The new Buzz Lightyear vehicle looks stunning, but also like another cynical franchise builder.
In case Chris Evans’s iconic tweet wasn’t enough clarification, the trailer for Pixar’s Lightyear should be confirmation that the new Buzz Lightyear film is no tale of toys. The recently released sneak peek of the upcoming animated film in fact looks nothing like what we typically associate with the Toy Story universe, but instead appears to be a visually stunning space epic about an astronaut pilot with a distressingly lush head of hair.
The film, in Evans’s words, is meant to be an “origin story” about a heroic figure named Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Captain America himself, who serves as inspiration behind our beloved toy Buzz. In this story, we are thrust into a sumptuous sci-fi world of gleaming space stations, otherworldly planets, and missions that indeed seem to reach infinity and beyond. Undoubtedly, the film is breathtaking and immersive — some frames of the trailer look so realistic that it almost doesn’t appear to be an animated film.
But also, when the visuals fade, it feels bizarre, even disheartening, to remember that this is somehow a film from the Toy Story universe. Obviously, Pixar has no requirement to make a film that is akin to the original world it’s spinning off of — good spin-offs should, by nature, have their own identity. But what’s particularly jarring is to see the blockbuster-ification of a Pixar creation that was specifically heartwarming in its child-like simplicity and wonder (i.e. what if your toys really did come to life?).
The first glimpse of Lightyear looks more like a shiny new Star Wars spin-off than anything else. But can’t we just go to all the other countless Star Wars properties that Disney is offering on the same platform? If anything, you might think of this as not just a blockbuster-ification, but a Disney-ification: if you’re cynical like me, this big-budget franchise treatment is much more deflating and vacuous when the trailer shoots off a title card mid-way saying that the film comes “From Disney and Pixar.”
Then again, in a glass-half-full way of looking at it, you might think of Disney money as a permission slip to somehow make a wild idea like this — Pixar creating an animated sci-fi blockbuster about a Toy Story character — a reality. Observing it as that kind of bold creative venture, Lightyear does look expensive and well-made. But still — does everything have to become another tentpole? Can’t we just let the toys be toys? After all, even in the original magical adventures of Toy Story, it was still always tethered to a version of our imagination. Wasn’t that what made it all fun in the first place?