In 1995, Disney/Pixar introduced audiences to a delightful film that raised the question: Do toys have feelings? Decades later, the same studio has decided to revisit one of its most beloved toys, Buzz Lightyear. The boy, Andy, in the original Toy Story longed for a Buzz Lightyear action figure for his birthday. He received the gift and the space keeper soon became the rival of Woody, Andy’s former favorite toy. Lightyear is presented as the movie Andy saw that made him want his own Buzz.
Directed by Angus MacLane, Lightyear tells the story of the young Buzz, a spaceman who causes a huge crew of astronauts and scientists to become trapped on a hostile planet. Although Tim Allen provided the voice for the iconic Toy Story version of Buzz, Pixar tapped Chris Evans of Marvel’s Captain America fame to voice the film version of the character.
Kids will love seeing Andy’s favorite toys in his own feature film, but families should know that this isn’t a Toy Story movie. Lightyear is a serious sci-fi animated film that expertly deals with common tropics such as aliens, robots and, most notably, complex time travel. Director MacLane’s love for sci-fi is evident throughout the film as the characters deal with life on an unknown planet after their space station crashes.
While the film is steeped in time travel and space exploration, the themes are more human. The conflicts are about independence versus community and self-reliance versus trust in others. Lightyear is all about Buzz and his journey inward. From the beginning of the film, Buzz says that he prefers to do everything alone, although he has a close friendship with his fellow ranger Alisha, voiced by Uzo Aduba of Orange is the New Black. Because Buzz is so mission-oriented, he misses out on a literal lifelong friendship with Alisha and doesn’t realize it until it’s too late.
However, this is a Disney/Pixar story. Woody may have tried to sabotage Buzz at every turn in Toy Story, but the former finally finds redemption when he rescues the space keeper from the clutches of evil neighbor Sid. Like Woody, all is not lost for Buzz, even when times seem darkest. Buzz may see himself as the last space keeper, but there are still people ready to help him out.
By the end of Lightyear, while it’s a much more serious, less brightly colored movie than its predecessor, Randy Newman’s song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” would somehow still be appropriate during the credits. The space keeper finds redemption by learning to depend on others and understanding that making mistakes is part of the journey. It seems Buzz learned the lesson of friendship long before his future rival Woody would in a galaxy far, far away. Audiences will hope there’s more to Lightyear’s story in the future, after all, Buzz believes in something beyond the infinite.