Disney and Pixar invited a select group of journalists to participate in an early press day for the upcoming release of Lightyear featuring the voices of Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Uzo Aduba, Isiah Whitlock Jr, and Taika Waititi. As participants in this early press day, We Live Entertainment was lucky enough to screen roughly 30 minutes of footage from the film plus take part in an educational presentation that included a behind the scenes look at the film complete with a small Q&A with the film’s director/screenwriter Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman.
Below are our picks for the ten key takeaways from the press conference portion of the presentation where various members of the press got to pick the brains of Angus MacLane and Galyn Susman about all things Lightyear.
1. Will the lesbian kiss be included in the final cut of the film?
“Um, yes. We have a kiss. You saw it in the version of the film that you all saw before this Q&A. We always had a lesbian couple. They’ve always been a part of the film. Being able to put back the kiss was important to us. It’s a touching moment. It helps Buzz to see what it is that it’s the life that’s being lived in front of him by his best friend that he’s not having. He doesn’t have those kinds of relationships. He doesn’t have a child. He doesn’t have what she has. And so it was important for us to get that back in there. And we’re really excited about that.” – Galyn Susman
2. How and why was Chris Evans chosen to be the voice of a young Buzz Lightyear?
From early on because the voice is so iconic, you run the risk of imitation. And I never wanted someone that was gonna imitate that character’s voice. What I wanted is something to be different. The complexity of the timeline is I imagined this was a movie that then later there was a spinoff cartoon for. And then the Toy Story toy was made off of that cartoon design. Because that very much was the way it would’ve been in the 80s and early 90s. There would be a big-budget movie, like, a serious movie, and then it would become a TV show. It’s not diminishing anything about it. But it does feel like the events of what happened on the back of the package for Buzz Lightyear don’t happen in this movie. And that’s like a future story. So, I wanted somebody who was not gonna be goofy and funny. Because of the character, it is so hard to take a character that is a side character and turn it into the main character. You need to step back and rethink it a little bit.
And I knew that the character was iconic enough that you needed someone with the gravitas and seriousness. And the balance of comedy and drama for the actor was a very narrow window of actor that could do it. And there was a lot of comedy and serious action stuff that we’d seen Chris Evans do, and had always exemplified. And I was always impressed by his ability to not seem too goofy but be able to laugh at himself. And I think that’s really essential for the character. He could handle the action stuff and the comedy of this. He had played a character that was a square lantern jawn her-lantern jawed hero that was out of time. This is a different character, but you could see how the-trapped in the future he doesn’t recognize, he plays that very comedically well and would play it at a level that was subtle. I wanted this to be a sci-fi film. A lot of times when you go into animation since you’re creating everything, it can often remind the audience, through emotion or design, not to worry about the characters.
One of the things that I learned from Brad Bird when working on The Incredibles was to make sure the audience is worried about the character’s safety. So if they’re worried about the character’s safety, the character on screen should be worried about their safety. And that all kind of gelled around wanting to separate from Toy Story, but also wanting to find somebody that had the right blend of elements. And Chris was our first and only choice. We were so thrilled that he warmed to the project immediately, an has been such a wonderful partner for us. – Angus MacLane
3. What films served as the inspiration for Lightyear?
We’re both big sci-fi fans. I’m a huge sci-fi fan and when you watch movies constantly, you can’t help but have them influence you. So yeah, there’s lots. I don’t know if there are specific elements that are supposed to be. Angus would probably be better at answering about a specific element. But we were certainly influenced by all the design aesthetics of these films, and you know, certain scenes that evoke an emotion stick with you. And it’s as much how you remember it as how it actually was in the film. But Angus, I don’t know, was there a specific thing for you? – Galyn Susman
There are very few specific things. For legal reasons, of course, you’re not, like, let’s make this exact thing. There are some completely legally cleared, and very obvious referential stuff to my favorite movie, Aliens, by James Cameron. There is a bunch of that in the movie that will be for the deep nerds. But I think that, in general, I don’t want to remind the audience of a better movie. And so, when you make the film, and if you have a reference, or you have some sort of thing that reminds people, go, “Oh, yeah, that’s like Star…” You know, if you have something that’s so obvious like that, it can pull them out of the movie. And my goal was not a parody, but satire, but rather the feeling of that. I wanted the audience to have the feeling at the end of it, like, “Oh, I’ve gone on this fun space adventure.” For all of the genre films that are made today, one of the things that often is sidelined is the sense of momentum that we’ve felt from some of the earlier films. And so, momentum and just sort of fun and-and a-and-and a ride, even though that-that word has negative connotations, is really what my goal was. So I would say for sci-fi fans, like, even saying like, “Oh, the AI is like HAL from 2001,” that was never meant to be like, “Oh, that’s like HAL.” It was just more like I wanted a simple robot.
