Lightyear's Animators Had To Do Some Acting Of Their Own

As Pixar's latest film, "Lightyear," marks the studio's long-delayed return to theaters (not without some controversy, mind you), the origin story for "the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on" has left viewers abuzz (sorry) with all sorts of intriguing questions. Does it somehow remove that really fun "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" series from canon? Will Taika Waititi ever figure out what's actually going on in his scenes of the movie? Why didn't they make the entire movie about Sox the robot cat?

Aside from the marketing hook that (tangentially) connects "Lightyear" to the "Toy Story" movies, perhaps one of the biggest drawing points for the film has to do with its stunning animation. In an interview with ScreenRant, director of photography Jeremy Lasky addressed the notion that the techniques for animation versus live-action are completely disparate. While it's far more similar in some ways than viewers may expect, he explains how disparate it can be as well — particularly when it comes to the animators engaging in some acting of their own:

"The other big difference, from a staging point of view, is that on a set, normally the director and the actors are blocking out that scene. The actors are talking about where their character is going to be, how this is going to work. Our actors are animators, right? I mean, yes, Chris Evans is Buzz Lightyear, but he's not actually walking around and performing. He's providing the voice and the inspiration before anything else is done. So, my team are responsible for each sequence, figuring out, 'Well, what is the staging of the scene? Where are we going to be in the room? Or in space? Or how does this fight play out between these two characters I won't name,' for example."

Animating and collaborating

We recently covered how Lasky cited "WALL-E" as inspiration for "Lightyear," but it turns out that was far from the most noteworthy behind-the-scenes tidbit about the filmmaking involved in bringing the animated space movie to life. It's fascinating (and intimidating!) to consider just how many production hats animators have to wear while working on these immensely complicated films. Lasky (who's previously worked as the director of photography on "Finding Nemo") goes on to comment on how much collaboration is involved from his specific vantage point:

"We rely on Animation quite a bit and partner with them on every sequence, just to talk through some of those ideas to workshop some things so that when the animators got the scene, it felt like, 'Yeah, this is the movie we're making. These are the acting choices we've already discussed. It's good. Now, actually act. Really give it the performance.'"

When you're sitting down to watch "Lightyear" in theaters this weekend, it couldn't hurt to take a quick moment to pause and think about the hard work that went into each and every frame. Regardless of whether there's a post-credits scene or not, maybe stick around to look over all those hundreds of hundreds of names in the credits anyway and show them some appreciation!

"Lightyear" arrives in theaters today.