“We’re now making sure we represent in film the faces that have always been a part of the story – that includes LGBTQ+ people, women, Black women – that includes all people”: Chris Evans, Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer and Angus MacLane on Lightyear at the London premiere
Lightyear is the hotly-anticipated new film from Disney and Pixar, and the first to hit the big screen since the pandemic, with much of their content of late – for better or worse – heading straight for the Disney+ platform. Diehard Toy Story fans should come prepared though for something a little different from the characters and setting first laid out in the groundbreaking computer-animated movie back in 1995 and which have stood the test of time through four instalments since. Whether labelled a spin-off or origin story, Lightyear takes viewers out of Andy’s bedroom and genuinely to “infinity, and beyond” – albeit in a meta way – by forming the film that the toy is based on in the Toy Story universe.
It might not please everyone, but this is a bold new direction they’ve taken the story in and one you can’t help but have respect for. In the hands of Angus MacLane – who’s worked on countless Pixar movies but is in the director’s chair of a feature for the first time here – this is barely still even a “kids” movie per se but rather a full-blown animated sci-fi, with a level of sophistication and detail in the futuristic world it builds that far from patronises and has plenty of nods to the sci-fi canon for genre buffs to enjoy, from Stars Wars to Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Martian and Interstellar.
Reimagining Buzz as a “real” space ranger, the character is different but similar, bearing a close resemblance to the toy but Tim Allen’s voice is replaced by Chris Evans, a controversial choice that just about holds in its logic and execution; a tough gig to follow for Evans but one he ultimately nails. After crash landing while in search of habitable planets, Buzz is tasked with using that planet’s raw materials to achieve hypersonic speed so he and his crew can leave the inhospitable environment they find themselves in. The snag is, with each attempt, only a few minutes pass for Buzz while years pass for his friends and colleagues, such as his partner Alisha, back at base. When he finally achieves his mission, the dreaded Zurgs have taken over their base, and Buzz is left with a bunch of trainee rangers generations younger than him as his comrades to overthrow them: a lovable bunch of misfits voiced wittily by the likes of Keke Palmer and Taika Waititi.
What further pushes the envelope in terms of decisions made is the diversity of the characters and voiceover cast, with actors of colour taking on the key roles, one of them an LGBTQ+ character. Indeed, a same-sex kiss between Alisha and her partner was temporarily removed by Disney, only to be put back in after a backlash, sparking the film being banned in multiple countries, a clear signal that acceptance of homosexuality in our culture is far from a given, even in 2022. Plus, arguably Buzz himself is not the most likeable of characters. Egotistical, self-righteous, and the antithesis of a team player, he does go on a “journey” to face his flaws, but this has also divided critics who miss the gravitational pull and humanity of the big-hearted toys of the original story. Ultimately, though, this is an immaculately realised animated film, with plenty for kids and adults alike to dig their teeth into, from the intricacies of theories of space travel to philosophical ideas, challenging relationships to biting humour.
On a gorgeous sunny afternoon in London’s Leicester Square, The Upcoming had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with the cast and crew of Lightyear who shared their experiences of working on the movie. A dapper, fan-mobbed Evans spoke to us about the desire to create a sci-fi action-adventure movie, not only to appeal to kids, but to adults too, and the allure of time travel.
Palmer shared her views on diversity in the film, particularly the inclusion of characters of colour and from the LGBTQ+ community, stories which have always been there but not always represented on our screens.
Waititi gave some insight into the steep learning curve involved in voicing a character for Pixar and how he injected so much humour into the movie via Mo Morrison.
Director MacLane and producer Galyn Susman gave some insight into the making and casting of the film, its influences and what they hope kids and adults will take away from watching it.
Tom Wlaschiha told us about voicing the character of Buzz Lightyear in the German version of the film and also spoke about his role in Stranger Things, including the reaction to its latest season. Plus he treated us to the “to infinity, and beyond” line in German…
Real-life astronaut Tim Peake spoke about how accurately the film portrays space travel, how he hopes the movie will inspire young kids to take an interest in space and his views on the future of space tourism.
Catch more footage of the arrivals and red carpet antics below.
Furthermore, you can hear from Evans on voicing the character of Buzz Lightyear here:
Lightyear is released nationwide on 17th June 2022.
Watch the trailer for Lightyear here: