“Toy Story,” Pixar’s flagship film franchise, has ventured to become a worldwide phenomenon that spans sequels, made-for-TV specials, and film shorts. Each of their character-driven stories reminded us that there’s more to the idea that sentient toys pretend to be inanimate objects. There’s also emotional nuance. And so, for the first time, the franchise takes a new direction by stepping away from the toys, and focusing its attention on “Lightyear,” Pixar’s first spinoff design that is presented to us as the movie that made Andy love the Buzz Lightyear space ranger action figure.
In “Lightyear,” Chris Evans voices Buzz, an egotistical space ranger who marooned his entire crew on a planet where “the terrain seems a bit unstable” and has “no signs of intelligent life.” Believing that the crew’s current predicament is entirely his fault, Buzz takes it upon himself to test a new hyper-speed crystal that could bring everyone home. But he will soon discover that each of these tests comes at a grave cost as he experiences time dilation. Basically, for every four minutes that he spends in space, four years have passed on the ground.
That means his friend and fellow Space Ranger Aisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) gets older, while Buzz stays the same. Unable to see what these tests flights are doing to his psyche, Buzz misses out on critical points in Alisha’s life, including her engagement, pregnancy, and just life in general. And without knowing it, Buzz’s obsession. leads him to be the only one left from the original crew to have survived on the planet. Unable to cope with that fact and still determined to finish the mission, Buzz makes one last attempt to stabilize the hyper-speed crystal, which lands him further in the future where the planet is overrun by killer robots lead by the evil Zurg (James Brolin), and the only defense is a ragtag crew of Star Command recruits led by Aisha’s highly-motivated granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer), a skittish Mo (Taika Waititi), a rough and snarky ornery felon Darby (Dale Soules), and the oh so cute and very helpful robotic tabby cat Socks (Peter Sohn)
Be sure to check out our full review of the film here. For now, we will be taking a look at all of the cool bonus features that come with the digital version that we received for review purposes.
Because “Lightyear” is a “Toy Story” spinoff and is designed to be presented to us as the movie that Andy fell in love with in 1995, the bonus features delve into talking about developing an entirely new world that’s populated with new characters that’s some how loosely tethered to the films it’s based on. As such, we will get to see a lot of talk about Buzz himself, his legacy, creating space, and more.
For instance, the “Building the World of Lightyear” featurette, takes a look at what went into the set dressing of the planet that Buzz is marooned on. The means taking a look at the biosystems and the terrain. Director Angus MacLane wanted the development team to keep thinking of how to make the planet keep trying to kill Buzz and his crew so that Buzz is reminded of his failure every day.
Among the more interesting things about this featurette is we get to learn about some of the real-world astronomical terminology like a tidally locked planet, a planet that orbits the sun but itself doesn’t spin. This means that the planet’s face is always towards the sun.
Soon, the featurette shifts away from the planetary set dressing to how the Star Command and Zurg ship designs pull from Kit Bashers. In essence, they were building models from kits. Sometimes using then repurposing when the story progressed and film’s setting would call for something a bit more futuristic.
As such, a lot of the detail that we see in “Lightyear” may be from the future, but it also pulls from what 80s sci-fi films thought the future looked like. So there’s going to be a lot of retro technology like buttons and storage discs. But as the film progresses further on, so does a lot of the visual language. The tech changes, the ships become more refined. Plus, the featurette takes a look at how Star Wars influenced the look and feel of “Lightyear.”
“The Zap Patrol” featurette breaks down the rag tag crew Buzz needs to rely on so that he can complete the mission. Not an easy task considering that the Zap Patrol is mainly comprised on an inexperienced team led by Izzy (Palmer), who has high expectations of herself because of her grandmother’s legacy; Mo (Waititi) a soldier who doesn’t want to be where he’s at now, and Darby (Soules), a foul-mouthed parolee looking t shave time off her sentence.
The purpose of the team was to show how out of place Buzz was with the world and that the mission is not the only thing in life. And the featurette shows how playful they can be with that idea through the redefinition of a sandwich comes into play. Of course, we won’t say what that is, but after watching the movie, you will realize that it’s a very messy way to eat a sandwich. And it also conveys that message in a more serious manner when it gets into some of the action sequences.
