‘Reach for the Stars’
‘There’s a snake in my boots’
That’s what you expect me to say isn’t it? The standard phrases that spew out of my mouth giving you familiarity throughout all the films we made. Not sure what we’re up to right now, is it three or four? To be honest I never expected them to go on so long. Although they’ve given me enough money to live the lifestyle that I’m used to, the part really doesn’t really push me very far.
I remember going to be cast for the role originally, the excitement and apprehension. I’d had small parts in a couple of TV series playing the part of a cowboy. I’d been an extra in Four Feather Falls and had bit parts in How the West Was Won as well as High Noon, the original one. You know how it is though, westerns had had their day.
You know it’s funny when you look back, but I went originally for the part of Buzz. I sort of thought that cowboys were old hat by that time and didn’t want to get typecast. I though the audition had gone well, and the directors seem to think I was just right for the part. Then this big-headed lad arrived, all jaw and emptiness. I was outside the room when he went in for his reading. I had to stifle the laughter as I heard him struggling with the lines, yet he walked out smiling as though he’d given the performance of a lifetime.
A few weeks later I heard back from the studio that they’d like me to play the part of Woody. I was a little narked to say the least, but it was work and I’d not had any of that for a while. I was temporarily working as a signpost on a roundabout advertising fresh pizza, to make ends meet if you get my drift. You know those idiots who wave those signs around? The script seemed really good though, a chance at the big time. Aimed at children, those little brats, but from some of the jokes in it I knew it would be appreciated by their parents as well.
That first read through the script is always exciting. Imagining the words come to life. You know instantly whether it’s a pup or a hit. It seemed different enough to maybe make a mark.
You find out which other actors have been hired, have a bit of a bonding session and start to read through the scripts. It’s a time when you get to find out whether the script and cast will gel. No matter how good a script is, if the actors don’t cut the mustard, then the whole things falls in on itself like a house of cards. I think the agency had done well. There were a couple of old soaks brought in, names from the past to play Ham and Bo. Great character actors that would be fun to work with and provide us with light relief.
That first morning there was one of us missing, Buzz hadn’t turned up. I was wondering who had beat me to the part when in the door came the chin. I thought at first he was the sandwich boy, but the director introduced him as Buzz. The bloke who’d cocked up the audition had somehow managed to land one the prized parts.
Buzz had charisma, in bucket loads, but he wasn’t what you’d call intelligent. The part could have been written for him. So where do I start with the enigma that is Buzz. Like I say, he's a bit of a Wally, but he seemed to get by. He had a huge fanbase by the end of that first film. It did affect him. If his head could have swollen then it would have struggled to shut his helmet. It was amazing casting by the director to be honest. Buzz on screen was this fantasist who believed that he was a space ranger from another planet rather than the toy that he really was.
One time after he'd fluffed his catch phrase 'To Infinity and Beyond' for the umpteenth time, I had to stop Wheezy attached a real rocket to his back. Wheezy never had much patience, the chronic chest complaint of his always making him in pain. Too many cigars there. If Buzz had been tied to the rocket that Wheezy had planned, he'd have ended up going beyond infinity.
The first run through of the script was Ok, although Buzz continued to have problems with ‘To Infinity and Beyond’ I mean what the hell, he struggled with pronouncing 'infinity'. It actually took him most of the day to master it. God knows if he knew what it meant.
Bo was beautiful. She really knocked my socks off with that husky voice. She had that type of lilt that made my toes curl up. If I was a dog, like slinky, my tongue would have been hanging all the way down my body. I never stood a chance though, Bo only had time for her sheep which she worshiped. Still just to be in her company was awesome.
The joker in our pack was Ham. That pig sure knew how to party. Never let it be said that the pig ever let us down. They say bacon goes with everything, and that pig would go with anything, if you get my drift. I saw things that made even my eyes pop out. Ham was a catalyst for all the fun we had. He'd just open his mouth and we'd start laughing, what a guy.
