With four movies released, the Toy Story franchise is one of Disney/ Pixar’s biggest box office hits. What is it about these classic films that make them so enjoyable and special? Some would say it’s the storytelling, while others might argue it’s all about the characters. We’re talking Buzz Lightyear, Sheriff Woody, Jessie, Bullseye, Bo Peep, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Hamm, Rex, Trixie, Slinky Dog, Mr. Pricklepants… the list goes on and on!
And while you can probably name dozens of characters from Toy Story 1, 2, 3, and 4, do you know how many of them were actual, real toys at one time? We’re talking before the movies came out, because they’re almost all toys now that you can buy at the stores! Let’s examine which characters from Toy Story are, in fact REAL, and which are FICTION!
Let’s start with one of the biggest stars of the Toy Story films — Sheriff Woody! Voiced by actor Tom Hanks, Woody himself isn’t a real toy, but he and the rest of his “Roundup Gang” including Jessie, Bullseye, and Stinky Pete represent a rich era of Western toy history. You see, “Woody’s Roundup” is a fictional 1950s-era cartoon show (you may remember this from Toy Story 2 during which we find out Woody is a rare and valuable toy). Cowboy shows were super-popular with children during the mid-20th century which inevitably went “out of style” with the dawning of the “Space Age” in the 1960’s.
Remember how Woody lost the popularity test when Buzz Lightyear landed on the scene at Andy’s room? Well, this actually happened to a lot of real-life cowboy dolls when Western stuff was no longer considered cool and rocket ships became all the rage!
And even though Buzz Lightyear was a newer toy featured in the Toy Story movies, he wasn’t a real toy either. His voice technology was far more advanced than Woody’s pull-string, placing him easily in the 1990’s era of battery-operated action figures, but that’s as deep as his fictional roots go.
So if the stars were all made up, are there any Toy Story toys that were actually real toys? Why yes, of course! Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head were and are real toys! Created by Hasbro, the original sets which debuted in the 1950s only included 28 plastic pieces — and you had to supply your OWN REAL potato. Then in the 60s they decided it would be a good idea to include a plastic spud to play with!
Slinky Dog or “Slink” is also based on a real toy. He evolved from the original Slinky toy, a springy, metal marvel which was introduced in 1946. Slinky Dog Dash, however, was entirely Andy’s invention, as you’ll see from the blueprints throughout the queue area!
And of course, Barbie and Ken are quite real, too! The American fashion doll was released by Mattel in 1959. According to Wikipedia, Barbie has been an astronaut, surgeon, Olympic athlete, downhill skier, aerobics instructor, TV news reporter, vet, rock star, doctor, army officer, and the list goes on from there! While we can’t be totally sure Tour Guide Barbie was ever a thing or not, it certainly seems likely!
The Green Army Men from the movies which you’ll also encounter “on patrol” throughout Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios are also based on a real toy. These “Bucket-o-Soliders” were relatively inexpensive and sold in bulk. While some playsets of toy soldiers date back as early as the 19th century and were made out harmful metals such as lead, the troops from the Toy Story movies are of a plastic variety that became popular after WWII.
On a side note, several of the toy parts and pieces you’ll see in Toy Story Land are also based on real, actual toys. Look close enough and you’ll see building blocks, Tinker Toys, Jenga bricks, K’Nex and Erector Set-style pieces, Crayola sets, pieces to game board like Scrabble, and even merch kiosks that look like vintage Fisher-Price toys like this Little People Play Family Camper!
It turns out most of the real-life toys in Toy Story don’t play significant roles in the films, but that makes them especially fun to spot in the movies! We’ve seen our old classic Fisher Price Chatter Telephone, Mr. Spell, Etch-a-Sketch and Doodle Pad, along with the Creepy Monkey from Toy Story 3 who smashes his cymbals together to sound the alarm when the toys are escaping! We’ve also seen Troll dolls along with the Barrel of Monkeys game and Mr. Mike (who you can also see Wheezy using at the “grand finale” of Slinky Dog Dash!) Even though we could only come up with about 14 real-life Toy Story toys, we bet you can spot a few more if you watch the movies carefully!
Can you name some other toys from Toy Story films that actually exist? Tell us what they are in the comments below!