Why You’ll Never See Iron Man in a Toy Story Film (Probably)

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movies Disney
Movies Disney

If you’ve ever wondered why the chief toy owners – Andy and Bonnie – in the Toy Story franchise never had any toys from some of entertainment’s major franchises, not to mention Sunnyside Daycare neglecting to supply its kids with some of the world’s most popular playthings, it’s not because they, or their parents or carers, deliberately shun the mainstream. Indeed, Buzz Lightyear was among the most wanted toys the year Andy was gifted the Space Ranger in the first Toy Story. And of course, one of Molly’s toys was the globally known and loved Barbie. Even Woody had his own (short-lived) TV show.

Now Disney owns the rights to a slew of big movie series – Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men – you might have expected to see action figures and merchandise from some of these make an appearance in the Toy Story franchise. Or even a cameo from a brought-to-life version of Disney’s emblematic Mouse himself. That’s not to ignore the Mickey Mouse clock in Andy’s bedroom, of course — though that’s more of a cute Easter Egg than anything. Indeed, who wouldn’t love to see a 12” version of Darth Vader confront Buzz – admittedly the Luke/Vader story was played out in Toy Story 2 via Utility Belt Buzz and Zurg – or Captain America interact with Andy’s toy soldiers? Or Mystique befriend Bo Peep, for that matter?

The crucial point of difference between a Barbie and an Iron Man toy, of course, is that Iron Man is integral to one of the world’s biggest big-screen franchises. And that cross-pollination of massive movie universes is, sadly, a no-no for the folks behind Toy Story. Toy Story 4 co-producer Mark Nielsen tells Fandom that the toys they include in any of the movies is a source of in-depth discussion but that, ultimately, the likes of Mickey Mouse as a walking, talking toy knocking about with the other animated action figures will always get shunned. Probably…

A Funny Idea

“I don’t know if we ever talked about Mickey [specifically], but we are constantly in conversation about what new characters to include,” says Nielsen, who also worked on Inside Out and Cars 2. “Every Toy Story film has introduced some new characters as we have gone along the way and, at the end of the day, it’s really about what’s going to support the core of the story. And for this, [the core of the story] is Woody and his journey. So, I think [newcomers] Duke Caboom, and Gabby Gabby and Giggle McDimples, Ducky and Bunny, all of them – they’re all in service of Woody’s story and his progression as he goes along in this movie. And if they don’t serve that purpose, they may have not made it into the film.”

Which is Nielsen’s way of saying that Mickey Mouse might have taken something away from or even stalled Woody’s progression had he popped up. If they’d included, say, an Iron Man toy — as another example — do they feel it would have taken attention away from their main protagonist, and is that a reason for not including some of these big names?

Co-producer Jonas Rivera says, “I think so. That’s a funny idea, but we always try to walk the line of what you would accept as a truthful toy and what would be too far that it would pull the audience out of the movie. You never want to really wink at the audience and somehow break that plane — and it might be that Iron Man or somebody like Mickey Mouse would do that. But maybe not. I mean, there might be a way to do it. But we always stayed away from that.”

To Infinity and Beyond Bo Peep

Bo Peep Toy Story 4
Bo Peep returns in Toy Story 4 -- but is there more to Woody's story?

With appearances from Mickey Mouse and Iron Man not completely ruled out, then, we can presumably watch this space in case a Toy Story 5 is forthcoming – which according to some accounts isn’t happening. We’ve heard that kind of thing before, of course, and with Toy Story 4 gaining rave reviews and Woody himself, Tom Hanks, saying he wouldn’t be surprised to see a fifth film, it would be churlish to preclude another instalment, right? Especially with the way the latest movie leaves things (don’t worry, no spoilers here!). Both producers and director Josh Cooley, when discussing where Woody and Buzz’s friendship specifically goes after the curtain closes on the third sequel, talk about their friendship being “lifelong”.

We’re also holding onto the fact that Pixar’s Andrew Stanton wasn’t convinced that Woody’s story was finished at the end of Toy Story 3, even though fans felt the film marked a lovely, organic end to the franchise.

Says Nielsen, “Andrew Stanton was the first one to suggest [a fourth outing]. It was something he had been cooking up while we were working on Toy Story 3. [Stanton] has been a part of these films since the beginning and he came to us and he was like, ‘You know what, I’ve never seen Toy Story 3 as the ending; these stories are all about Woody, and this now is the next chapter in his life — he’s going to have a new purpose, he’s in a new space, he’s with a new kid’, and that seemed worth exploring. That and bringing back Bo Peep…”

With Toy Story 4 opening up a new chapter in Woody’s journey, surely there’s life in the old sheriff toy’s story yet…

You can watch Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera and Josh Cooley answer your fan questions and more in the video at the top of the page. Toy Story 4 hits screens in Australia on June 20, and the UK and the US on June 21.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.