How Lightyear Fits Into The Toy Story Timeline

The biggest question surrounding the upcoming Pixar film "Lightyear" is how exactly it fits into the larger "Toy Story" franchise. The film is set to tell the story of Buzz Lightyear, primarily known as the toy that became young Andy's obsession before he became frenemies with Sheriff Woody.

What makes this complicated is that we already know the story of Buzz Lightyear, as it was told in the great movie and series "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" which somehow is still not on Disney+. There's also the weird comment by star Chris Evans when the film was announced, saying this movie is definitely not about Buzz the toy. Instead, "This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on."

Confused? So are we. Thankfully, the director of "Lightyear" is here to explain how the film fits into the "Toy Story" timeline.

You are (not) a toy

When the trailer for "Lightyear" was released, it teased an epic sci-fi adventure with aliens, a cute sidekick, a hot Buzz, and menacing robots straight out of "Gundam." This made Evans' comments about the real astronaut that inspired the toy feel strange, because (as far as we know) there are no aliens out there, and we cannot travel at the speed of light (yet).

During a virtual Q&A with the filmmakers of "Lightyear," director Angus MacLane discussed what exactly this prequel is in relation to the main franchise.

"I imagine this was a movie that then later there was the spinoff cartoon, and then the 'Toy Story' toy was made off of that cartoon design. Because that very much was the way it would be in the '80s and early '90s, that there would be a big-budget movie, like a serious movie, and then would get ported to a TV show."

That indeed happened a lot. From "RoboCop" and "Rambo" to "Police Academy" and "The Toxic Avenger," to "Godzilla" and even recently, "Jurassic Park," many movies both for general audiences and also very much meant for adults, got turned into kid-friendly cartoons. 

This would solve the "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" problem. "Lightyear" seems to be the giant sci-fi film that eventually got turned into a popular cartoon on TV, which then would get all kinds of merchandise aimed at kids until young Andy became a fan.

And just because the movie doesn't include Booster or XR, doesn't mean those adventures didn't happen. MacLane continued:

"It's not diminishing anything, but it does feel like the events of what happens on the back of the package for Buzz Lightyear don't happen in this movie and that's like a future story."

What is time anyway?

Fine, but what about dates? If Andy was a kid in the '90s, when exactly would he have time to see "Lightyear" and also its cartoon spin-off? MacLane does not have a perfect answer there, but does have plenty of thoughts.

"We don't say. In the film, we say he got a Buzz for his birthday and this was his favorite movie. So I actually feel like this movie might be early '80s, late '70s. So it's more like his favorite movie that he saw on VHS probably."

Sure, many kids became fans of, say, "Star Wars" because of VHS rather than theaters. It is entirely possible that the film had already been out for a while when Andy first saw it.

"Again, the rabbit hole you'd have to go down. It's all charted out here. If you could just see this wall, it's a cacophony of insanity. But yeah, no, it's meant to be a movie that he saw a bunch of times growing up and maybe was a little bit, it's an amalgam of hand generation. So 70s, 80s, early 90s."

"Lightyear" lifts off on June 17, 2022.

The sci-fi action-adventure presents the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—introducing the legendary Space Ranger who would win generations of fans.