Pixar’s Lightyear director wanted it to be adult sci-fi

Let’s leave one thing aside: Pixar’s latest film, Light yeardoes not concern “the real Buzz Lightyear,” in the sense of a real human astronaut who inspired the beloved toy that co-stars in the Toy Story movies. Within Pixar fiction, Light year is a science fiction feature film released in the Toy Story universe, years before the events of the first toy story. The original human protagonist of the Toy Story films, Andy, may have picked it up on VHS or as a TV rerun. In the universe, Light year the sci-fi epic is the reason Andy’s World has a Buzz Lightyear animated TV series, a video game and a line of toys.

But at the same time Light year is technically a movie made to exist in the Toy Story universe, the filmmakers didn’t want to rely too much on ties to Pixar’s original feature.

“I don’t think we saw it as a tribute, but as giving us a bit of an anchor, something very specific to launch and then tell our own story,” says producer Galyn Susman.

Picture: Pixar

Light yearThe tone of is radically different from that of the Toy Story saga. One thing director Angus McLane wanted to capture in his film was the passage of time. For him, the Buzz Lightyear toy always looks the most like a character when he disagrees with his surroundings, thinks he’s a true space hero among a cast of children’s toys, or is reset in Spanish mode. But the real driving force behind the film’s theme came from McLane’s personal experiences at Pixar.

“It was based on the idea of ​​how we make films here. They’re really in four- or five-year increments,” McLane says. “So it was the idea of ​​– what would it be like if you felt like you were jumping through time? It was really like what we feel when [we’re] make these movies. It takes so long that when you’re finally done, the world seems to have changed. And so this idea has always been emotionally resonant, because we all feel a sense of time, but only when we relate to people we haven’t seen in a while, or go to places we haven’t been. gone for a while. ”

[Ed. note: Some spoilers ahead for Lightyear’s story.]

buzz lightyear piloting a boat, with an orange cat robot on his shoulder

Picture: Pixar

In a science fiction setting, this passage of time can be amplified to the maximum. Light year kicks off with Buzz (Chris Evans) and a spaceship full of rangers and civilians stranded on a planet due to a miscalculation he made. Determined to get them off the faraway world, Buzz embarks on a risky test flight mission. But while four minutes pass for him in space, four years pass back on the planet. His best friend Alicia Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) lives a busy life – she falls in love with another woman (and kisses her, in Pixar’s first on-screen gay kiss), she progresses in her career and she has a family. Buzz, meanwhile, stubbornly pursues his space missions, returning after each to find that the world has changed in the four years that have passed in his absence.

After many iterations of this dynamic, Buzz returns to find that the world has changed drastically from what he knows – and his missions have been canceled as other goals have taken precedence over escaping. the planet. Buzz finds himself in a lonely new world, a world where he is considered more of a legend than a person. (That made Evans, who’s played the timeless superhero Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2011, a natural fit for the voice role.) From there, the movie kicks off full steam ahead. Diet – Buzz always wants to complete his mission no matter what, even if it means stealing his space ranger-issued robotic cat companion and running away.

buzz in more casual clothes, shocked to see the orange cat mate

Picture: Pixar

Light yearThe first half hour or so is hardened sci-fi, in a way that feels different from the sweeping galactic romance of WALL-E, Pixar’s other science fiction feature. It sounds grittier than most American animated movies, but it’s actually not such a drastic change for Pixar. While Pixar films remain family-friendly, the studio has never shied away from focusing on adult characters dealing with adult issues, whether it’s Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles having a midlife crisis and yearning to relive his glory days, Joe from Soul face what really matters in life, or overprotective dad Marlin searching the seas for his last remaining son in The world of Nemo. Recent Pixar movies like turn red, Lucasand Ahead relied more on coming-of-age narratives, but from the outset McLane was certain of the type of film he wanted to make.

“When I was a kid, the movies I watched that resonated the most with adult stars,” he says. “I never really had a connection with movies about kids, because the stakes were always so low or the characters didn’t have much to say. I wanted to be transported to a place of what that could be when I was older. So for me, that was always the thing that I wanted to explore, film-wise. That led to trying to make a movie about adults trying to solve their own problems. There’s a huge appeal in animation, I think, to get kids into things, and that’s fine, but it wasn’t really [the story] I was interested in telling.

There’s still a general idea in America that animated movies are only for kids, so as McLane says, they tend to heavily favor child protagonists. But even though Pixar doesn’t make animated films for adults, the studio has shown time and again that stories of adult characters dealing with adult issues can still be accessible to younger audiences. It is possible to deal with heavier themes and problems without cleaning them up.

“In terms of doing it for kids, there are definitely some pieces of content that you have to be careful about, but kids are smart,” McLane says. “They will understand.”

Light year hits theaters on June 18.

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