, determined, and passionate man, and would do anything for his nearest and dearest friends. He considers his friends as family and he tries his best to keep them together at all times. Yet, he is a flawed character. He has a lot of doubt, anger, frustration, uncertainty, and sadness, almost like a human. But despite his jumbled emotions, he tries his very best not to show them to his friends, so he can seem brave and courageous, but he's not afraid to confront or comfort his friends with utmost care.
Interestingly, Woody is arguably the most tactical and developed character in the series, since the plots and ploys that the main characters pull to achieve their own endeavors are more or less formulated by him. This indicates that he is smarter than he, himself acknowledges.
His character has developed very much since the first movie. In Toy Story, when he first meets Buzz, he's very intimidated by the space ranger's more modern appearance compared to his rag-doll appearance. Soon his jealousy begins to manifest him, he plans to hide Buzz from Andy so that he can be remembered. Yet when things go awry and Buzz is thrown out the window and into a bush, Woody learns to think twice about his little schemes.
His adventurous spirit is not intact in the first film as well. When he runs into Sid's mismatched and deformed toys, Woody is instantly frightened by them and comes to this false accusation that they want to eat him and Buzz. Throughout the film, Woody begins to develop a more courageous personality.
In Toy Story 2, his personality begins to upgrade even more, learning to understand other people's rejections. When he meets Jessie, they instantly become close but get into a heated argument when Woody is determined to get home to Andy. Jessie accuses Woody of abandoning them and he instantly protests. Yet soon, he has a change of heart when he realizes what a hard life Jessie's had before.
When Buzz and the gang arrive to save Woody, Woody stubbornly refuses to leave with them, saying that Andy will be done with him when he grows up. Buzz accepts Woody's fate but confronts him saying being admired from afar by millions of kids doesn't compare to being loved by just one kid. Realizing his error, Woody comes back to his senses and makes a promise to himself that he'll be there for Andy the day he leaves.
It isn't a whole long time until Andy is about to depart for college in Toy Story 3, and Woody is also uncertain about his fate when his dear owner leaves since he is so attached to Andy. After a misunderstanding that they've been thrown away and left on the curb, he and his friends end up in Sunnyside Daycare where they meet Lotso, Ken, and other bright faces. Still staying true to his promise to Andy, Woody decides to leave his friends, who have stubbornly decided to stay at the daycare, to their happy future.
When Woody is then taken home by Bonnie and told of Sunnyside's real nature by her toys, he decides to help his friends. Yet, out of rage for mentioning Daisy, Lotso leaves the toys at the dump and abandons them in the incinerator to die, even when Woody (in an act of honor and selflessness) helped him avoid being killed by blades. Choosing to perish with his surrogate family over getting back to Andy, he holds Buzz and Slinky's hands and closes his eyes as they all accept their fate in flames. Luckily, the Pizza Planet aliens save them from a fiery death. As Andy departs for college, Woody sees how his owner's family are able to accept his departure, despite their feelings, and realizes he must do the same. He hastily suggests that they are passed on to Bonnie for a better life. As Andy drives down the road, Woody sadly whispers, "So long, partner.", accepting it's time to move on. But he is glad he's still with his friends and is ready for a new life with Bonnie and her toys too.
Woody is a slender man and fair-skinned in plastic. He has brown eyes, hair hand-painted in brown that is attached to his head in plastic, rosy cheeks, thin brown eyebrows, a yellow shirt with red square outlines, a couple of white buttons vertically on his chest and each matching cufflink on both his cuffs, cowboy boots made from brown plastic with both each couple outlined cacti on both sides and a black handwriting reading "ANDY" on his right boot sole, spurs made from gold plastic on both sides of his boots, a holster made from brown plastic with a gold brooch with a red center on it, a white vest with black cow spots all over, a red bandanna, blue jeans, a belt made from brown plastic with a buckle that has a bull design on it made from gold plastic, a cowboy hat made from brown plastic with a triangle-shaped brim, star-shaped badge made from gold plastic with small spheres on each tip and a word "SHERIFF" on the center, and a pull string on his back with a white hoop attached to it. Woody is 15.18 inches tall without his hat, and 15.93 inches tall with his hat on.
In the first Toy Story, Woody is Andy's favorite toy and leader of Andy's toys. His best pal is Slinky Dog, who he often played checkers with and he had a relationship with Bo Peep. Woody has been the favorite since Andy went to kindergarten and had the place of high honor on Andy's bed as well as his owner's name on his right boot.
