Pixar's Lightyear is releasing this summer and in support of the movie, there was an early press day with the creative team in order to learn more about it. This film is described as Andy from Toy Story’s favorite movie–and is the reason he fell in love with Buzz Lightyear. It was very clear just how passionate this team is about Lightyear as they gushed about their inspirations, Chris Evans, and differentiating the movie from Toy Story, while still ensuring there was a connection there.
Creating A Cinematic Experience Different From Toy Story
When creating something that has ties to real-life items, it is very important to make sure that you get all the details right. For Lightyear, the creative team was determined to do this. They took the iconic silhouette of Buzz that every Toy Story fan knows and adapted him with human proportions. Since Lightyear is Andy's favorite movie, it is heavily based on Science Fiction films from the 1970s and 1980s.
Director Angus MacLane says he envisioned a graphic image that would utilize high contrast atmosphere, and depart from the earlier Toy Story films by using lenses and lighting techniques since it needs to have the look of a cinematic movie.
“We'd build a believable tangible world, and then we'd throw it away using shadow and atmosphere. We'd have bold lighting, emphasizing the graphic and letting the detail fall away, drawing the viewer into a rich world of a tangible alien landscape.” – Angus MacLane (Director/Screenwriter)
Casting Chris Evans
Something that might seem weird at first, but is very important to the creative team, is that this Buzz Lightyear is not the same Buzz from Toy Story. In Toy Story, he is a toy, based on a cartoon, that was based on the movie Lightyear (at least in the director’s eyes), which is why Tim Allen is not voicing him this time around.
Chris Evans was cast to take on this role for several reasons, as described by the creative team. It was very important for them to differentiate this Buzz from the toy that fans already know and love. Because of this, they needed a new voice. When you have such an iconic voice, things can feel too close to imitation, so it needs to be completely different. They wanted a voice that would be able to be both dramatic and comedic—but most importantly heroic without coming off as arrogant or dense. Chris Evans was their one and only choice, and they were thrilled when he said yes.
Evans has the gravitas, seriousness, and balance of comedy and drama that Pixar was looking for. He is not too goofy and is always able to laugh at himself. Not to mention, he has played a hero out of time before—something that the story of Lightyear heavily focuses on—and he does so comedically well. Evans is also a huge animation fan and was very involved in the project. He even attended animation dailies.
“When we finally previewed the movie, the feedback totally liked Chris as Buzz. The thing for me was, because I'd worked with the character for so many years and had my idea of what the character was in my own head, there's the movie, and then there's what I took from it. How do we make sure that the movie is really, really fun and really great? And if you like the movie and you have a great time, then that's gonna be the ultimate goal.” – Angus MacLane (Director/Screenwriter)
Lightyear Is A Fish Out Of Water Story
The main theme of Lightyear is the dangers of nostalgia and living in the past. “They say you can't live in the past, but what if you could?” questions MacLane. That was his major inspiration behind this film, and the building block he started with. He adds, “We all wonder what it's like to go back in time, but instead, we're jumping forward in time, all of us. So that's the truth I wanted to build a hand around for Lightyear. Nostalgia for the past, while rapidly jumping to the future.”
Lightyear sees Buzz traveling through time due to the demands of his job. This separates him from society and his loved ones causing him to feel out of place, and to long for the past. Lightyear is a fish out of water story—think Rip Van Winkle trapped in a future that he doesn't recognize says MacLane. In Lightyear, Buzz is trying so desperately to get back to where he came from and correct the mistake of his youth.
“Lightyear is a celebration of movies and sci-fi epics in gen-uh, in general, but also inspired by the dark side of nostalgia, and the dangers of living in the past. As a director, it's the movie I've always wanted to make. And as a filmgoer, it's the movie I've always wanted to see.” – Angus MacLane (Director/Screenwriter)
Perfecting Details Thanks to NASA
Because so much of Lightyear takes place in space, and revolves around spacecraft, the creative team took a research trip to NASA. A research trip's goal is to take the key creatives and introduce them to the people, environments, and experiences that will impact the design and language of the film.
“We were treated to a comprehensive multi-day exploration of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We saw the original control center for the Apollo missions, as well as the one being used today to track the ISS. We learned about spacesuit construction. We saw buttons, and switches, and knobs, and dials, and badges. We were guided through a replica of the ISS U.S. quarters, and the labs.” – Galyn Susman (Producer)
The team was also given the opportunity to sit in training aircrafts and vehicles. The entire experience was very hands-on as they used their hands in a vacuum and tried on space helmets. They learned about the evolution of the spacesuit, and what works and what doesn’t. All of which came in very handy, especially since Buzz goes through an evolution of suits and spacecrafts in the film.
The icing on the cake though, Susman says, is that Astronaut Tom Marshburn brought a picture of the Pixar creative team up to the International Space Station with him, so they have (sort of) been to space themselves.
Having seen thirty minutes of the movie already, the goals of the team were all pulled off incredibly well. See for yourself when Pixar's Lightyear hits theaters on June 17th, 2022.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Tessa Smith owns MamasGeeky.com and is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic and a huge geek. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics associations including the Critics Choice Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association. She grew up watching movies, playing video games, and reading comic books -- and still loves all of those things. She proudly lets her geek flag fly and spreads the word that there is nothing wrong with being a geek.