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Coming to theaters this week on June 17 from Disney and Pixar is the definitive origin story of Star Command’s most famous Space Ranger, Lightyear.
While Lightyear functions as the prequel to the 1995 Toy Story and the origin story to its comically earnest Buzz Lightyear, it is actually the in-story film that Andy originally saw and loved and from which he got merch.
In 1995, Andy got a toy from his favorite movie…
…this is that movie.
— Pixar's Lightyear (@PixarsLightyear) June 14, 2022
In Lightyear, we see a Buzz more serious and grounded than the toy we know as he goes about his mission to bring a crew of more than 1,000 scientists and technicians back to Earth. Some unexpected encounters and crucial misjudgments leave the ship marooned on the hostile planet T’Kani Prime where the crew goes about the process of constructing a makeshift colony while Buzz wallows in the guilt of having failed his mission. Clutching onto the hope of recreating the broken hyperspeed crystal needed to power the ship and get it back on its way home, Buzz finishes a failed test flight to find that, because of speed-induced time dilation, in the minutes it took him to return, four years have passed for everyone else on the planet.
Driven by his need to right his mistake and finish his mission, Buzz makes flight after flight, growing further detached from the rest of his contemporaries as they age and move forward in their lives and he stays stuck in the same place, temporally and emotionally. With his pet robot cat Sox as his only constant companion through the years, Buzz finally seems ready to make a breakthrough with the crystal formulation when a variety of surprise changes and encounters force him to reassess his relationships with time and the people around him.
A virtual press conference with the cast and creatives from Lightyear was held recently, with voice actors Chris Evans “Buzz Lightyear,” Keke Palmer “Izzy Hawthorne,” Dale Soules “Darby Steel,” Taika Waititi “Maurice ‘Mo’ Morrison,” James Brolin “Zurg,” and Peter Sohn “SOX” present for the first half, and Galyn Susman (Producer,) Angus MacLane (Director/Screenwriter,) and Michael Giacchino (Composer) bringing up the second half.
Press Conference highlights:
Palmer on finding connections with Izzy: “Her love for her grandmother Alicia and the legacy that she wants to uphold. She wants to make her family proud and that’s something that I think we all can relate to. The fact that she’s not afraid to pivot–I really admired that about her, and I feel like she displays so many great leadership qualities…she knows how to push her friends forward and she knows how to see something in somebody so they can carry out their duty. She empowers others and I just love the character.”
Soules on Darby’s past: “I think her past is very mysterious and we wanna keep it that way. We do know that she was incarcerated and that while everyone else is voluntary in the Junior Zap Patrol, she isn’t exactly voluntary. She’s there in the hope that she will reduce her parole if she does well.
“So that’s the part you know. The part you don’t know that I found out that I really loved was that I was treated with such respect by Buzz Lightyear, Captain Lightyear, and that really informed the heart of her. Because as gruff and tough…as she looks, she does respond to being treated with respect and he does that and it works like a charm. In a lot of ways, I suppose she is like me: She’s no-nonsense, she’s rough…I think those are the two things I would say. And very loyal to those who do treat her with respect.”
Waititi on commonalities he found with Mo: “Well Mo, I feel, is very similar to how I was in the early days: A little aimless and trying to focus on something…I was interested in a thousand different things and I wanted to do everything all at once, but I never really finished my projects. That was something I learned how to do later on. So it was easy to tap into that because, you know, I feel like I’m someone who works a lot, but also wrestles with this part of me who doesn’t wanna work at all ever again. So, those are the two sides of me that are always in constant conflict. I think we’ve all got that side of ourselves where we’d rather just retire now, but we can’t because we’re contractually obliged to finish all these damn projects.”
Brolin on preparing for Zurg: “Well, they heard my voice and they just wanted to hire me as ’cause it was nasty, you know?
“In reality…I walked in there cold. The night before I got a sheet with some of the dialogue. None of it quite made sense. It was one of five sessions. I thought I’ll knock this out in a half-hour. Four hours later of sweat with each session, with Angus saying, ‘try it like this” and working with me each day, I learned more out of actors’ common sense, whatever we have, about what the character was about. I had to piece it together. I haven’t seen a polished film yet and I’ll see it tomorrow night to see what the hell my character was all about. I have no idea.”
Evans on his prior relationship with Buzz: “I mean, I loved Buzz Lightyear, I loved Toy Story…when Toy Story came out, it kinda kicked the doors down in terms of a new approach to the medium. So I was thrilled and excited to know that there was more to come, and so to that extent, I loved all the characters in Toy Story deeply.”
Evans on what other Disney characters he would like to portray: “If there were another character to play…I don’t think I could pull it off, but I was always a really big fan of Robin Hood, the old animated Disney movie Robin Hood. I just thought Robin Hood was so cool, you know? I think of all the animated characters in the Disney library, Robin Hood stands alone. I think he’s just smooth and charming and capable and, you know, I don’t have that cool British accent, but I’d love to give it a crack.”
