'Lightyear' Trailer: Chris Evans Voices a New Take on Iconic 'Toy Story' Space Ranger
By Meredith B. Kile
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Toy Storyfans, get ready to go to infinity and beyond on a new Buzz Lightyear adventure!
On Wednesday, Pixar released the trailer for their upcoming animated film Lightyear, which stars Chris Evans as the voice of the titular space ranger, from the Toy Story franchise.
Appropriately scored by David Bowie's "Starman," the trailer offers a few glimpses of familiarity -- Buzz's iconic space suit and catchphrase both get a moment to shine -- along with a host of new characters and epic scenes that will have fans eagerly awaiting its June 2022 release. (The single word that Evans actually utters in the clip is "and" -- as in, "To infinity, andbeyond," though we don't get to hear the full quote.)
To be clear, Lightyear is not a Toy Story movie -- or at least, not exactly. It's a clever meta take on an origin story crafted by longtime Pixar animator and director Angus MacLane, who found a unique way to explore a new side of the beloved hero.
"Buzz is a character I've always been pretty interested in and connected to, since I started on Toy Story 2 as an animator, and I've always been kind of drawn to him," MacLane told ET in a recent interview. "I've always been curious about Buzz's world, like, the world of the Space Rangers and the world of Star Command."
Just as Toy Story 2 introduced Woody's Roundup, the 1950s children's television show that inspired the Woody cowboy doll, Lightyear is the movie within the Toy Story universe that inspired the Buzz Lightyear action figure coveted by young Andy in the franchise's first film.
"It was meant to be this lampooning of a collection of sci-fi cliches in the original Toy Story as kind of a punchline," MacLane recalled of the world-building around the Star Command hero, "but as time went on at the studio, I just increasingly became really interested in what kind of movie that would look like."
After co-directing 2016's Finding Dory, MacLane was in search of his next project at Pixar, and decided to pitch his idea for a standalone Buzz adventure as his solo directorial feature debut.
Of his concept, he explained, "If Andy saw a movie that got him excited about getting a Buzz Lightyear toy, what would that movie look like? And why don't we just make a movie like that?... Where the world was serious and not tongue in cheek, and not winking at the audience, just making kind of a straightforward sci-fi movie."
The character of Buzz Lightyear has long been synonymous with Tim Allen, who has voiced the space ranger in the first four Toy Story movies. (Patrick Warburton played the role on the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command television series in the early 2000s, which, interestingly, featured some opening titles animation by MacLane.)
But Toy Story's Buzz is not Lightyear's Buzz, and the new interpretation of the self-serious spaceman necessitated a new voice as well.
"When we were coming up with the world of it, and it was going to have a tonal difference... there was a sense of gravitas that we needed," MacLane explained. "There's just a different tone, a different flavor."
The director admitted that Evans was their "first and only choice" for the role, having already proven himself skilled at playing an earnest hero with a self-deprecating smirk.
"To me, the comedy comes from the character really believing, being really serious about it, but also knowing how to make that funny in that seriousness," MacLane noted. "Chris had shown that in spades for Captain America."
"He's been such a joy to work with and such a partner in developing this alternate take on the character and really made it his own," he added. "It's been such a wonderful experience. So, I'm so happy he's exactly who you think he is. And he's really good at his job."
The rest of the film's characters and creative details are being kept top-secret for now, though MacLane's work on WALL-E -- and its side character short, BURN-E, which he developed and directed -- should give fans plenty to be excited about when it comes to the new mechanical personalities spotted in the trailer. ("The cat is very funny," the director teases of Buzz's robotic feline friend, sure to be a fan favorite.)
As for other homages and Easter eggs for Pixar fans, MacLane said they're kept in service of the story.
"My approach to that stuff is, I never want it to be distracting," he explained. "For this movie, I really worked on having that stuff be kind of like a secondary read...There are like certainly Pixar Easter eggs or homage Easter eggs, I guess, but they're not overt."
Mostly, the director noted, Lightyear attempts to channel a nostalgic sense of "adventure and excitement" as Buzz explores the world of infinity and beyond.
"Those older sci-fi movies would give you a sense of wonder," MacLane recalled. "You were going on this ride, in the sense that you were following characters that were kind of in it. And they were trying to get through it, and then it kind of spit you out at the end."
He added, "I think recapturing the feeling of the films of our youth, certainly my youth, and what it meant to me, has really been my goal for the film."
Lightyear is set to premiere in theaters on June 17, 2022.