‘Lightyear’ creators explain film’s relationship to ‘Toy Story’

Angus MacLane knows he confused us now. There was already uncertainty around how Lightyear, Pixar’s 26th movie and arguably their most cinematic installment entry yet, ties into the Toy Story universe from which its toy character-turned-sci-fi action hero emerged.

In an October interview with Yahoo Entertainment promoting Lightyear’s first trailer release, MacLane called it a “sidequel” to the four Toy Story movies, and his elaboration on that didn’t help much.

Ultimately, though, MacLane, producer Galyn Susman and company landed on a perfect, extremely simple explanation — and wisely open Lightyear with a title card that spells it out. It says: “In 1995, Andy received a toy. The toy was from his favorite movie. This is that movie.”

“There was a lot of confusion out there,” Susman tells us at the film’s Los Angeles press day, where she was joined by MacLane (watch above). “We were trying to clear up the confusion. We realized to hit it right there on the head. Put it right there.”

Chris Evans, who voices Buzz Lightyear the action hero, admits he may have added to the original confusion with a tweet he sent out in late-2020 that “only muddied the water further.”

“When I went into Pixar and pitched this movie, Angus gave the best presentation possible,” the Avengers alum recalls. “Because initially my team called and they said, ‘Pixar wants to talk to you about a movie… and all they said is Buzz Lightyear.’ I said, ‘OK. Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear, how is this gonna work?

“And I went up to [Pixar Studios in Northern California] and they gave this pitch. Angus began with a Power Point presentation and he said, ‘So when I was a kid I loved Star Wars… He said his whole world is Star Wars, he had all the toys, he saw every movie. And he said when he saw the first Toy Story movie, and Andy got Buzz Lightyear, and all his friends knew who Buzz Lightyear was, he wondered what the movie was that Andy and his friends saw that made Buzz so popular. And to me, I was like, ‘That makes perfect sense.’”

As for why Tim Allen was not asked to voice this version of Buzz Lightyear — which became a hot topic this week when Allen’s friend, actress Patricia Heaton, blasted Pixar for “castrating” the character by recasting him — the filmmakers have a simple explanation for that as well.

“It would add to the confusion,” says Susman. “People were having a hard enough time wrapping their heads around this. So really we needed the toy in the Toy Story universe to be its own thing. Tim Allen is Buzz Lightyear the toy. Chris Evans is Buzz Lightyear, the superhero from that movie that inspired the toy.”

Adds MacLane: “And the tone is a lot different. Tim is hilarious, but this character wouldn’t work as well with him doing the Space Ranger voice. It would not be as emotional. It just changes the tone of the movie. We were going for more of a classic sci-fi film.”

Watch our full Lightyear interview, also including co-stars Keke Palmer, Uzo Aduba and Taika Waititi, above.