Structure: Toy Story 1

In his book Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach, Paul Gulino offers an excellent analysis of Toy Story 1, based upon the tools of anticipation.  The breakdown below follows this almost religiously, except only for some minor details.

Apart from the division in 3 acts and 8 sequences, later I will also indicate how some story points relate to the Hero’s Journey.

It’s really worth watching the first installment again to realize how cohesive the trilogy really is. The themes of the three movies are related and the visual goals are remarkably similar, too.

The only differences between my sequence structure and Paul Gulino’s approach are the end of Act One and the different division of Act Three (into a double climax – Sequence G1 and G2 – and a separate ‘aftermath’ sequence).

When I have more time later, I will add some notes to each sequence.

If you haven’t already checked it out, please go and have a look at my breakdown of Toy Story 3.



Sequence A: The end of Woody’s reign. (13mins)

00.00 Walt Disney and Buena Vista leader.

*01.00 Andy playing with his toys: Damsel in distress. Woody to the rescue!
01.30 You’ve got a friend in me: Andy and Woody, best of friends.
03.00 The “special spot”: Woody is Andy’s favourite toy.
03.30 “Coast is clear!” Woody and the Toys come to life.
06.00 Staff meeting: 1 week before moving. Today is Andy’s birthday party!

07:00 Woody reassures the toys that no one will be replaced by new toys.
07.30 “They’re here!” Andy’s friends arrive with presents. Meeting Adjourned.
08.30 Code Red! Woody sends out the troops: Recon post downstairs.
09.00 Troops dispatched.
10.30 Troops report back about the contents of the presents.
11.30 Mission accomplished. No new toys!
12.00 Mum pulls out surprise present!
12.30 Red Alert: Andy is coming upstairs. Leaves new present on bed.

Sequence B: Woody in denial: still Andy’s favorite! (8mins)

13.00 Woody: “Just a mistake.” Let’s give it a nice welcome.
15.00 “I’m Buzz Lightyear. I come in peace”.
16:00 More gadgets then a swiss army knife.
17:00 Woody has Laser envy.
17:30 Woody challenges Buzz to fly.
18:00 “To Infinity and Beyond!”
18:30 Buzz falls with style! Woody isn’t Impressed.
19:00 They’ll see, I’m still Andy’s favourite. [Reluctance to change]
19:30 Strange things are happening.
20:00 Buzz Lightyear! Andy’s new favorite.
20:30 Andy: “I’m still Andy’s favorite toy.”

I include the musical montage in the first act for the following reasons:

– the montage is a visualization of Woody’s goal in reverse: he wants it to be HIM who’s being played with.
– the montage ends with a natural wipe to black, indicating a clear ‘curtain’ closing Act One.
– the sequence length is now more equally distributed, which is consistent with an audience’s attention’s ebb & flow.


Sequence C: Woody’s Revenge and consequences. (8mins)

21:00 Woody confronts Buzz. “Stop with the spaceman thing”
23:00 Sid – the toy torturer. Blows up soldier.
26:00 Woody’s revenge: Buzz falls out of the window.
27:30 Andy leaves with Woody. Buzz in pursuit.
28:00 Toys trying to recover Buzz. Where could he be?

Sequence D: Stuck at Pizza Planet & unwanted help (8mins)

29:00 Fuel station: Woody and Buzz fight out their differences.
30:00 Left behind at the petrol station as Mom & Andy drive on.
31:00 Woody: “You are a toy!” Not the real buzz lightyear.”

32:00 Pizza delivery truck, a spaceship and a way home!
33:00 The cockpit, safer than the cargo bay. A bumpy ride to Pizza Planet.
33:30 Welcome to Pizza Planet! Disguises, a way to get inside.
34:30 Woody: “Andy!” Buzz: “Spaceship!” Buzz runs off.
35:00 Buzz makes peace with Aliens in the spaceship.

36:00 Woody: “It’s Sid! Get Down!”
37:00 The Claw chooses Buzz & Woody.
37:30 Sid takes the toys home: “Let’s go home and … play!!”

