Why Chris Evans Was Cast As The New Buzz Lightyear

You might want to sit down for what I'm about to say next. As much as the art of filmmaking ought to be celebrated and taught and genuinely studied by those who wish to be as well-informed about the medium as they possibly can, it's an inescapable fact that the industry is also in the moneymaking business. That's why it wasn't terribly surprising to learn that Pixar had found a way to move forward with the "Toy Story" franchise, even after the trilogy had already wrapped things up so well and then received a (somewhat middling) 4th film on top of that.

What was somewhat less expected, however, had to do with the fact that "Lightyear" would essentially take one of the sillier concepts of "Toy Story" — the presence of the initially stuffy, neurotic, "I'm not a toy!" astronaut action figure in the original movies — and actually build an entire movie around the "real" figure who apparently inspired the toy. So naturally, that must mean that they'd bring back original voice actor Tim Allen to tell a similarly straightforward story about all his space-set adventures, along the lines of what that "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" animated series once did in the early 2000s ... right?

Well, not exactly. During a recent virtual presentation with the filmmakers behind Pixar's upcoming "Lightyear," producer Galyn Susman and director Angus MacLane weighed in on the interesting direction they took for the new animated movie. The first item on the agenda, apparently, involved casting Chris Evans to separate him from the Buzz we all know and love. According to Susman,

"When casting Buzz, it was important to differentiate our hero Buzz from the toy that's made on his character and represented in the 'Toy Story' movies.

So that meant we needed a new voice for Buzz. He needed to have that nice rich sound, able to be both dramatic and comedic. And most importantly, he needed to be heroic without coming off as arrogant or dense. And that's a tall order. And we immediately knew we had to ask Chris. What we didn't know is that he is a huge animation fan and would bring that love and passion into the project, as well as his acting talents. He even attended an animation dailies and gave the team a pep talk. It's really been a wonderful collaboration and we couldn't be happier."

'I never wanted someone that was going to imitate that character voice'

Granted, there's probably certain other very good reasons why Pixar wasn't too keen on bringing Tim Allen back to the beloved role. But from a story point-of-view, it's hard to argue with the logic laid out by "Lightyear" director Angus MacLane. During the presentation, MacLane also explained the challenges in avoiding a Tim Allen imitation for the character's new voice as well as her theoretical timeline of how "Lightyear" fits in with the "Toy Story" universe.

"From early on, because the voice is so iconic, you run the risk of imitation. And I never wanted someone that was going to imitate that character voice, but I wanted something to be different. The complexity of the timeline of it is that, and this is more information than you probably wanted, is 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 eighties and early nineties, that there would be a big budget movie, like a serious movie, and then would get ported to a TV show. 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."

Filmmakers are famous for putting entirely too much thought into backstory and establishing details that would never make it into the actual movie itself, so I wouldn't read too much into MacLane's words here. It's no secret that the exact context of how this movie relates to the rest of the "Toy Story" movies has been a source of confusion among some fans, enough that Chris Evans himself had to chime in on Twitter with one of the most meme-worthy tweets you'll ever see. I can never miss an opportunity to plug this tweet into a "Lightyear"-related article, so please enjoy this little dose of absurdity.

We knew he could handle the action stuff and the comedy of this'

In terms of getting someone of Chris Evans' caliber to voice this new take on a familiar character, casting an actor who could get the tone right was crucial. As MacLane goes on to say,

"So I wanted somebody who was not going to be goofy funny. Because the character... It is so hard to make a character that is a side character to a main character. You need to kind of step back and rethink it a little bit. And I knew that the character was iconic enough that you needed someone with the gravitas and seriousness and the balance of comedy and drama for the actor. It was a very narrow window of actor that could do it. And there was a lot of comedy and serious action stuff that we'd seen Chris Evans do and had always exemplified. And I was always impressed by his ability to not seem too goofy, but be able to laugh at himself, and that's really essential for the character. We knew he could handle the action stuff and the comedy of this."

Getting Captain America himself to voice another sci-fi action hero might seem like a bit of a no-brainer in retrospect, which MacLane confirms by detailing some of the similarities Lightyear shares, saying that he's also "trapped in the future he doesn't recognize." But because of the completely different medium, some adjustments needed to be made.

"A lot of times when you go into animation, since you're creating everything, it can often remind the audience through motion or design not to worry about the characters. And one of the things that I learned from Brad Bird was, working on 'The Incredibles,' was make sure the audience is worried about the character's safety. So if they're worried about the character's safety, and the characters on screen should be worried about their safety, and that all kind of gelled around wanting to separate from 'Toy Story,' but also wanting to find somebody that had the right blend of elements. And Chris, like Galyn said, was our first and only choice. And we were so thrilled that he warmed to the project immediately and has been such a wonderful partner for us."

"Lightyear" is due to blast off in theaters on June 17, 2022.