He holds a meeting informing them of an upcoming move to a new house that is next week, and the fact that, due to the move, Andy's birthday party is being held that day. At the request of the other toys, Woody coordinates a reconnaissance mission to discover what Andy's new toys are, as everyone fears being replaced. At first, the gifts are mostly toys and games.
However, to Woody's dismay, Andy receives Buzz Lightyear, a Space Ranger action figure complete with impressive electronic gadgets including high-pressure space wings, a laser, an electronic voice box, karate chop action, wrist-communicator, open-able space helmet, and can even glow in the dark. He is instantly extremely popular with the other toys, making Woody feel jealous. To make matters worse, Buzz is under the delusion that he is a real Space Ranger and needs to travel back to his own planet.
As the days go by, Buzz seems to be getting most of the attention and Woody feels his world crumbling all around him especially when the posters on the walls, the pictures, and even the bedclothes with his theme all changed to Buzz and he ends up in the toy box instead of on the bed. Buzz even gets his owner's name on the bottom of his right boot with permanent ink (just like Woody), which infuriates Woody even further. He then begins thinking up ways to get back in the spotlight.
When Woody hears Andy is going to Pizza Planet for dinner and he has to bring only one toy, he fearfully knows that Andy will choose Buzz; confirmed when he shakes a Magic 8-Ball for answers. As a result, he sees an opportunity to get Buzz out of the way and keep Andy to himself. First, he hatches a plan to knock Buzz behind Andy's desk using RC Car, but it backfires and Buzz gets knocked out of the window instead. The other toys, especially Mr. Potato Head and Hamm (excluding Rex, Slinky, and Bo Peep), gang up on Woody, believing he attempted to kill Buzz out of jealousy. They immediately strangle him to exact punishment, but the struggle is cut short when Woody is taken by Andy to Pizza Planet. While Andy's mother refuels the car at a gas station, Woody ponders how he can return to Andy's room alone, knowing that without Buzz, the toys will tear him apart as they still don't believe him. Suddenly, he is confronted by Buzz, and the two end up fighting and accidentally land outside the car, which drives off and leaves the two stranded.
A bitter argument between them ensues, ending with Woody, upset, frustrated, and furious, telling Buzz once and for all that he had turned Andy against him, and that he is a toy, not a real Space Ranger, so they go their separate ways. Suddenly, Woody spots a truck bound for Pizza Planet and plans to rendezvous with Andy there. Remembering he has to face the wrath of the other toys if he returns without Buzz, Woody convinces Buzz that the truck will take them to a spaceship. At Pizza Planet, Buzz stuffs himself into a rocket-shaped claw game machine, forcing Woody to clamber into the machine to try and rescue him. Woody and Buzz are then captured by Andy's next-door neighbor, the toy-destroying Sid Phillips. As Woody desperately attempts to escape from Sid's house before Andy's family's moving day, Buzz finally realizes (the hard way) that he is a toy and becomes a depressed burden to Woody. In the film's turning point, Woody admits that Buzz is a "cool toy" and despairs that he himself stands no chance of being Andy's favorite.
When Buzz is taken away by Sid to be destroyed with a firework rocket, Woody teams up with Sid's mutant toys and stages a rescue of Buzz, terrifying Sid into running away in fear of his own toys. Woody and Buzz climb into the moving van, attracting the attention of Sid's dog Scud. When Buzz sacrifices himself to save Woody by tackling the dog, Woody attempts to rescue Buzz with Andy's RC. However, he is then chucked out of the van by the other toys, who mistakenly believed that Woody is trying to get rid of RC like he did Buzz. Woody hitches a ride on RC with Buzz, then the other toys witness this and realize they made a mistake, then they try to help him get back on the van. When RC's batteries run out, Woody realizes that he can ignite Buzz's rocket and manages to toss RC into the moving truck just as he and Buzz go soaring into the air. They glide in the air until they land safely inside Andy's car. At the end of the film, which takes place at Christmas, Woody and Buzz stage another reconnaissance mission to prepare for the new toy arrivals. As Woody wonders what gift may be worse than Buzz, Andy receives a puppy, to which Buzz and Woody share a worried smile.
