‘Lightyear’ cast and creators talk taking Buzz to infinity and beyond

Lightyear
‘Lightyear’ hits theaters this weekend.
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

It would be hard to think of some of the greatest hits of Disney/Pixar without mentioning the “Toy Story” franchise, and more specifically, the characters who have come out of it. When the animated tale about a group of toys living full lives unbeknownst to their owner — a boy named Andy — first hit theaters in 1995, the story took off by storm. The idea then brought on three feature-length sequels, short films, stories, and now a new film following Buzz Lightyear.

Lightyear
Chris Evans voices Buss Lightyear.Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

“Lightyear” hits theaters this weekend, and what some may not realize is that we’re not actually following the toy in this story. Rather, we are following the character in a movie that inspired the toy that Andy holds onto so dearly in the original series. As the opening of the film puts it: “In 1995, a boy named Andy got a toy from his favorite movie. This is that movie.”

And focusing on a more nuanced examination of the character is partially what drew Chris Evans into playing Captain Buzz Lightyear in the film.

“The Buzz that we all know is obviously a toy, and as a toy, there are certain ways that they can move through the world without the weight that we may carry,” explains Evans. “A toy knows its purpose, a toy doesn’t have to worry about a disease… The choices that we make as people are a little more consequential. It’s fun to put Buzz against that backdrop.”

We see Buzz in “Lightyear” on a mission as a Space Ranger in the opening sequence. Through a series of unfortunate events, his mission gets sidetracked — big time — and he spends much of the film trying to right his wrongs. The distinction between toy and human is met throughout the feature, but even with a new voice (Tim Allen played Buzz in the original four films), you still recognize the same Captain Lightyear — square-jawed and determined as ever.

Directed by Angus MacLane from a script by Jason Headley, the film is a fun exploration into one character that has served as a staple in the entertainment industry for over two decades. It also shows what really makes Buzz the toy so appealing to kids in the original films.

Lightyear
Buzz Lightyear (Evans) and Zurg (James Brolin.)Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

“I’ve always wanted to tell or know about the backstory of the Space Rangers and Star Command and Buzz Lightyear. What I decided to [do] was to make it a cool sci-fi movie, and I pitched it just like that,” says MacLane. “I also wanted to make something that was fun to make after doing ‘Dory’ — which [actually] was fun, but really challenging when you have a protagonist who is always forgetting about what they want.”

Lightyear certainly seems to know what he wants. The character is just as purposeful as the original rendition made him out to be, and after losing his partner (in ways that we won’t spoil) played by Uzo Aduba, he ends up working with a close family member of hers to try and finally carry out his mission and get back to being a Space Ranger.

Played by Keke Palmer, Izzy is a spunky go-getter who is now part of something called the Junior Zap Patrol, and she links up with Buzz after an unknown ship starts to disrupt their planet. As Captain Lightyear typically works alone (as he notes on more than one occasion throughout the story), Izzy tries to prove herself and the rest of the Zap Patrol useful.

“She wants to make her family proud and I think that’s something we can all relate to,” explains Palmer. “The fact that she is not afraid to pivot, I really admire that about her and that character. I feel like she displays so many great leadership qualities that sometimes we overshadow… She knows how to push her friends forward and how to see something in somebody so that they can carry out their duties, and she empowers others.”

Lightyear
Izzy (Keke Palmer,) Sox (Peter Sohn,) Mo (Taika Waititi,) Dale (Darby Steel) and Buzz (Evans.)Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

The squad that Izzy takes charge of also consists of Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), a lanky but spirited recruit who gets spooked easily, and Dale Soules (Darby Steel), an older recruit who has a bit of a mysterious background and a knack for making things explode.

Waititi, who also directs (his latest film “Thor Love and Thunder” releases soon), takes his participation in the film as inspirational for his own cinematic pursuits.

“I think, especially with Pixar, it’s the relentless pursuit of a perfect story. And you see that time and time again in movies and I always go back to their movies, not only for entertainment or to feel something emotional, but I go back to study the structure of their films and just the economy of storytelling,” Waititi explains. “The way that they write their scripts, annoyingly, they just get it right every time. Every filmmaker could see that these guys make these perfect films all of the time.”

Along with the Junior Patrol, another dedicated character is Sox (Peter Sohn), a cat who was gifted to Buzz early on in the movie. But Sox is more than just a feline companion, he’s also a robot who is just as intelligent as his is loyal to Buzz. There’s also Zurg (James Brolin), who we remember from past “Toy Story” movies, but his motive, and his identity are definitely not quite what you would expect.

Lightyear
Sox (Sohn) and Buzz (Evans.)Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

By the climax of “Lightyear,” we’ve seen Buzz go through years of trials and tribulations with a sci-fi adventure to back it all up. But, like any other Disney/Pixar film, the message of the story also plays a centralized role in what audiences can expect to unfold in the film. Buzz must learn to step out of his own way and allow others in.

Overall, “Lightyear” hits the ground running with a space adventure, comedic characters and a heartfelt arc that delivers it to infinity and beyond. It may not be “Toy Story,” but it’s also obvious that it’s trying not to be. Rather, it’s the origin of one of the most beloved characters in animated movie history.

Lightyear” hits theaters Friday.

More from our Sister Sites