Evans on which of his catchphrases is his favorite: “Oh, man. That’s impossible, you know, ’cause obviously ‘To Infinity and Beyond‘ is something I knew well before ‘Avengers Assemble.’ It was dear to me in much earlier chapters of my life.
“But, you know, as proud as I am to play this role and as honored as I am to be a part of this universe now, that line belongs to someone else. It almost kinda felt like I was wearing someone else’s clothes or something, you know? So you do your best to honor it and put your own spin on it, but let’s be honest, that’s Tim Allen’s line. So personally, at least ‘Avengers Assemble,’ I was the first one in the pool for that one.”
MacLane on coming up with the idea for Lightyear: “Well, the idea came to me as I’ve always wanted to tell or know about the backstory of the Space Rangers and Star Command and Buzz Lightyear, what the movie is from that. I also wanted to make something that was fun to make after doing Dory, which was fun, but it was really
challenging when you have a protagonist that’s always forgetting about what they want. So what I decided to do was just think, well, wait a minute, why don’t we just make
that movie like a cool sci-fi movie? And I pitched it just like that: ‘What was the movie that Andy saw that made them want a Buzz Lightyear figure? Why don’t we just make
that movie, just make something awesome and simple like that, with all of the nerdy, geeky, sci-fi goodness that we want to see in the movie?’ That was really the initial pitch. From there, that was the simple idea that we sold within the studio.”
MacLane on IMAX: “Yeah, the origin of it was, I knew that this film needed to be a theatrical experience and as part of the theatrical experience…animation oftentimes is seen as like a kid’s table, like less than. IMAX is a format that celebrates the cinematic experience. By doing a film in IMAX, you’re kind of signifying this is a movie that’s big, and by doing it from the beginning in IMAX, you’re really saying this is something we believe in, the company believes in, IMAX believes in to give you a premium format experience. So once I had that idea, I pitched it to the president of Pixar, Jim Morrison, and he was like, ‘yeah, absolutely.’ Like, he totally got the value of investing and making this, from the beginning, an IMAX film.”
MacLane on SOX: “I always imagined, what’s the short film of him waiting for Buzz to come home? It’s just him, like, checking his watch. Well, Sox was named by Matt Aldrich, who was the first writer on the film who left the project amicably to work on his own stuff. But…it was something he and I developed early on as an antithesis to all the things going on in the film. He was very low-tech. He was very clunky. Where Buzz was going to look very sleek and was going to move very believably, this would be like a cat that was fooling no one. Like it looks like a cat, but the limited robotic movement…as an animator, you think about Ken in Toy Story 3 or you think about Wall-E in Wall-E. These are characters that don’t move that much, but every time they move, there’s an appeal to them. There’s a clarity and a simplicity. There’s no place in motion to hide. So Sox represents because this is a movie kind of made in the ’80s of the kind of clunky animatronic fascination that was sweeping the nation then, when it was like, we’ll have anthropomorphized animals that are completely clunky.
“You know, Disneyland had a lot of these, and I realized it was never clear to me if they thought kids were supposed to think they were alive? But they have their own kind of goofy charm for their limitation and that’s what Sox was–a completely limited cat-flocked character, that was good-natured and was always there for Buzz.
Susman on Alisha Hawthorne and her wife: “Yeah, it was very important. That whole relationship is about showing Buzz, what he doesn’t have. We really just wanted to show a loving, meaningful relationship and having a kiss as part of that. And we were really, really happy that we could do that.
MacLane: “Yeah, certainly a representation was something we were excited about, but more than anything, it’s a reflection of the reality of the world that we live in. We feel like science fiction was always my entree into a more diverse society, starting with Star Trek which, at the time, was very diverse for a show of its era.
“So it’s in that spirit that we take from Star Trek of trying to find the most diversity we can in our cast.”
Giacchino on the takeaway message: “I think for me, this film…I mean, someone in a previous interview asked me who my favorite character was and I think, Izzy in a way because I just love this idea of embracing your fear and using it as a tool to move forward and progress yourself, and not to let it paralyze you, not to let it take over. ‘Cause, you know, in this world, it’s easy to do that.
“I think a big message that the movie pushes out into the universe is to embrace your fear and use it as an ally, to push you forward. I think, for me, musically, you know, emotionally, that’s really what I wanted to say, was this idea of, yeah, there are scary things around us every day, but you can push through them, and you can use that fear, to help you overcome it and learn something and then move beyond. Fear is something that’s never going to be absent from your life, and the sooner you sort of take it in and use it to your advantage, the better off you’ll be.
“And that’s one of my favorite things about the movie.”
In case you missed it, here’s the trailer for Lightyear:
Lightyear opens in theaters on Friday, June 17th.