How Lightyear Turned A Toy Into A Fully-Realized Character

If you've been keeping up with the buzz surrounding Pixar's "Lightyear," you must've already heard a thousand times how the animated film's titular character is not based on the toy from the "Toy Story" franchise. Buzz Lightyear is a fully-fleshed, multidimensional character in his own right (shocker!), and "Lightyear" delves into how he is more than a space ranger meant to save the world.

For those out of the loop, "Lightyear" traces the origin story of the young test pilot (voiced by Chris Evans), who eventually steps up to the mantle and emerges as the space hero we know, leading to the creation of the Buzz Lightyear action figure. For "Lightyear," director Angus MacLane had to come up with a compelling backstory for the man behind the toy, as it would not be nearly enough to rely on the heroic tropes that the character is already known for.

Expanding upon a 'misalignment' with reality

MacLane spoke to Collider about how he went about creating a distinct personality for Buzz while drawing on the toy version's core character. The director explains the toy version's take on things in the "Toy Story" films as a "disagreement over the nature of reality" as Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen) is convinced that he is a space ranger and not a mere toy.

This gap between who he believes he is versus who he really is has been expanded upon in "Lightyear," allowing us a glimpse into how the character came to reach that point:

"There's always a misalignment about what the character thinks is going on versus what's actually going on. That being out of step with the surroundings was something that was fundamental to the character and to the film, and by sticking to that really core thing, you can do surface things all you want, but it has to be from that...Everything else needs to flow from that core concept. You can do surface things, but that's the deeper truth."

It is interesting to note that toy Buzz is obviously not the only iteration of the space ranger, as "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" delved into the actual space adventures of the character. It is odd that Disney and Pixar have failed to mention this important entry while discussing "Lightyear," — fret not, here's a meticulously-detailed deep dive into the matter absolutely worth checking out.

Fleshing out a worthwhile origin story

"Lightyear" is a sci-fi adventure in which the titular character partners with his bestie, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), with whom he has already gone on many missions. As per the trailers of the film, Buzz seems to share the same stubborn driven nature as his toy counterpart, and while these similarities help establish a sense of connectivity, MacLane argues that there is more to Buzz's character, which has been "re-contextualized" in the film:

"I felt like we wanted to go to the root of what the character was because the character of Buzz, when he's in what became known in the second as the diluted mode, there's such a one-note aspect when he thinks he's a space ranger.

There's not a lot of nuance for that, and it's hard to sustain that for a whole film for this guy...And so, I wanted to tease that apart and figure out how you would make a more well-rounded character. By re-contextualizing the spirit of that character first and to come up with the core of that character, it involved separating and figuring out what makes that character work."

While it seems that "Lightyear" intends to infuse a beloved character's arc with greater emotional depth and higher stakes, it remains to be seen whether the Pixar film strikes a chord with audiences the same way the "Toy Story" films did. If anything, the robot cat in the film, Sox (voiced by Peter Sohn) looks freaking adorable, and the whole joyride into space might just be worth it for that reason alone. To infinity and beyond, I guess.

"Lightyear" is currently playing in theaters.