Lightyear director talks about Chris Evans tweet and Toy Story IP
Shortly after the announcement of Light yearPixar’s new movie about the Space Ranger from the toy story franchise, star Chris Evans took to Twitter to try and clear something up.
“And just to be clear, it’s not Buzz Lightyear the toy,” he tweeted in December 2020. “This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear the toy is based on.”
The tweet, while lovely, was widely mocked and, it turns out, not specific or particularly helpful in clarifying what the movie was about.
“When we had the next recording session, he was like, ‘Yeah, I think I messed that up a bit. We were like, ‘This is fine,'” director Angus MacLane told SYFY WIRE. “It’s not an email problem. Even with the clearest messages, [the premise of the movie] continues to completely smash the internet and minds everywhere wondering what exactly it is.
Light year, which hits theaters June 17, begins with an opening crawl that MacLane hopes clears things up for audiences once and for all. In 1995, a boy named Andy received a toy inspired by his favorite movie. Light year is this film. Simple.
Even so, SYFY WIRE still had some questions, and MacLane and producer Galyn Susman spoke to us about the film’s fictional story, the emotional resonance of the story, and Lightyear’s place in the current IP obsession with Hollywood.
Light year is interesting in this media landscape that revolves around pre-existing intellectual property. Because, on the one hand, it’s a spin-off of Pixar’s first and arguably most famous film. But, on the other hand, all this toy story Really telling us about Buzz Lightyear is his name, his looks and that he’s a space ranger. So in a way, you have the freedom to just be an original sci-fi story. Can you tell us a bit about this paradox? Were you aware of this interesting contrast and how did you approach making the film with this in mind?
Angus McLane: It’s a very good observation. I think that’s what drew us to the potential. It has a recognizable IP address with tons of creative freedom because there is so little. We wanted to make a sci-fi action film and we always liked that Buzz Lightyear worked with him. It allowed the creative freedom and the space, because of how we were framing it, to really go after the movie without having to do a checklist of the things we were supposed to hit for “the Buzz Lightyear movie” , if that makes sense.
You must have Zerg, he must say “to infinity and beyond”, he must have a laser arm, he must have wings. These are the few things [you have to do], but I think it’s really telling that the character people are most excited about is Sox, who isn’t a canon character in the Buzz Lightyear universe. People don’t know him. The way I think about movies is you want to give the audience something they don’t know they want. You want to give them something they know, but you also want to give them something they don’t know. And it is this balance that this film hopes to establish.
Did the idea of the “Pixar space movie” come first or did the idea of ”exploring Buzz” come first?
McLane: It was always the same. I didn’t think of a space movie without him. Imagine that you work at Pixar. They are a well-received emotional powerhouse [that makes] heartbreaking classics. And you’re like “okay, how are we going to make the audience cry?” Say you start with that, cynically – and I’m not saying that’s how we start – but say you start with “how are you going to make the audience cry?”
Finally, I say to myself “I don’t care! I just want to make a movie about space! Do something awesome! What about Buzz Lightyear? Yeah, let’s get Buzz in here. It will be awesome!” Literally, that was the thing. “Why do we spend our time trying to make ourselves cry and why not do something that will be totally awesome instead?”
So that became our rallying cry for what we wanted from the end product. Is it great? Alright, fine. It’s a weird way to think about it, but because we were so connected to Toy Story, but there’s not a lot of mythology, if you just look at the feature films. I do not include the cartoon.
The big theme of this film seemed to be failure – and perhaps more importantly, being able to look past perceived failures and see things for what they are. Can you explain to us how this emerged?
McLane: It was a win-win, because if we weren’t successful with the film, we would have a well to draw from. [Laughs.]
Galyn Susman: It’s so dark. When you work on a film for five and a half years, there have to be personal relationships. I think of many things [in the movie] are things we talk about and think about where we are in life. “Are we valuing what we have in front of us right now? Are we too nostalgic? Are we too focused on the past? Are we too focused on an arbitrary goal in the future? Are we too egocentric? Do we value the people we have around us? That’s the kind of stuff that’s bothering us right now. If you’ve been ruminating on something for five and a half years, you might as well align it with what you’re talking about in real life.
I was watching the types of sci-fi movies that were coming out in 1995 and, well, let’s just say Light year is a much more emotionally mature film than most films of the era. Was there ever a desire to really lean into whether it was a weird, metatextual period piece, or was it still going to be a movie for 2022?
McLane: I would say the latter, but I always imagined it was made in 1986, and it was in 1995 that Andy got the toy after seeing the movie a lot on VHS and there was a cartoon derivative television. Because sci-fi movies often didn’t have a business partner back then. So, for example, there was no Rambo toys for first blood Where First blood part IIbut there was for the Rambo television cartoon. When Andy found out they were going to do a Light year cartoon, he was thrilled, and that’s where he got the toy, from there. That’s the stylistic difference.
It makes more sense than Light year being a 1995 movie and competing against Species.
mac lane: It’s just a different thing. There’s Stallone in first bloodand there is the Rambo cartoon. There’s Peter Weller in Robotcop and there is Robocop and the Ultra Police. It’s just different. They exist in different universes.
Light year isn’t exactly an origin story, although there are nuances. Can you explain why you wanted to tell this story at this point in Buzz’s arc?
McLane: Raiders it’s a bit like that. This is not the origin of Indiana Jones. It’s meant to be an adventure with the character, an established character, and you catch an adventure in a larger narrative. I think becoming something can be interesting or boring. Like, if you know he’s going to be a Space Ranger, you’re just like “going for it.” This can be very frustrating for the public. I was drawn to stories where you didn’t know everything. There are things that happen before, there are things that happen after, it’s only a moment. How much do you need to know? We are not going to go into all the details. We’re not going to the academy. It is an intermediate adventure.
One that spans multiple generations even though it takes place over about a week.
McLane: Yes, it’s a fast movie. Most thrillers take place over three days. So it’s not quite that, but for the public, it’s a very fast adventure.
Light year hits theaters on June 17.
Looking for more space adventures? Stream SYFYs Foreign resident right here on Peacock.