Toy Story 2
In Toy Story 2, about a year after the first film, Woody, ready for an annual trip with Andy to a place called Cowboy Camp, struggles to find his trademark cowboy hat. He sends everyone in search of it, and while everyone is searching, Bo Peep snags him with her cane (again). She encourages him that everything will be all right, nearly kissing him before being interrupted by Rex struggling with her sheep, and moments later Slinky finds the hat. After preparing for departure, Andy accidentally tears Woody's arm while playing with him and Buzz Lightyear before leaving for camp. To Woody's dismay, Andy leaves Woody on the shelf, despite Ms. Davis offering to fix him on the way. Woody, being unable to move his arm, begins to have recurring nightmares of becoming a disused toy which Andy says that he does not want to play with anymore and drops him into the pile of cards left on the floor by Rex, Mr. Potato Head, and Rocky, which leads him into a trash can filled with severed hands, and they grab him by the neck while he's begging Andy not to do it, but he sadly says goodbye to Woody and closes the trash can lid, ignoring Woody's pleads. Woody wakes to find that Wheezy, a penguin toy whose squeaker is broken, is being taken by Andy's mother to be sold at a yard sale. Woody rescues Wheezy with the help of Andy's dog Buster, but he is accidentally left behind at the yard sale and subsequently located by Al McWhiggin, the owner of the toy store, Al's Toy Barn. He tries to offer, bribe, and bargain with Ms. Davis, but she refuses to sell the sheriff and stores him in the cash box. Irritated at her noncompliance, Al resorts to thievery, stealing Woody by causing a distraction with a skateboard. He quickly hurries to his car, storing the bag holding Woody in the trunk, as Buzz tries to save his friend, but fails.
Woody is brought to Al's apartment, where he discovers that he is a toy based on Woody's Roundup, a TV show from the 1950s. By acquiring him, Al now has a complete collection of the show's merchandise, which he plans to sell to a toy museum in Tokyo, Japan. Woody meets the toy versions of the show's co-stars: his sidekick Jessie, his horse Bullseye, and an old prospector named Stinky Pete formerly known as 'The Prospector' (who is still apparently in mint condition in his original box). The three are excited to be going to Japan, but knowing that he is still Andy's toy, Woody has doubts and intends to return home. When Al rips off his torn arm by accident, Woody tries to recover his arm and then escape the apartment, but without success as the TV turned on and waked up Al in the process. Seeing the remote next to her, Woody confronts Jessie. She is furious when Woody answers to her question that he's labeling her with "if the boot fits!" and confirms it, leading to a scuffle that is broken by intervention from the Prospector.
The next day, Woody's arm is repaired and he is given a fresh paint job, which he appreciates. He slowly warms up to the idea of going to Japan, particularly after learning that Jessie was once the favorite toy of a little girl named Emily, who gave her away after growing up and he is convinced by Stinky Pete that, if he returns to Andy, he will eventually be thrown away when he grows up like with what happened to Jessie, whereas if he goes to Japan, he will be remembered and treasured forever. He is later confronted by Buzz and the other toys, who try to take him home. While Woody initially turns his back on them, both literally and figuratively, he soon comes to his senses and invites the other toys from Woody's Roundup to come along, but is denied freedom by the disgruntled Prospector, who is determined to go to Japan (in process, it's revealed he turned on the TV and framed Jessie). Woody and the rest of the collection are packed up for shipping overseas and taken to the Tri-County Airport.
Woody gets into a spat with the Prospector in the baggage handling area, during which the old rip in his arm is reopened on purpose by Stinky Pete to force Woody into getting back in the suitcase (but this time, his arm still can move, because it's just a little rip). Woody is eventually able to defeat the Prospector with help from the other toys by tossing him into a girl's backpack (sentencing him to an unfortunate fate of being doodled on by its owner, much to his grief). While Bullseye is rescued, Jessie is loaded into the plane's cargo hold, forcing Woody to slip on board and extract her from the cargo hold just before the plane takes off. Woody and the others happily return home, using one of the airport baggage trucks to do so, where his arm is once again repaired (Andy's fix is somewhat lopsided, but Woody takes this as a badge of pride), and Jessie and Bullseye are made members of Andy's toys. Woody and Buzz now accept the fact that Andy will eventually grow up, but even after he does, they will still be there for each other
Toy Story 3
- Woody makes a cameo appearance in A Bug's Life in the outtakes.