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Film REVIEW: Lightyear - ★★★★★

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to love Lightyear!

Director: Angus McLane

Writer: Jason Headley, Angus McLane

Stars: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, Taika Waititi

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure

Themes: Spin-off, Pixar, Buzz Lightyyear

While spending years attempting to return home, marooned Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by Zurg who are attempting to steal his fuel source.

The film is a spin-off of the Toy Story film series, serving as an origin story for the character Buzz Lightyear.

It received generally negative reviews from critics, who felt that the franchise had run its course.

In Cinemas Now



Georgie (Age 6) - ★★★★★

"I Love toy story, I loved it all, I liked when he was attacking the monster and there was 2 buzzes/

The cat was funny it was a robot and it has 1 eye at a part of the movie, it was sad about his old pal. I liked when they done the pointy finger " to infinity and beyond" everyone needs to go see it it's so good. I give it 500 stars."

Sandy (Age 9) - ★★★★★

"Ok, let me get this straight; LIGHTYEAR WAS AMAZING (not boring). My favourite character was Sox, Buzz’s personal companion robot (he is a cat). Lightyear was about Buzz Lightyear and his crew crash land on a newplanet. Buzz tries to get hyperspeed, but something happened (you will have to find out in the movie). Also there is a post credit scene, but you will have to see it to find out what it is."

Have you seen it yet?



1. Lightyear is a movie within a movie

Don’t come to Lightyear expecting Toy Story 5. As director Angus MacLane (Finding Dory, Toy Story of Terror) explains, the idea is that Lightyear is the movie that Andy from Toy Story would have watched at the cinema, leading the birthday boy to ask for an action figure of its human star.

“So my Lightyear pitch was, 'What was the movie that Andy saw that made him want a Buzz Lightyear toy?'” he remembers. “And now I'm lucky enough to get to make that movie.”


2. Buzz is a bigger character than ever before

The Buzz Lightyear we met in the Toy Story movies started out cocksure and delusional, but grew heart and humility along the way. That wasn’t meaty enough for MacLane, who told Empire that a priority for Lightyear was digging deeper into the character.

“We've been on a journey of discovery,” said the director, “finding this character and fully fleshing him out for ninety minutes when you’re expanding the mythology.”

MacLane continued: “When we started, there were only a handful of things that were mentioned [about Buzz] from the films. The wings are terillium-carbonic alloy, Zurg is the bad guy, he’s got a laser arm. There’s not a ton of stuff. What would you take from the echoes of that and apply it here?”


3. Director Angus MacLane has unbeatable Pixar pedigree

If you’re worried about some new-kid director ploughing a spaceship through three decades of Buzz Lightyear lore, relax: Angus MacLane is definitely the right man for the job. Having started out at Pixar in 1997, his baptism of fire was working on Toy Story 2.

“The first thing I got to do at the Pixar studio was help design Zurg,” MacLane told Disney’s Tina Pollock.

Buzz is something that I’ve always been really excited by on a really detailed level, and so much so that on Toy Story 2, in the opening scene, a lot of the Buzz vs. Zurg stuff was stuff that I got to animate on. It was a really great experience because I knew that this was a world that I was really into, because I was into sci-fi.”


4. Chris Evans was the director's dream casting for the Lightyear film

With perfect timing, MacLane dangled the role of Buzz just as MCU star Chris Evans (The Avengers, Age of Ulrton, Infinity War, Endgame, Captain America Series) hung up his Captain America spandex.

“Chris was our first choice,” the director told Disney.

Pixar doesn’t usually put an emphasis on finding the ‘biggest star’, but in this case, this character comes with such a huge expectation.”

Obviously, you don’t need to tell Captain America how to play the saviour of humanity.

“Chris plays it pretty straight,” added MacLane, but he’s funny and he understands the character. When we pitched the movie, he totally got it. He’s been such a great creative partner and has been so excited about the project. His contributions are really coming from a place of wanting to get it right for the reverence of the character and figuring out who this character is as we’ve built him out in this universe.”