And the “Toyetic” featurette takes a look at how the original Buzz Lightyear toy lends itself to being a ‘toyetic’ i.e. is the story toyetic enough to lend itself to creating toys, which works because Buzz Lightyear is actually based on a toy. So a film like “Lightyear” is a dream come true for MacLane, who has been a fan of sci-fi and toys for as long as he can remember. From the days of building ships with his dad, who was a mechanical engineer, for Star Wars droids to building Castle Grey Skull out of wooden blocks. In a way, those bonds are what led up to him telling these stories with toys.
And while a lot of the human heroes and robotic villains are a part of that toyetic language, the featurette would be remiss if it didn’t talk about Socks. Here, we get to hear from producer Galyn Susman talk about how the orange tabby cat’s charms come from his limitations. “It’s that juxtaposition of amazing machine inside a limited casing that makes it so charming,” she said.
The featurette even gets into how MacLane used LEGOs as a medium for a lot of the creations of the ships and droids that we see in the film. While the builds themselves may not be as sophisticated as they are in “Lightyear” the base engineering and functionality are there, soon to be more sleek and refined for the final cut of the film.
All in all, the “Lightyear” bonus features are a satisfying behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. It’s one that not only takes a look at the character’s legacy, but all of the efforts that its takes to be something more than just another spinoff of a popular film franchise.
“Lightyear” Special Features
- Deleted Scenes Introduction – Director Angus MacLane introduces six scenes that are all drawn, set to music, timed and voiced, but are not included in the final version of this amazing film – which took five and a half years to make!
- The Dump – In one of LIGHTYEAR’s original opening scenes, we explore Proxima B, with its carnivorous plants, sulfur pits, weird bugs, hot climate, and lack of coffee! A familiar Space Ranger volunteers to risk all in an effort to return to Earth.
- Polly – Buzz relives childhood memories when he visits an aeronautic museum in which his father is memorialized. There, he finds Polly, his dad’s robot companion bird, who possesses a very revealing recorded message meant for Buzz!
- Meet Izzy – After young Izzy and her family (including her brother Maurice) move in next door to Buzz, the adorable, talkative girl bursts into Buzz’s home, warms up to Sox, and asks Buzz a lot of questions.
- Up in the Lair – After his spacecraft crash-lands and he winds up in the bunker of fledgling Space Rangers, Buzz is introduced to cheesy snacks and a character whose role was cut due to time. He also receives shocking information about his father.
- Tilted Ship – Star Command Space Rangers of the 56th Airborne Alpha Quadrant meet Buzz and the Space Ranger students. Buzz is given a truth serum so he’ll expose whatever he knows about his father’s connection to the aliens who have taken over Proxima B.
- Fathership – Buzz wakes up in what he thinks is his childhood home, where he meets his father, who was a time travel pilot, just as he is. But it turns out he’s on the mothership of the aliens who are destroying Proxima B – and hope to vanquish Buzz as well!
- Building the World of Lightyear – Visits to the Johnson Space Center in Houston and a very familiar cinematic archive gave the filmmakers inspiration as they embarked on the exciting journey of creating Lightyear’s breathtaking production design.
- The Zap Patrol – Meet the actors who gave voice to Izzy, Mo and Darby, the untrained, unprepared rangers who join Buzz on the adventure of a lifetime. While the misfits may not seem ideal for the mission, their unlikely friendship helps see them through challenging times.
- Toyetic – Learn why Lightyear is one of the most “toyetic” films ever. Join director Angus MacLane and others on the meticulous, fun process of creating toy models for spaceships and other production elements that led to the film’s richly textured animation.
Lightyear Filmmaker Commentary – Join director Angus MacLane, writer Jason Headley, and director of photography Jeremy Lasky as they provide insight into the making of this remarkable animated feature while you watch it.
“Lightyear” debuts on all major digital platforms August 3 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on September 13, 2022.