Pixar Animation made history with the first Toy Story film in 1995. Since creating the first fully computer-animated feature film, Buzz, Woody, and the gang have been entertaining audiences around the world through heartfelt and hilarious sequels. Each film combines the signature Pixar character design with excellent voice work. This brilliant concoction has resulted in some of the most iconic animated films and characters.
Gracing t-shirts and theme park rides the world over, these cartoon heroes are staples of nearly everyone’s childhood. Viewers everywhere have their favorite toy in the series, but there are a select few that remain the best of the best.
Updated on October 11th, 2021 by Kevin Pantoja: Pixar has been met with a ton of praise over the years but their biggest franchise remains Toy Story. Four films have been released in the series spanning 25 years and there were also several short films and other iterations of the story. In the past two years, a new entry arrived in Toy Story 4. Though many fans felt this wasn’t needed, it ended up being a good way to wrap up the story, at least for now, and it also introduced a slew of new characters who can stand tall with the most iconic in the history of the franchise.
15 Gabby Gabby
In a lot of ways, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) was the antagonist of Toy Story 4. She had a creepy vibe to her as a giant talking baby doll and her goal was to steal Woody’s voicebox to fix her own. While that put her against the protagonist, she turned out to not actually be a villain.
She was simply someone who wanted a kid to love her and she believed having the voicebox would make that happen. The scene where the girl that she wants to love her throws her down is among the saddest in Toy Story history but the fact that she eventually finds a kid allows her to have a happy ending.
14 Duke Caboom
The core characters in this series often show up in more than one film but it seems like that won’t be the case for Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). He’s a toy with a connection to Bo Peep and he almost instantly steals the show. As a Canadian stuntman figure, almost everything that he does feels over the top in the best possible way.
Duke shined because he, like so many other Toy Story characters, had something of a tragic past. He couldn’t perform the way the real Duke Caboom did and it made the kid who owned him not want to play with him. Despite the sadness he often feels about it, Duke continues to put on a brave face.
The main storyline of Toy Story 4 revolved around Forky (Tony Hale). This character isn’t a traditional toy, instead being something created by Bonnie out of a spork and some other creative materials. That led to Forky having a consistent existential crisis as he didn’t want to be a toy.
He was made to eat with and then dispose of, so he spent a lot of the movie trying to throw himself out. Woody went on a mission to save him because it was so important to Bonnie. The journey of Forky’s is actually one of the stronger ones of any Pixar movie, which is saying something.
While Barbie had appeared in previous films, it was Ken (Michael Keaton) who actually stole the show. Barbie ran into her love interest at Sunnyside Daycare and the two instantly found a connection. That made Ken an interesting character as his bond with Barbie led him to turn on Lotso and help Andy’s toys.
On top of that, Ken was also hilarious in almost every scene. His fashion show remains one of the funniest moments in any Pixar film, while his reaction to having his clothes torn was also side-splitting. Ken combined great comedy with a strong character arc.
Villains may not be likable but they can often be the most fascinating of characters in any franchise. While Sid was pretty vicious and The Prospecter was conniving, no antagonist in Toy Story movies could ever top Lotso (Ned Beaty). Right off the bat, Lotso was disarming because he has such a cuddly demeanor and look.
Beneath that though, Lotso was ruthless. Another victim of abandonment by children, Lotso used that to fuel his actions as he ruled Sunnyside with an iron fist. He was so awful that even when Andy’s toys helped save his life, he still found a way to turn on them and basically sentence them to death.
10 The Aliens
“Ooooh!” Before Minions started terrorizing Facebook feeds, Toy Story had their own unique and cute aliens. These green aliens (Jeff Pidegon) have appeared in every Toy Story film, first debuting when Buzz and Woody are trapped in the claw machine at Pizza Planet.
Nothing was more satisfying than when they saved the heroes from “The Claw!” in Toy Story 3, so without them, audiences wouldn’t have had a happy ending. The Aliens might be small green men of little words, but their impact is undeniable. Their design was instantly iconic, and they have yet to be overused.
9 Slinky Dog
Not only are they man’s best friend, but Dogs are also best friends for toy sheriff’s too. Slinky Dog (Jim Varney/Blake Clark) is one of the most recognizable toys in the bunch. They don’t make just any toy into a ride at Disneyworld!
Slinky has remained one of the most loyal toys in the whole series. Always reliable to Woody and the gang, Slinky is the best companion anyone could ask for. Slinky was also first voiced by none other than Ernest himself, Jim Varney, before his death in 2000. Slinky continued the trend of excellent voice casting in Pixar films and continued output of adorable characters.