Sequence E. Sid’s toys. Woody tortured & Buzz’ Ordeal (9mins)

38:00 Sid’s dog Scud and sister Hayley
38:30 Sid performs surgery on his Hayley’s doll.
39:30 Sid’s mutilated toys. Woody is petrified.

41:00 Andy’s room next door. They’re home.
41:30 Sid tortures Woody with a magnifying glass.
42:30 “The door! It’s open, we’re free!”
43:30 A dog between the exit. Woody and Buzz split up.
*44:00 Television Commercial: “Star command to Buzz Lightyear!”
44:30 “Not a flying toy”. Buzz realises he is just a toy.
46:00 Buzz tries to fly. Fails miserably.

Sequence F: Woody trapped: redemption. (10:30mins)

47:00 Hayley salvages Buzz. Takes him to tea party.

48:30 Plan for return, but Buzz gone crazy.
50:30 Woody fails to convince toys. They abandon him.
51:30 Sid’s toys fix Buzz, not so evil after all.
52:30 Sid straps the rocket to Buzz, prepares for launch!

53:00 Launch delayed, Woody trapped. The clock is ticking.
53:30 Andy misses his toys.
54:30 Buzz has lost all hope. Stupid toy. Woody motivates Buzz.
56:30 Woody’s redemption. I should be strapped to that rocket.
57:00 Woody and Buzz reconcile, will work together.


Sequence G1: Climax 1: Working together to defeat Sid (7mins)

57:30 The moving van is here!
58:00 Woody is free. Sid wakes up. Time for lift off!
58:30 The dog between the exit.
59:30 Woody and Sid’s toys band together to rescue Buzz.
60:30 Sid’s toys distract the dog.
61:30 Woody and the toys make it outside.
*62:00 Woody is spotted, Buzz’s launch draws near.

62:30 3…2…Woody stands up to Sid
63:00 Sid’s toys come to life!
63:30 Woody: “We toys can see everything. So play nice.”
64:00 Sid defeated. Buzz: “thanks.”

Sequence G2: Climax 2: Reuniting with Andy (8:30mins)

64:30 The Van!
65:00 Buzz gets stuck. Woody saves him, again. Chase Van.
65:30 Dog, chases them. Woody in danger.
66:00 Buzz jumps on dog to save Woody.
66:30 Woody sends out the remote controlled car (RC) to save Buzz
67:00 Andy’s toys misinterpret this as an act of aggression.
7:30 Car crash. Dog is stopped. Maximum Pile-up.
68:00 Andy’s toys in disbelief, throw Woody off the truck.
68:30 Woody gets picked up by RC. Toys realise they’ve made a mistake.
69:00 Slinky Dog to the rescue. RC is running out of battery.
69:30 Slinky lets go, RC runs out of juice.
70:00 Woody lights the rocket using Buzz’s helmet.
71:00 Rocket explodes, Buzz flys (falls with style)!

71:30 Woody and Buzz reunited with Andy

Sequence H: Return with the elixir.

72:00 Christmas. New presents. Our friends working together again.
72:30 Woody, Bo Peep and mistletoe.
73:00 Woody and Buzz, best of pals. Andy gets a dog.


Thank you to Chae Ryan for the great help!

3 thoughts on “Structure: Toy Story 1”

  1. Hi. I always felt that the end of act one was after Woody attempts to have Buzz fall behind the dresser. It was the key decision point, the protagonists fateful choice, that spins the story in a different direction. The other toys are pissed off that Woody did this and won’t accept him again unless he “makes things right.” Indeed, this sets up Woody’s main goal for the rest of the movie, and is all a consequence of his end-of-act 1 decision. Incidentally, at apx 25 min into movie. Armdt said as much in his animated “Setting the Story in Motion”. The way Guilino has it, it occurs somewhere in the start of act two, in the third sequence, but it’s such an important event in the film ( and choice for the character) that it seems misplaced there.


Leave a Comment