This morning Disney premiered the first teaser trailer for Lightyear. Chris Evans, best known globally as Steve “America’s Ass” Rogers, provides the voice for the titular Buzz Lightyear. The film is directed by Angus MacLane, and scheduled for release next year. These are the things, as I sit down to write about the trailer, that I definitely know about Lightyear.
There seems to be some confusion about what Lightyear is, by which I mean I am confused about what Lightyear is, but I don’t think I’m the only one. People on Twitter have reacted to the trailer for the Toy Story spin-off trying to figure out what exactly the relationship is between Lightyear and the Buzz action figure that Andy receives in the first movie.
The confusion was not helped by Evans himself, who tweeted “This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on” back when the project was initially announced. After seeing the trailer, though, that just raised more questions.
And just to be clear, this isn’t Buzz Lightyear the toy. This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) December 11, 2020
Disney seems to have anticipated that confusion, and along with the Lightyear trailer have released an interview with director MacLane where he addresses just that:
“Buzz, as a character, I’ve always been pretty close to as a fan—mostly because of his overlap into the sci-fi genre,” MacLane said. “I’ve always wanted to know about Buzz.” As fate would have it, he’d get the opportunity to pitch his idea for Lightyear: “I said, ‘Maybe there was a movie starring Buzz Lightyear, and that’s what Andy saw that made him want a Buzz Lightyear action figure. Why don’t we just make that movie—and make it awesome?’”
So Lightyear, then, is the in-the-Toy-Story-universe-but-not-the-actual-reality-from-the-Toy-Story-universe source material for the Buzz Lightyear action figure. Buzz isn’t based on a real person; he’s a tie-in to a movie.
That makes a lot of sense when you realize what MacLane is pulling his inspiration from. The interview says the new movie ” is inspired by the sci-fi classics of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.” Buzz’s ship in the trailer looks not unlike a Viper from Battlestar Galactica, and his story feels like it shares some similarities with Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon (who obviously existed before the ’70s but who also saw a resurgence during that era). But as far as toy tie-ins go, a little franchise called Star Wars more or less revolutionized that game in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and Toy Story has previously poked fun at the similarities between Buzz’s archnemesis, Emperor Zurg, and Darth Vader.
Lightyear also won’t be the first time that we get to see the in-universe source material for one of Toy Story‘s protagonists. Toy Story 2 revealed that everyone’s favorite cowboy sheriff, Woody, is based on a character from a ’50s childrens TV show, Woody’s Roundup. That movie introduced toys of other characters from the show like Jessie and Bullseye as well.
I’m glad we got all of that cleared up. Lightyear will land in theaters next summer.
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The movie-within-a-movie (?) will land in actual human theaters next summer.
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