How ‘Lightyear’ Became a Time Travel Story

AND BEYOND — Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear” is an all-new, original feature film that presents the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear (voice of Chris Evans)—the hero who inspired the toy—introducing the legendary Space Ranger who would win generations of fans. Directed by Angus MacLane (co-director “Finding Dory”) and produced by Galyn Susman (“Toy Story That Time Forgot”), the sci-fi action-adventure releases on June 17, 2022. © 2021 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

It’s hard to imagine how an in-universe movie in the Toy Story world would work, let alone one that is centered on time travel. But that’s how Lightyear, the film that inspired the toy that Andy would one day buy, posits itself.

Pixar was kind enough to showcase to Murphy’s Multiverse the first 30-minutes of the film which unveiled the film’s core time travel mechanic. Described as time dilation by director Angus MacLane, the concept sees Buzz Lightyear undertake a recurring mission that brings him several years into the future unaged while his headquarters gets older and older.

MacLane explained to the press that the decision to make it a time travel story had to do with their experiences working on individual Pixar movies for years on end while the world around them changes.

So, we have a story where Buzz would be traveling rapidly through time because of his job.  And because of that, it would separate him from society and his loved ones. This felt like a natural fit for Buzz.  The hero lots of times is a well-worn story for the science fiction genre.  The idea felt like fertile ground for both our own personal experiences and the core-defining character trait of Buzz Lightyear.  So Buzz is a fish out of water story.  It’s like Rip Van Winkle trapped in a future he doesn’t recognize, desperately trying to get back to the past to correct the mistake of his youth.  A hero out of his own time.

Having seen the 30-minute footage, it’s awe-inspiring to see the makers of Lightyear take a huge swing for an iconic character even if the time dilation concept quickly skips past a lot of potentially good character work. It’ll be interesting to see how the concept affects the larger scope of the narrative.

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