4. Are you anxious to find out what audiences think about Lightyear?
Absolutely. From my perspective, I just really want people to come out and say, “Wow, that was fun.” Like, I want people to be able to lose themselves for 90 minutes. That’s all. Just go in and immerse. – Galyn Susman
The world of cinema is a lot different than it was when we started. Mostly because of COVID, whatever small part we can do to encourage people to go and support theaters is something that was really important to me. The IMAX of it came really early, where I was like, “Can we just do this? That would be awesome.” Like, again, that is an awesome threshold. It would be awesome to have an IMAX. And I brought it to Jim Morris, who is the president of the company. I believe that is his official title. He’s my boss. I brought it to my boss and he has such a rich history of working on so many movies, so he was like, “Yes, I totally get what that is.” And the love for film, and for cinema, and the theatrical experience is so much about what the movie is because that’s the way that we saw these movies originally. So, that’s what I wanted to pass on and whatever we can do to help those theaters, and to have the shared experience is really something I’m really looking forward to. – Angus MacLane
5. Does Lightyear has a nostalgia factor for those who grew up watching the Toy Story films?
I wanted the whole film to be about nostalgia from a certain point of view because that’s where I was coming from. It was a bit of nostalgia, but then also trying to figure out how to move forward to create something new. And that’s kind of what I was saying about what I was worried about with connecting it to the Toy Story universe is having that be a departure point, but then trying to make a new story out of it that would feel classic, and a combination of those things. Movies take so long to make, so, as filmmakers, we’re always trying to find the universal truths in them. And I think that the value of Toy Story is the characters and the messages that we can relate to. Toy Story was the first animated-CG animated film, and I think that if it didn’t have such a strong story, it might not have been as recognized as it was.
As far as will it relate to those who grew up with these films? The only thing you can do, because these movies take so long, you have to kind of make the movie for yourself. And what would we be excited about? That’s what we’ve always done our whole time here at Pixar is go, “What would we be excited about?” And that you can’t chase an audience. Because when they start making the movie for some kids, those kids are gonna grow up. So you need to [LAUGH] really go for universality and write stuff that cracks you up. That’s the way, Jason, the screenwriter, and I would just work together on finding what’s the funniest thing we could do. What’s the weirdest thing? Like, we would always just try to crack each other up. And if stuff kept us laughing, then we knew it was worth keeping in the movie.
When you get close to the end of the movie, sometimes it’s really weird things, because you’ve seen it so much that you forget. You’re like, “Yeah space flight, that’s fine.” And then there would be some sort of small detail that maybe came in late, that will crack you up. For me, it’s when Burnside comes into the office. When he’s moving in. That scene always cracks me up. It’s such a small thing but the indelicacy of that moment, is very much, like, the idea of how the individual is always valued less and less by the corporation as time moves on. Like, it’s the nature, the devaluing of the individual, and how the only thing you have are those collected relationships. And that’s all you’ll ever have. And Buzz doesn’t recognize that at that point. And that’s meant to be a visual interruption from the thing that’s lost. So, I think it’s funny. We played with how much time should we give him to mourn? He’s wiping away a tear. Should we cut more time out of that? And so it was really an editing job of what’s the funniest interruption of the sad moment. [LAUGH] – Angus MacLane
6. Who is your favorite character in Lightyear?
“I have to admit it, Darby. For me, it’s Darby because I’m a borderline old curmudgeon. Right? I want to do old curmudgeon as well as she does old curmudgeon.” – Galyn Susman
Um, probably Socks. I don’t know. [LAUGH] I don’t know, it’s hard to pick. I mean, I really like Buzz but Socks gets the goofiest things to do that are so weird that Buzz can’t really get… you know? Yeah, he gets to type on a computer. It is hard to have a favorite. To me, it’s more like I’m proud of the work that everyone did, and all of the collective of it. Like, as Buzz recognizes the value of the group, that’s what I think all the characters are kind of independent of each other. And so it’s hard to imagine one without the other because that’s partially why that makes them work. Darby wouldn’t work independently on her own without the way that Mo reacts to her or Izzy. So I think they all have their virtues. And I enjoyed aspects of each of them since we’ve been with them so intimately for so long, they all have value. It’s hard to pick. Like you pick your favorite kid. You’re like, well, on one hand, I like this, and on the other hand, this. Oh, and the cat is funny. – Angus MacLane