I have to say though, the person I had more fun with in that first film was Spud, Mr Potato Head. In that film, Spud was always onto me for not liking Buzz, but off the set we got on like a house on fire. He's a great character and what he can pull out of his rear is incredible. I mean during one drunken night out on the town he pulled out a … Well better not mention it here, don't want his lawyers giving me a cease and desist order. In the later films he met his wife and she kind of tempered him. He was head over heels in love with her, a chemistry which came across in the films, I think. They were adorable and were genuinely in love with each other.
I couldn't not mention the alien guys. The things they could do with their mouths were incredible. The girls we met in town really went for them in a big way. All they have to do is say 'Oooo the claw' and the girls swoon over them like flies around dung. Those guys sure had great times exploiting their fame. However, there was always a tinge of sadness to them. Millions of miles from their home planet, always thinking of their loved ones. They lived life to the full, but it has to be said that I wouldn't like to have been so far from home.
Rex and Slinky were also great to work with. I lost count at the laughs we got by Rex suddenly appearing behind a posse of fans and roaring at them. They really wet their knickers. Rex was not aggressive at all. I wouldn't say I'd trust him when he was hungry, but he was harmless enough when he’d been fed. Slinky was another character. A bit morose at times, always down on his luck but he had a heart of gold. He'd bend right over to help you, luckily the spring helped him in that respect.
So, there we were at the first reading. The cast together for the first time. Little did we realise that we'd be on the threshold of one of the most successful film franchises of all time.
Buzz was actually great in the part, so believable because he was a sort of country bumpkin and probably did at one stage think he was a space ranger. Maybe that's why he'd go on the town with us wearing the suit. He was also incredibly annoying as well. To relieve the tension at times we'd pull some jokes on him.
One time after he'd fluffed his catch phrase 'To Infinity and Beyond' for the umpteenth time, I had to stop Wheezy attached a real rocket to his back. Wheezy never had much patience, the chronic chest complaint of his always making him in pain. If Buzz had been tied to the rocket that Wheezy had planned, he'd have ended up really going beyond infinity.
Buzz was a budding singer. Or should I say he thought he was. He'd grap hold of Mr Mike and disappear into his dressing room. The noise coming out of there seriously made us wonder what the hell they were getting up to. At one point we thought he was torturing poor Mike, the noise was so bad. However we were really intrigued about what he was doing. So we hatched a little plot.
We sneaked Lenny the Binoculars in there one morning and waited until Buzz and Mike went in. There was this strange caterwauling and weird sounds which went on for over an hour. Mike eventually came out with a horrific look on his face as though totally traumatised. Buzz appeared a while later, that big vacant smile on his face.
Lenny told us later about how Buzz grasped hold of Mike and stood in front of the mirror. Then Buzz broke into song. Now I love music but the sound that came from Buzz's mouth wasn't what I'd call music. It was just a horrible grating of words devoid of any musical talent. When we got Mike to talk, he told us how Buzz wanted to be a rock star. He imagined he was the singer and writer of a rock band. Well I guess that was another part of the person who was Buzz, a fantasist of the highest order.
We had some great fun making that first film though. Buzz became a little more manageable and even Sarge began to take to his weird ways. Me I was just happy to play a part that suited me. Woody was my greatest role and one that I was happy to get, in spite of me wanting to be the spaceman.
We all parted after that first film never dreaming we'd be back together. We had this amazing party at the end and we all parted. I felt really sad to leave them all especially Bo. Even Buzz was hard to part from. We'd formed a bond that obviously the audience loved and the film went ballistic at the box office. Somehow we'd got a huge hit from kids to adults. They even made these realistic toys of us that that Christmas caused a sell out never seen before.
It was inevitable that we'd be back with a sequel. This time there was a few other characters to throw into the mix. The ensemble cast was back but this time we were joined by the adorable Jess and my greatest sidekick Bullseye. More of that in the next chapter.