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After four Toy Story films, audiences will meet a new version of Buzz Lightyear in Pixar’s latest film, Lightyear, which tells the story of the man who inspired the iconic action figure voiced by Tim Allen. In this story, Buzz is a space ranger embarking on an intergalactic adventure, leading a team of recruits in a fight against invaders.
Chris Evans, who takes over for Allen as the voice of Buzz, has some experience playing such a character from his years as Captain America, and his former role as a Marvel hero trickled into his portrayal of Lightyear.
“The characters themselves have a lot of similar overlap in terms of their sense of responsibility and leadership,” Evans told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s world premiere in Los Angeles on Wednesday. “But they’re very different men, so you take the things that are useful and you leave the things that make Cap, Cap.”
Though the star says he didn’t meet or talk to Allen throughout the film’s process, he does feel some connection as the two share the same birthday. “That’s actually how they cast me. They said, ‘Who has his birthday?’ And that was it,” he teased.
At the #Lightyear premiere, @ChrisEvans explained how his experience playing #CaptainAmerica helped him embody #BuzzLightyear pic.twitter.com/CP84TpyxgS
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) June 9, 2022
Of that decision to bring a new voice to Buzz, director Angus MacLane explained, “Buzz was a side character in Toy Story and was a little goofier and a little more of a comedic relief. For Buzz to be a main character he needed a little more gravitas, a little more vulnerability, needed to be funny but not in a goofy way that would undercut the drama. Chris embodied all of those things.”
Bringing Allen back in some capacity was not considered during the creative process, either, as producer Galyn Susman explained: “Tim really is the embodiment of the toy Buzz, and this isn’t the toy world, so it really doesn’t make sense. There’s not really a role. It would just cause more confusion for audiences instead of helping them understand the movie we’re trying to tell.” MacLane added that it would also tie the film too closely to Toy Story, when the film aims to be its own stand-alone story.
One notable part of this new story is an LGBTQ storyline surrounding Uzo Aduba’s character, a close friend of Buzz and fellow space ranger. The film features a brief same-sex kiss, which had reportedly been cut during the production process and was later restored following Pixar employees’ protests over Disney’s response to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed in Florida.
“Representation is very important to us and very near and dear to our hearts as a reflection of the world around us,” said MacLane. “We’re pleased that it’s in the film and we’re very proud of it.” Added Aduba of the storyline, “I think it’s pioneering, and I’m glad to see a house like Disney Pixar opening that door widely for all voices, faces, stories to be included in their storytelling. I think it’s great for so many kids to be able to look up on that screen and see the world.”
The film also features prominent Black female characters, which Keke Palmer — whose character stars opposite Buzz for much of the movie — said “is just about ushering in the normalization of all of these things that have been happening for a long time. I think in film and television that’s what the hope always is, that as we continue to grow as a society we need to allow those stories to grow, stories we can tell to adults, kids, all of that. I’m just happy that we’re showcasing the world as it is and always has been. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The breakout star of Lightyear, though, may very well be Buzz’s robo-cat sidekick Sox, who even renowned dog lover Evans said made him “really warm up to cats.”
After working with #Sox the cat in #Lightyear, @ChrisEvans may be going from "dog guy" to "cat guy" pic.twitter.com/8i2kgKSBma
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) June 11, 2022
Sox is voiced by Peter Sohn, who has previously voice acted in Ratatouille and Luca and directed The Good Dinosaur. When asked about the sure-to-come explosion of Sox love, he joked, “I’m not ready for that.” But he is excited by the idea of a robo-cat toy in the hands of kids around the world and “giving them emotional support. ‘You can do it!'”
Lightyear blasts into theaters June 17.
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