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NewsLightyear: Why Buzz Needed a New Voice and New...

Lightyear: Why Buzz Needed a New Voice and New Look

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Making that sort of change and bringing to life a new version of an established character also meant reaching out to the original voice actor, Tim Allen. “We have a great relationship,” Susman says. “He’s a part of the Disney family overall. We reached out and explained the circumstances and the thinking. Long before we put any press out there about what this film was, there was information that we were doing a Lightyear film. Of course, he would wonder why he wasn’t included! We wanted to make sure he knew what was going on.”

The Pixar team also took strides in inclusion and diversity among the cast, including an interracial, same-sex married couple. “Though it’s the film Andy saw, we were still making it for today’s generation,” Susman explains. A same-sex kiss, which had been deleted, was restored to the film, much to the satisfaction of the creative team. That relationship is a counterpoint to Buzz’s own journey in act one: while Buzz is on a mission, moving ahead in time to test new flight technology, his best friend is living her life, experiencing all the milestones Buzz is missing.

This leads to a signature Pixar moment sure to have adult viewers, at least, in tears from the poignance of loss. “There’s something funny about the notion that Pixar movies are engineered to make you cry,” says MacLane. “The reality of it is based around trying to get your audience on board with the protagonist, and what they’re going through and the choice that they’ve made.”

“We’re not actually trying to make you cry,” promises Susman, even as she concedes she’s satisfied if that’s the audience’s response. “We are trying to connect with the audience emotionally, as well as creating something that’s visually compelling and a nice story…. You want to feel what your characters are feeling, the excitement and the pain.”

The filmmakers also had to adapt to the hurdles of making the movie during the pandemic. But the experience did enable both Susman and MacLane to get in-the-moment feedback from their children (both young, in MacLane’s case, and grown, in Susman’s), who were present in their work in a way they couldn’t be while working in the office. (It was also quite different from Susman’s famous experience of working from home, which enabled her to save Toy Story 2. Lightyear, by contrast, requires so much more data that it would be impossible to store it on a single computer—and enhanced security protocols have made it impossible for anyone to accidentally delete the film.)

The sense of isolation that Buzz feels in the film will be newly familiar to audiences who have had to spend time away from their families and friends over the past few years. And the sense of a return to an era of space adventures, of soft-boiled sci-fi, is exactly the right kind of escape. 

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