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How to watch the entire Toy Story franchise - including the movies, TV show, and shorts - in order

Want to get started on the Toy Story franchise? Here’s how to do it!

The Toy Story gang
Image credit: Disney

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Here at Popverse, we like to help our friends, and that means making sure they know how to watch fun movies, like Toy Story. Have you ever wondered why your toys are never where you left them? If so, then this is the film franchise for you.

Toy Story is a film series that focuses on the adventures of sentient toys. Yes, the toys are all alive, a fact that is unknown to the children playing with them. Once the kids leave the room, the toys come to life and the real playtime can begin. Toy Story focuses on a cowboy doll named Woody, a space ranger figure named Buzz Lightyear, and a cast of colorful toy characters. The Disney/Pixar franchise began in 1995 with Toy Story, and today it’s one of the most beloved animated franchises. Toy Story is a story of friendship, childhood, love, loss, and more.

If you’ve ever wanted to get started on the franchise, but weren’t sure where to begin, Popverse has you covered. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to begin your Toy Story journey.

And with that…let’s get playtime started….

How to watch Toy Story in release order

Toy Story 4 still
Image credit: Disney

Are you ready to play with Andy’s toys? Woody and Buzz’s adventures are more than just the four main Toy Story films. There are spin-offs, shorts, and other miscellaneous animated projects. We’ve rounded up all the projects here and put them in a simplified watch order. With that in mind, here’s how to begin….

How to watch Toy Story in chronological order

Image credit: Disney

Not every Toy Story project is set in the same timeline. Projects like Lightyear or Buzz Lightyear of Star Command take place in their chronologies. And then there are other oddities like 1996 Toy Story Treats segments. Where does it all fit?

This section of the guide will break it all down, as we examine the various chronologies in the Toy Story multiverse.

Toy Story Universe

This is where the main Toy Story storyline takes place. If you just want to follow the main adventures of Buzz, Woody, and their friends, then you can watch Toy Story 1-4. However, if you want the complete chronicles of Andy’s toys, here are all the places where you can find them. In most cases, the release order and the chronological order are the same. However, in the rare instance where another project takes place elsewhere in the Toy Story timeline, we’ve adjusted its placement. In other words, this list is in chronological order.

  • Toy Story (1995 animated film)
  • Toy Story 2 (1999 animated film)
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins (2000 direct-to-video animated film) (Toy Story intro framing sequence only)
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000-2001 animated television series) (Toy Story intro framing sequence only)
  • Toy Story 4 (2019 animated film) (prologue)
  • Lamp Life (2020 animated short) (Bo Peep flashbacks)
  • Toy Story 3 (2010 animated film)
  • Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation (2011 animated short)
  • Toy Story Toons: Short Fry (2011 animated short)
  • Toy Story Toons: Partysaurus Rex (2012 animated short)
  • Toy Story of Terror! (2013 animated television special)
  • Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014 animated television special)
  • Toy Story 4 (2019 animated film)
  • Lamp Life (2020 animated short) (present day framing sequence)
  • Forky Asks a Question (2019-2020 animated shorts)
  • Pixar Popcorn: To Fitness and Beyond (2021 animated short)
  • Pixar Popcorn: Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Love (2021 animated short)
  • Pixar Popcorn: Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Three Heads (2021 animated short)
  • Toy Story 5 (upcoming animated film)

Buzz Lightyear Animated Universe

The Buzz Lightyear Animated Universe is home to Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, an animated television series starring our favorite space ranger. The series was preceded by a 2000 direct-to-video film, which served as a pilot for the series. The animated series is a show within the Toy Story Universe. The premise is that the Buzz Lightyear toy that Tim Allen plays is a piece of merchandise from the show. The pilot movie and the animated series both feature framing sequences of Andy’s toys watching the cartoon.

Despite their similar premise, there is no relationship between Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and the 2022 Lightyear movie. Both feature different origins for Buzz and different versions of Star Command.

  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins (2000 direct-to-video animated film)
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000-2001 animated television series)

Lightyear Universe

Lightyear is a movie that supposedly exists in the Toy Story Universe. The premise is that this is the movie that Andy saw in 1995 which made him want to get a Buzz Lightyear toy. Of course, Lightyear doesn’t look like a movie that would’ve been made in 1995, but it’s best to ignore little things like that. What’s important is that this film is what inspired the fictional Buzz Lightyear line of toys.

Aside from an opening text clarifying the premise, this film contains no references to the Toy Story Universe.

  • Lightyear (2022 animated film)

Other Oddities

  • Toy Story Treats (1996 animated television segments)

The only thing in this section is Toy Story Treats, and once you read more, it won’t be hard to why. Toy Story Treats was a series of short television bumpers that Pixar produced for ABC’s Saturday morning lineup in 1996. Any attempt to fit these into continuity will frustrate you. Sid’s toys live in Andy’s house, characters break the fourth wall, and some of the toys have magic powers that aren’t present in the regular movies. For example, Buzz has the power to manipulate shadows. It gets weird.

If you’re curious, a complete collection of these bumpers have been released on YouTube.

How does Lightyear connect with Toy Story

Lightyear still
Image credit: Disney

Don’t go into Lightyear expecting to see Woody, Jessie, Rex, Potato Head, or Slinky. The 2022 Pixar animated film treats itself like a standalone project. The premise is that Lightyear is the film that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy that exists in the Toy Story Universe. The meta-concept behind the film has ties to Toy Story, but the actual storyline and chronology do not.

Simply put, in the Toy Story movies, Tim Allen is playing a Buzz Lightyear toy which is based on the Chris Evans Buzz Lightyear. If it helps, as a thought exercise go into the film with a blank slate. Pretend you don’t know anything about Buzz Lightyear, because as far as the film is concerned, this is a different character.

Is Toy Story connected to the other Pixar films?

Woody cameo in A Bug's Life
Image credit: Disney

There are tons of theories online about how all the Pixar films are secretly part of the same cinematic universe. This idea, known as the Pixar Theory, states that Cars took over the planet (as seen in Cars) and humanity eventually fled Earth (as seen in Wall-E). The Pixar Theory is a fun concept that has been debated for decades, and while we don’t have the space to fully examine it here, it’s worth bringing up as we discuss Toy Story’s connection to the other films.

Woody makes a surprise appearance in the credits scene of A Bug’s Life. However, this credits scene was a fake blooper reel that shouldn’t be taken seriously. No, this isn’t confirmation that A Bug’s Life is in the same universe as Toy Story. Monsters Inc. ended with a similar blooper reel which contained a cameo from Rex.

Other Pixar films contain brief shots of some familiar looking toys. A Buzz Lightyear figure can be seen in Finding Nemo, a Jessie doll can be seen in Monsters Inc., and a Duke Caboom doll can be spotted in Incredibles 2. These do play into the Pixar Theory, but the simple truth is Pixar likes including Easter eggs to their other films.

Officially, Toy Story is its own continuity with no cinematic universe to other films….until Disney/Pixar tell us otherwise. Until then, have fun with some Pixar theories of your own.

Where can I watch Toy Story

Woody and Jessie watching TV
Image credit: Disney

If you want to watch the Toy Story saga, then consider Disney+ your personal toy closet. The streaming service has every item on this list – well, almost every item. As of this writing, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and the direct-to-video pilot that precedes it aren’t on Disney+. In fact, the series doesn’t appear to be on any streaming service. If you want to see Buzz’s animated adventures, the series and its movie have been uploaded to YouTube. Don’t let this dissuade you because Disney+ still has everything else in one convenient place.

Now you have everything you need to begin your journey with Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and all their toy friends. To infinity and beyond!

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