Disney-Pixar’s first feature-length computer-animated film Toy Story made history as a surprise box-office hit in 1995.
The 1999 sequel, Toy Story 2, showed toy origins with “Woody’s Roundup” a fictitious puppet show on 1950s black-and-white television, sponsored by “Cowboy Crunchies” cereal. With characters “Sheriff Woody,” “Jessie the Yodelin’ Cowgirl,” “Stinky Pete,” and “Bullseye” the hugely popular show was cancelled after astronauts began to replace cowboys in children’s imaginations. Yet, “Buzz Lightyear” was a “Space Ranger,” borrowing from other Western “rangers,” and thus “Buzz” was a “space cowboy.”
“Woody’s Roundup” was loosely based on the real children’s television Western, The Howdy Doody Show, which ran five days per week from 1947 to 1956 (then on Saturday mornings until 1960) and was the leading children’s television program in the United States. The show starred a cowboy marionette, “Howdy Doody,” with other characters played by live actors. Howdy Doody advertised many products and the show’s popularity created demand for “Howdy Doody” merchandise, including marionettes, comic books, records, wind-up toys, lariats, clothing, and other licensed products, as well as knock-offs.
Likewise, the four Toy Story films unleashed an avalanche of themed products, especially toys, on the world. This stampede of Toy Story/“Woody’s Roundup” toys gives some idea of the flood of worldwide culture with Western toys during the mid-twentieth century.