While the mere utterance of the words “Toy Story Spin-off” can send dollar signs spinning in the eyes of Disney Pixar shareholders, the trailer release for Lightyear, the upcoming Buzz Lightyear spin-off prequel-of-sorts has been met with just as much confusion as adoration. The first trailer quickly became Pixar’s second largest trailer release behind The Incredibles 2, and with 83 million views in the first 24 hours surpassed Marvel’s Eternals trailer’s 77 million views with ease.
Some people have already questioned the new movie as the spin-off of choice from the Toy Story franchise, as it doesn’t instantly play to the core audience of the flagship series and pretty much every other successful offshoot created so far, and for what it’s worth, their skepticism could prove to be right as despite it being destined to make Disney another chunk of change at the box office, it’s been hard to explain exactly what the movie is about as it is a long more “real”.
While Buzz Lightyear has already has a spin-off movie in Buzz Lightyear of Space Command, this time around the movie isn’t about a toy, or the character of the toy, or the series featuring the character of the toy. In Lightyear, we get to see “the real Buzz Lightyear” that toy Buzz Lightyear believed he was back in 1995’s Toy Story. So that would allude to Buzz Lightyear, the real one and not the toy, being a real life space astronaut who does something heroic enough to warrant the toy Buzz Lightyear being created to honor him. Except, from the trailer there are enough Toy Story references around space tech, aliens and his in-world Toy Story nemesis/”Father” Emperor Zurg to show that this is probably not the case either. See, and you thought it was going to be complicated.
As it is, Lightyear director Angus MacLane at least has a tagline he can drag out when asked to explain what the movie actually it, which runs like this. “What was the Buzz Lightyear movie Andy saw before he asked his mother for the action figure?” Which now means we have a movie about a fictional character, who is then made into a toy line. Finally, we get to the crux of it, and with that come back to the question of whether we need the movie at all and if Pixar maybe would have been better off giving Woody his first spin-off instead, which if nothing else would have been much less ambiguous to describe if they had simply made a full series or movie of the Woody’s Round-Up show seen in Toy Story 2, which would have had more familiarity and kept things close to the main Toy Story Universe.
It could simply be a case that Woody’s Round-Up as a movie wouldn’t seem as exciting as a Buzz Lightyear space adventure, and there is little doubt that we will likely see something based on Woody’s origin show sometime in the future. For now though, we have a movie featuring an unfamiliar Buzz Lightyear – because of course this “real” Buzz doesn’t have four films of character development behind him – in an unfamiliar world littered with Easter eggs for those who like that kind of thing, but what about all those expecting a Toy Story movie? Potentially, there are going to be a lot of people disappointed when the film turns out to be a mostly unrelated movie, with a bunch of visual Toy Story references, the biggest being its lead, tacked to it in order to make it seem like a Toy Story movie.
From what we know now, Lightyear is Pixar’s Toy Story equivalent of most cartoons of the 80s – it requires you to put yourself in the place of a child like Andy in Toy Story, and imagine, as you watch, that you are a child watching a movie that will make you want to run to your parents and ask for the new toy they just released based on it. It’s quite a deep ask for a primary audience of children and therefore as a concept will be lost in translation. Instead, it is more likely that audiences are going to be split between those who go to enjoy an animated sci-fi adventure that just happens to feature a hero who looks, but doesn’t sound, like Buzz Lightyear, and those expecting something a lot more Toy Story-like in tone than they are going to get.
This story was inspired by a report from Screen Rant.