Hamm (John Ratzenberger) is a funny member of the Toy family as he was never really a toy at all. He nothing more than a piggy bank. Like Forky in Toy Story 4 though, Hamm’s existence just goes to show that kids’ imaginations can turn anything into a toy!
Hamm is one of the funniest characters in the films. Always with a quip, the older you get the more you appreciate him. Hamm is also voiced by Pixar veteran John Ratzenberger, who has appeared in every Pixar film to date. Hamm is a childhood mainstay that fans love.
Slinky might be a dog, but no toy feels more like the pet companion of the group than Woody’s trusty steed Bullseye. Bullseye made his debut in Toy Story 2 when Woody met him in Al’s apartment. Bullseye is beyond sweet and full of unconditional affection for all of his toy family.
Though he speaks no lines, Bullseye says enough with his emotions. This feat has to be credited to the animators. Obviously, the voice acting for all of these characters is impressive, but the fact that audiences fall for the emotions of a CGI toy horse with full earnestness says it all.
No one is more relatable to millennials than the anxiety-filled dinosaur Rex (Wallace Shawn) and he has been a presence since the beginning. This little green sweetheart provides the perfect commentary for the schemes and plans carried out by Woody and the gang. Like C-3PO, his anxious nature is all part of the charm.
It’s no wonder his performance works so well with an actor like Wallace Shawn behind the microphone. It would be absolutely inconceivable to imagine any other actor embodying the role of Rex. Although he is never the center of attention, his presence is a must in every film.
5 Bo Peep
Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was never the center of attention in the first few films, which makes her highlighted role in Toy Story 4 so much more interesting. In the past, Woody and Buzz always made the final decisions but Bo Peep remained the voice of reason through it all.
Bo Peep’s no-nonsense attitude made her instantly likable and relatable. Her constant quips and strong moral center made her more trusting of a friend than almost any other toy in Andy’s room. Before Jessie came around, Bo Peep was also the only bit of female representation in the boys club that was the first film. Toy Story really added to her character, showing her to be a tough and independent toy who survived and thrived on her own.
A cowgirl voice by Joan Cusack? What’s not to love? Jessie didn’t join the cast until Toy Story 2, but the minute she was on-screen, the audience felt like she had been there the whole time. Jessie proved to be one of the most beloved characters in Pixar history.
Most of these characters serve mostly as background, but Jessie’s arc is heartfelt and beautiful. Nothing is more heartwrenching than the “When Somebody Loved Me” sequence from Toy Story 2. Like the opening sequence in Up, this moment told a complete and tragic story in a matter of minutes. Jessie might have had a sad origin, but through support and trust, she blossomed into a fully realized individual.
3 Mr. Potato Head
When it comes to perfect marriages between actors and characters, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head instantly comes to mind. The late Don Rickles was a legendary comedian and voice actor. His comic sensibilities added so much to both Mr. Potato Head as a character and the entirety of the Toy Story franchise.
When it comes to recognizable toys, few in the franchise stack up against Mr. Potato Head. Yet the character himself surpassed his real-life counterpart in iconography. No character has had funnier moments in this series than Mr. Potato Head. From his stealth mission as a tortilla to using his angry eyes, Mr. Potato Head is one of the best.
2 Buzz Lightyear
Obviously, the fact that Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is one of the co-leads in these films helps his placement, but the character’s journey and reputation alone earns him the number two spot.
Buzz’s arc in the first film, as funny as it was, was incredibly relatable if not a bit tragic. It is his journey that held that first film together. Even looking past the iconic voice work and character journey, Buzz’s catchphrase “To Infinity and Beyond” remains one of the most memorable Pixar quotes of all time. If another film is ever released, Buzz seems like he’s in line to be the new leader of Andy’s old toys.
Who else could hold the top spot but everyone’s favorite cowboy, Woody (Tom Hanks)? The lead of all the films, and the emotional core, Woody is an icon of not only his franchise or Pixar but of animation itself. Hanks has brought Woody to life in every iteration thus far, and it remains one of his best roles to date.
Woody represents something deep within every audience who watches these movies. Nearly every individual had that favorite toy that meant the world to them. Woody embodies this innate primal relationship between children and their possessions. Because of this, viewers care more about Woody than anyone else in these films. He also goes through so much in these films, from learning to accept Buzz as his friend to regaining his belief in Andy to figuring out that he doesn’t need a kid to be happy anymore.
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