Pixar’s Lightyear is about to hit theaters, bringing an action-packed space adventure to the big screen. The movie stars the voice talents of Chris Evans as astronaut Buzz Lightyear and his best friend and partner, Commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), who set off into space. Their mission is to scout a potentially habitable planet for their spaceship full of cryogenically frozen humans. The planet, however, turns out to be hostile and when Buzz and his crew try to escape, their rocket is damaged.

While everyone else makes their peace with their new reality and new world, Buzz still attempts to fix his rocket, testing out various fuels that might reach hyperspace. After returning from one of these trips, he discovers the planet has been taken over by the evil Emperor Zurg (James Brolin) and his army of robots. It’s up to Buzz Lightyear, his robot cat, Sox, and a team of plucky recruits to save humanity.

Lightyear deals with some surprisingly heady sci-fi themes: time travel, existentialism, grappling with our own shortcomings, and the passage of time, among others. Still, it clearly owes its DNA to the Toy Story movies, with its characters and themes anchored firmly in Pixar’s flagship film. Audiences might be forgiven for being a little confused about the place Lightyear holds in the Pixar universe. Here’s what to know.

Is The Buzz Lightyear Toy Based On The Astronaut In ‘Lightyear’?

In reality, Buzz Lightyear is named for real-life astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, who was part of the Apollo 11 mission to be the first people to walk on the moon. In Pixar’s universe, however, Lightyear‘s astronaut Buzz Lightyear is indeed the character that the Toy Story franchise’s Buzz Lightyear toy, voiced by Tim Allen, is based on. So in the Pixar timeline, Lightyear takes place before Toy Story. It also explains the Buzz Lightyear toy’s backstory, like why Emperor Zurg is his archnemesis and why Buzz has a penchant for thinking he’s in charge.

So This Buzz Lightyear Is A Real Person In The Pixar Universe?

The toy being based on Lightyear‘s astronaut may easily lead one to believe that that means Lightyear‘s Buzz Lightyear is a real person in the Pixar universe, like Toy Story‘s Andy or his mom. Initially, that was the case, with Chris Evans himself even tweeting that concept in 2020. “And just to be clear, this isn’t Buzz Lightyear the toy. This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on,” he explained.

But through development, that changed. The result is that Lightyear offers one more twist: It’s not a biopic about a “real” Pixar character, but a fictional movie set within the fictional Pixar universe. Lightyear opens up with text explaining that this is the movie that Toy Story‘s Andy saw in 1995 that made him want to get a Buzz Lightyear toy. Director Angus MacLane was inspired by his own experience of watching Star Wars as a kid, explaining that from the moment he saw Star Wars in 1977, “all I wanted to play and draw was Star Wars. Star Wars was my religion, and it was only the beginning of a string of sci-fi classics that defined my childhood.” (via Animation Magazine) As a Pixar veteran of 25 years, MacLane had always wondered what movie the Buzz Lightyear toy was from and figured, why couldn’t they just make that movie? And thus, the concept of Lightyear was born.

Wait, Why Doesn’t Andy Have Sox Or Any Other Toys From ‘Lightyear’?

Unfortunately, Lightyear being made decades after the first Toy Story means there are bound to be some logical inconsistencies. The most pressing question people may be wondering is why, then, did Andy not have any other toys from the Lightyear movie? This is especially pertinent to Sox the robot cat, Buzz Lightyear’s best friend and companion, a toy Andy would have been sure to want.

But MacLane has an in-universe explanation for that, too, as it turns out, one that any parent who tried to get Tickle Me Elmo in 1996 will understand. “Andy’s mom couldn’t get it. It was sold out everywhere. It would have been kind of a fancy seventy-dollar toy.” Even that’s tied to his own experience with Star Wars, he explained. “I never had the AT-AT, that was what I wanted, but [a kid] had it and they didn’t even appreciate it,” he laughed. (via With Ashley and Company)

This means that somewhere out there in the Toy Story universe, there are kids with toys and action figures of Sox and even Hawthorne. If a Toy Story 5 ever happens, maybe we’ll get to see their toys, too. For now, though, Lightyear packs all the fun and adventure a kid could ever want into a Pixar movie. When it hits theaters on June 17, audiences can go to infinity…and beyond!

Get tickets to Lightyear.

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