5. Evans isn't the only MCU star in the Lightyear film

As crumbly Kronan gladiator Korg, Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit) was a highlight of Thor: Ragnarok. Now, the New Zealander plays Buzz’s crewmate Mo Morrison, and when the first Lightyear trailer dropped, the two Marvel co-stars shared a deadpan exchange on social media.

“I'm the main star of this movie,” wrote Waititi, “but I pulled rank and said the trailer should be more about the supporting characters like @ChrisEvans.”

The Cap was quick to retweet Waititi’s joke, adding: “In my eyes, you’re the main star of every movie, whether you’re in them or not.”


6. The Lightyear movie was inspired by the golden era of sci-fi

MacLane is a self-confessed sci-fi connoisseur and told Collider that having already worked on Pixar’s WALL-E, he now envisaged Lightyear as a salute to the space movies of his youth. Keep your eyes peeled during the Lightyear film and you’ll see the subtle influence of retro classics from Star Wars to Alien.

“I wanted a film that was influenced by the ’77 to ’91 era of sci-fi films,” explained MacLane. “As far as the cinematic quality and the tangibility of the world and more of the straightforward earnestness of that era.”


7. The making of the Lightyear movie was brilliantly old-school

As a modern animation, you’d expect Lightyear to be one hundred per cent pure computer-generated – but that’s not the full picture. Instead, MacLane went back to old-school principles, commissioning a former expert at Industrial Light & Magic (the effects wizards behind Star Wars) to build a physical model of a spacecraft, from which the animators took their cues.

“What we focused on was really trying to emulate a cinematic feel and making it chunky,” the director told Empire.

“Because in the films of the pre-digital era, there was so much more model making and so because they were making it physically, it would have a tangibility to it that you can feel. Even in sci-fi TV series of the early ’80s, you can feel the tangibility of the stuff they’d reuse over and over again. For me, it was important to have that solid feel of the models and motion control spaceships of movies of that era.”


8. There's a new maestro in the orchestra pit

Whose heart doesn’t soar when they hear Randy Newman’s cheerful You’ve Got A Friend In Me? But Lightyear isn’t Toy Story: it’s a pulse-raising intergalactic adventure that demands a score to suit hurtling through space.

Step up Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino, whose soundtracks grace action movies from Mission: Impossible to Jurassic World and Pixar films, Up and The Incredibles.

I don’t want to get involved in something that’s just background noise,” he tells Den Of Geek of his ear-pricking approach. “I’ll only take a project if I feel I can give it something unique.”


9. Sox is our secret-favourite character in the Lightyear movie

Of course, Buzz gets top billing in the Lightyear movie. But just as the Porgs almost stole Star Wars: The Last Jedi, now everybody’s talking about the mechanised ginger cat that will be the Space Ranger’s ‘personal companion robot’ on his perilous mission.

And the big question being pondered by the web’s greatest movie commentators is why we haven’t seen Sox in the Toy Story universe before.

If Lightyear is the movie that Toy Story's Buzz came from, where's Sox?” asked ScreenRant. “Any merchandise company worth their salt would see this cute, humorous character as a licence to print money.


10. You'll see subtle nods to Woody and the gang in the Lightyear film

We’ll keep on saying it: Lightyear isn’t Toy Story. And as it stands, none of the Toy Story voice cast are chalked to reprise their characters in Lightyear. But that doesn’t mean this spin-off doesn’t give the occasional tip of the hat.

Take the magical moment in the Lightyear trailer when Sox burbles to life and Buzz snaps into a karate-chop stance.

“It’s meant to be reminiscent of the shot that Doug Sweetland animated in Toy Story of Buzz freaking out on the bed,” MacLane told Empire. “There’s not a ton of that, but occasionally it just felt character correct.”


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