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SYFY WIRE Lightyear

Pixar's 'Lightyear' is 'ultimate love letter' to classic sci-fi, not a 'Toy Story' Easter egg hunt

Think less "fun toy" movie and more Star Wars adventure for this one.

By Josh Weiss
Lightyear PRESS

Playtime is over. Next summer, Pixar will blast off for greener pastures located somewhere between infinity and beyond with an origin film centered around Buzz Lightyear, the intrepid explorer traversing the cosmos and eliminating galactic threats on behalf of Star Command. But this isn't the Buzz we know from the Toy Story franchise; it's the Buzz who inspired the bestselling toy.

"What is the movie Andy would have seen? Or a version of the ultimate straightforward action-adventure — a serious sci-fi movie," Lightyear director Angus MacLane said during a chat with Empire for the magazine's February 2022 issue. MacLane was the perfect person to answer those questions. As a longtime animator for Pixar, he helped design Buzz (voiced in the Toy Story series by Tim Allen) and the character's arch-nemesis, the Darth Vader-inspired Emperor Zurg.

"There were only a handful of things mentioned in the [Toy Story] films," he continued. "The wings are carbonic alloy, he's got a laser arm, Zurg is the bad guy... not a ton of stuff. We had to decide what to take from the echoes of that, and apply it here."

The director also insisted Lightyear is not a Toy Story movie, despite a number of Easter egg callbacks to the property that spawned it. "It's meant to be the ultimate love letter for the period of sci-fi between 1977 and 1987," he explained. "But it's also heavily influenced by the cinematography of the 1970s and the French New Wave."

Fans of the genre know that the decade between 1977 and 1987 yielded a ton of sci-fi classics like Close Encounters of the Third KindStar Wars, Alien, Back to the FutureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanE.T., Explorers, The TerminatorAliens, The Thing, and a lot more titles that go way beyond 10 fingers.

Chris Evans was tapped to voice this younger version of the space-faring hero and while many fans were disappointed to hear that Allen wasn't asked to return (odds are a good he'll make a cameo somewhere), MacLane has no doubt audiences will come to embrace the Captain America actor's vocal dedicated performance.

"He's such a supporter of the project and was such a burst of energy for it," the director said. "It's really fun to show him the new material and have him do it. He's exactly theater and the wonderful person you think he is. There's a sense of responsibility that he feels for the character, and a reverence. He really wants to get it right, so that's been a journey of discovery, finding his character and fully fleshing him out for 90 minutes while we're expanding the mythology."

Lightyear lands on the big screen June 17, 2022.