With “Lightyear” hitting theaters tomorrow, “Toy Story,” Pixar’s flagship film franchise, heads to a new direction. Rather than retread the usual narrative structure with another sequel, Angus MacLane treats the spinoff as the title character’s origins story as the film Andy watched as a kid in 1995. In it, Chris Evans plays as Buzz Lightyear, a dedicated space ranger of Star Command who accidentally maroon’s his entire crew on an uninhabited planet. Determined to bring everyone home, Buzz risks it all to bring everyone home.
ThatsItLA joined their fellow journalists to talk to the cast and crew of Lightyear about their memories of Pixar, the studio creative process, and more. So here are eight things we learned from it.
8 – Sadness
Composer Michael Giacchino is not only an Academy Award-winning musical genius, he’s also one of the few go-to composers for Pixar. The man who’s behind wonderful musical scores such as “Up” – which got him his first Academy Award -, “The Incredibles,” “Inside Out,” “Ratatouille,” and so many more as an interesting journey that led him to where he is now. But more on that a little later. As to how he creates these collection of emotional music notes, well, he starts at the one place that is forever imprinted on a person’s life: sadness.
“I’m always looking for what’s the saddest moment. In the story, I always ask, what’s the saddest thing that happens in this in this movie? And it’s really, because I feel like those low points in a person’s life are imprinted on you. You remember those? And if we can, we can tap into that emotion,” he said. “That’s the truth of what we’re trying to do. The other stuff is so much fun. And all of this splash of it is great, but the truth of it is, what’s happening inside the people. So that’s what I’m always looking for first.”
7 – Making Family Proud
Like any good Pixar story, there is an ounce of truth that’s attached to it that allows the audience to connect to the characters on screen no matter how fantastical or outrageous. And the story of Izzy Hawthorne’s determination to live up to her grandmother’s legacy and make her family proud is one of the most human stories out there. “She wants to make her family proud. And that’s something that I think we all can relate to,” Keke Palmer who voices Izzy said. “The fact that she’s not afraid to pivot I really admired that about her and that character. And I feel like she displays so many great leadership qualities that sometimes will overshadow you know, she knows how to push her friends forward. And you know, she knows how to see something in somebody so they can carry out their duty. She empowers others. And it just I love the character.”
6 – Learning From My Mistakes
We’ve all made mistakes in our lives. And, of course, it’s our job to learn from them so that we don’t make them again. It’s one of the major themes of Lightyear. Something of which Taika Waititi, who plays Mo, took away from.” I’ve made mistakes in my time. I mean, that theme definitely resonates with me. And especially the idea of taking on responsibility of wanting to be the hero. I think we’re all like wanting to be some kind of hero to someone,” Waititi said. “But I think the theme that really resonates the most for me is this idea of seeking something that’s that’s out there. Something in the future, something that’s not tangible and real like what’s around you in the here and now. And, you know, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side, you know? Sometimes, you know, I mean, definitely out in outer space, there’s no grass at all. And, you know, all the grass is here on Earth.”
5 – Justifying A Lightyear Movie
While “Toy Story 2” gave us a glimpse as to Woody’s origins story, Buzz’s origins remained unclear. However, “Lightyear” lets us know that the toy is actually based on the sci-fi hero of Andy’s favorite movie. “Well, the idea came to me as I’ve always wanted to tell or know about the back story of the space rangers and Star Command and Buzz Lightyear,” he explained. “And so I also wanted to make something that was fun to make after doing “Finding Dory,” which was fun, but it was really challenging when you have a protagonist that’s always forgetting about what they want.”
So MacLane pitched doing a cool sci-fi movie to Pixar and that it wouldn’t be just any Sci-Fi movie, it would be about Buzz Lightyear. “What was the movie The Andy saw that made them want to Buzz Lightyear figure, why don’t we just make that movie,” MacLane asked.
4 – Bringing Star Trek to Star Command
Star Trek revolutionized the way many saw the Sci-Fi genre. And many saw it as a precursor to bringing representation and inclusion to other Sci-Fi favorites. “The representation was something we were excited about. But more than anything, it’s a reflection of the reality of the world that we live in,” MacLane added. “And we feel like science fiction was always my entree into a more diverse society. Star Trek, at the time, was very diverse for a movie for a show of its era. And so it’s in that spirit that we take from Star Trek of trying to find the most diversity we can in our cast.”
3 – Why Recast Tim Allen with Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear
Of course, one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind is, why recast Tim Allen with Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear. Now, one of the reasons you will see is that the Buzz of the Lightyear film has a different kind of gravitas to it, and is not as much of a goofy character and comic relief as he was in the “Toy Story” films. So MacLane explained why the changes were made. “It’s because the character is different. It’s like having a different voice does differentiate is two different tracks. And when you see the movie, like, okay, yeah, I get it. And it makes a lot more sense,” MacLane said.” And you see how the tone of this film is different than the character in Toy Story. And then it’s a little more well-rounded. He’s a little bit smarter, because he’s not the comic relief. He has to be funny, but not too goofy.”
2 – Bringing The Theatrical Experience Home
Composer Michael Giacchino may be a Academy Award-winning musical genius, but he had a low-tech way of bringing movie scores and the theatrical experience home with him when he was a kid. “These are the movies I grew up on. I pretty much was raised on them. I ate them wholeheartedly as a kid growing up.,” he said. “One of the things I used to do was sneak a small tape recorder into the movie theaters when I was a kid and I would record the movie audio. It would have the audience response, all of that on it. And I would listen to it.”
Of course, that was a big no no back then, even now. But there is a very good reason why he would do it as it would later inspire him to create the scores that garner such a profound emotional reaction. “There was no VHS when I was growing up, there was nothing, there was no Internet, nothing, no way to, the only way for me to sort of experience that movie again when it was out of theaters was to listen to it. So I would record them. And then I would sit at home. And every night, I would play them under my pillow.”
1 – One Catchphrase over the Other.
Chris Evans is now the face of Captain America and Buzz Lightyear. The former and the latter both have their own signature catchphrases that define their characters. For Captain America, it’s “Avengers Assemble,” and for Buzz Lightyear, it’s “To Infinity and Beyond.” However, when it comes to choosing which one is his favorite, that isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“’To Infinity and Beyond” is something I knew well before “Avengers Assemble.” It was dear to me in much earlier chapters of my life. But as proud as I am to play this role and as honored as I am to be a part of this universe now, that line belongs to someone else,” Evans said. ” It almost kind of felt like I was wearing someone else’s clothes or something, you know? So you do your best to honor it and put your own spin on it. But let’s be honest, that’s Tim Allen’s line. So personally, at least “Avengers assemble,” I was the first one in the pool for that one.”