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“Lightyear”: Buzz's big comeback

“Lightyear”: Buzz's Big Return

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In the first Toy Stories, Andy mentions that his Buzz Lightyear action figure is that of the character of a movie he saw. This is the movie… 

This is how director Angus MacLane quickly convinced producer Galyn Susman of the need to make Lightyear > they both explained to the QMI Agency in an interview.

“My 'pitch' was really very simple,” replied MacLane. I asked why we wouldn't do the movie that made Andy want a Buzz Lightyear action figure. I explained that this feature would be a really cool sci-fi adventure and wouldn't be part of Toy Stories. It was really a simple concept and I think it was this element that brought everyone together.”

Galyn Susman reacted to three words. “What producer doesn't want to work on a sci-fi adventure? It’s really my favorite kind of movie,” she exclaimed.

In fact, Buzz (voice of Chris Evans in the original version and Xavier Dolan in the French version) is a space ranger, on a mission some four million light years from Earth. Along with his commander and best friend, Alisha Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba), Buzz decides to explore a planet that might be inhabited. And it is… by rather aggressive creatures. In addition, a technical problem prevents the astronauts from leaving the planet, forcing Buzz to try to find a way to reach the blue planet.

The shadow of Captain America… and of a cat

In the original version, Buzz's voice is dubbed by none other than Chris Evans, familiar with Disney since he is the face – and the muscular body – of Captain America in the Marvel films. But it was not at all his superhero status that seduced Angus MacLane, who readily says that Chris Evans was his first and only choice.

“Buzz has an iconic voice as a toy,” said the filmmaker, referring to Tim Allen. But for this film, the tone of the character had to change as he goes from secondary to main character. So we needed someone with the gravitas of a lead actor who could not only give him the sensibility of an action hero, but also infuse him with a comedic edge without drowning out the drama. And that's why Chris was my first and only choice.”

As in all Pixar films, Lightyear has a character whose function is to add a touch of lightness and raw humor to the subject. Here, that role falls to Sox, an adorable robotic cat voiced by Peter Sohn.

“I love cats, exclaimed Angus MacLane. Working with screenwriter Matthew Aldrich, we created a character that was to be Buzz's friend, his connection to humanity. Even in films whose target audience is not the little ones, there is always a happy, cute and funny character, but without ever being cynical, a pure heart. I've always liked minimalism in animation – Wall-E for example – because it's a style that has a lot of charm.”

Impossible, moreover, not to note a certain number of themes and messages addressed to fans of films from Pixar studios. For Angus MacLane, who also worked as the feature film's co-writer, “we want moviegoers to care about Buzz's journey. I knew I didn't want a movie in which Buzz would be the savior at all because it's a cliché. This is how we got to the Buzz of Lightyearwho thinks he has to solve the problem on his own and who realizes that he does not have to have the answer to everything. He can therefore choose to work as a team and sometimes not have a solution to the problem presented to him. In fact, he must live in the moment, without worrying about the past or the future.”

“At the moment, culturally, there is a tendency to emphasize the individual a lot, Galyn Susan. So we forget the fact that each individual has weaknesses and that we are better in community and that we have to work together.”

The film banned in several countries

Alisha Hawthorne's character is a lesbian. In Lightyear, she marries a woman, the couple have a son, then a granddaughter. Nothing but very normal, even banal, in everyday life. Yes, Alisha and her partner also exchange a kiss. But now, in some countries, LGBTQ + content is censored. The film is therefore now banned in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt and other countries in Asia and the Middle East.

“Alisha was not always the Alisha we see, there were several characters. I believe it arrived in its final form fairly quickly. The character has always been defined as the representation of Buzz's past, of his story. So we realized Alisha had to be included and her sexual orientation was part of her,” the filmmaker explained.

“Representativeness is not only something extraordinary, but also something that we support. Second, it allows the relationship between Buzz and Alisha to be presented as a very solid friendship and not a romantic relationship. It was very useful for us because we wanted to focus on friendship throughout the film.”

A sensitive subject

In March, Bob Chapek, the boss of Disney, indicated that he would not criticize a new Florida law banning teachers from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity. However, at Pixar – the studio of “Toy Stories” and subsidiary of the mouse company – the political position had shocked and the employees had openly questioned the opening of the studios on LGBTQ + issues.

In interviews, both Angus MacLane and Galyn Susman assured Disney studios of “support”…despite the fact that the kiss between Alisha and her partner was deleted before being put back following protests from the public and the organizations defending the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

However, in strongly Muslim countries, Lightyear has just been banned, a situation anticipated by the filmmaker and producer.

“We don't ignore the ban, and it's not like we didn't talk about it before the movie came out. We discussed it and we all decided that it was nevertheless appropriate and that it was worthwhile”, replied, very formally, Galyn Susman.

Lightyear takes off in a cinema near you from June 17.

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