Pixar movies don’t just come to life through animation. It’s through the voice and performances of the actors behind the visuals that these characters are fully realized. And Lightyear boasts a cast of talented performers. During the early junket of the film, members of the press, including Murphy’s Multiverse, were given a primer on who was playing who.
It didn’t take long after Chris Evans‘ Avengers: Endgame victory lap for him to be attached to Lightyear. It was a peculiar choice at the time of the announcement but was quickly justified in the 30-minute presentation we saw. According to producer Gayle Susman, it was a no-brainer.
When casting Buzz, it was important to differentiate our hero Buzz from the toy that’s made on his character and represented in the Toy Story movies. So that meant we needed a new voice for Buzz. He needed to have that nice rich sound, able to be both dramatic and comedic. And most importantly, he needed to be heroic without coming off as arrogant or dense. And that’s a tall order. And we immediately knew we had to ask Chris Evans. What we didn’t know is that he is a huge animation fan and would bring that love and passion into the project. He even attended an animation dailies and gave the team a pep talk.
Opposite Chris Evans is Uzo Aduba‘s Alicia Hawthorne. The film quickly establishes Hawthorne and Lightyear’s friendship, centering her as the heart of the film that compels Buzz to set out on his journey. From the brief glimpse we got of her, Aduba gives off a heartfelt performance which was only given credence by Susman’s description of her:
The emotional anchor for act one is Buzz’s best friend and the commander of the mission, Alicia Hawthorne. Both commanding and compassionate, a straight shooter who cares about living a good life. If you watch just two minutes of Uzo Aduba’s Shirley Chisholm in Mrs. America, you see all of that. She’s just an amazing talent, and we are so fortunate to have her on the team.
The time travel element of the film means that there will be a revolving door of characters for Buzz to interact with. While the first act of the film focuses on Buzz’s friendship with Alicia, for most of the film, Buzz sees himself paired with an unlikely group of misfits decades later. The first of which is Izzy Hawthorne, played by Keke Palmer. Izzy is a character that isn’t present in the first 30-minutes that were showcased so we have yet to see what she’s like. However, from Susman’s breakdown, Izzy seems like the perfect successor to her grandmother Alicia.
Izzy Hawthorne, Alicia’s granddaughter, has a striking resemblance to her grandmother until she’s put in a tough spot. She has spunk, she has the courage, but she’s completely untrained and unproven, and not sure that she can live up to the family name. Keke Palmer brought just the energy and the heart we were looking for for this role
An ensemble isn’t complete without comedic relief and this ensemble is rounded off by Mo and Darby, played by Taika Waititi and Dale Soules respectively. Like Izzy, we haven’t a clue on what these characters are like but their descriptions and character designs all seem exciting.
Mo and Darby are a bit of comic relief, as well as being uniquely able to challenge Buzz where he most needs to grow. Mo is a feather in the wind, never quite able to commit to any one direction. Taika is able to bring a likeability to that kind of character when they can often be a little annoying. His improvisational skills really brought a depth and warmth to Mo. Darby is the classic tough curmudgeon with a record. She’s handy, inventive, and extremely salty, a great addition to the team.