Sticking with the December toy theme I started last Monday, today I’m looking at a piece of concept art from Toy Story. This particular piece of concept art was created by character designer Bud Luckey, who was one of the first crew members to star working on the film. This depicts a very early character design for Woody, it comes from a time before he was a pull-string toy.I always love art that shows just how far a character had to come before they went from an idea on paper to the finished product we see on the screen, this is a great example.
This early version of Woody was not the doll we know today, but rather an old-fashioned ventriloquist’s dummy. If you look at these drawings, Woody might look a little creepy to you, possibly even mean or evil in design. That part of the design was partially on purpose. This version of Woody also had a completely different personality than the design in the final film. He wasn’t the good hearted leader of Andy’s toys that he later became. Instead he was a bit of a tyrant, who liked to order around the rest of Andy’s toys. He was also very self-centered, especially in his interactions with Buzz. In some cases in the early drafts of the script he was just a down-right jerk to most of the other characters. Eventually the directors realized Woody was such an unlikable character, that you didn’t want to root for him, which is a major problem for a film’s main character. He needed a complete makeover.
So Woody became a friendlier character, a kind leader of the toys who mostly had their best interests in mind, although he was clearly still capable of making mistakes. The creepy ventriloquist dummy was discarded in favor of a kinder looking new design that made Woody an old-fashioned pull-string toy. This idea was actually based on a pull-string Casper doll that John Lasseter himself had as a child. The new design and personality clearly worked better for the character, and eventually became the final design that ended up in Toy Story.
So there’s another example of how many of the character’s we know and love today, didn’t start out anything like their current selves. The development of an animated character’s design and personality is a long and interesting process, and I hope you enjoyed this brief look at Woody’s transformation from jerky puppet to heroic doll.