‘Lightyear’ Isn’t the First Time Disney Gave Buzz Lightyear His Own Movie

Since Pixar released Toy Story in 1995, the studio has maintained a mostly solid track record with its movies. Sure, Cars 2 and The Good Dinosaur might not have performed as well as Pixar’s more beloved films. But fans worried that 2022’s Lightyear would tarnish the Toy Story brand might need to brush up on their Pixar history. After all, the movie isn’t even the first time Disney gave Buzz Lightyear his own movie.

Chris Evans (right) poses next to a life-size Buzz Lightyear from the 2022 Pixar movie 'Lightyear.'
Buzz Lightyear and Chris Evans | David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage

‘Lightyear’ extends the ‘Toy Story’ series in a surprising way

Admittedly, Lightyear is an unexpected choice at this point in the Toy Story franchise. The film sees Chris Evans step in as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, who here is a real-life space ranger and not just a toy. The concept behind Lightyear is that this is the movie Andy saw as a young boy. It’s the reason why he is so excited when his mom gives him a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday in the original Toy Story.

But since the Toy Story franchise already expanded past the conclusive ending of Toy Story 3, fans might wonder why Pixar moved forward with Lightyear instead of just making a fifth installment. As it stands, Lightyear is the first time Tim Allen isn’t voicing Buzz Lightyear in a movie. But curiously, the new movie also retreads familiar ground, as its concept was already done more than 20 years ago. 

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It’s not the first time Buzz Lightyear led his own movie

In 2000, Walt Disney Television Animation launched a sci-fi adventure television series called Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. The show ran for just one season, during which it produced more than 60 episodes. The show follows Buzz — here voiced by Patrick Warburton — as he encounters various missions as a space ranger, including numerous confrontations with the Evil Emperor Zurg (voiced by Wayne Knight).

But before the series kicked off, Disney first released Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. The direct-to-video animated film not only serves as the show’s pilot but also features Allen in the lead role. In the introductory sequence, the gang from Toy Story excitedly puts the film on in Andy’s room, marveling at the fact that a Buzz Lightyear movie exists. Sound familiar?

Will ‘Lightyear’ mark a successful return to theaters for Pixar?

Lightyear might not break any new ground as far as Pixar storytelling goes, but it is gaining positive reviews so far. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie currently has an 76 percent rating. However, that puts it well below the four Toy Story movies. The big question is how well it will perform at the box office. The movie marks the first Pixar film to receive a theatrical release since Onward

That film — which features Evans’ Marvel co-stars Chris Pratt and Tom Holland — released in March 2020 and played in theaters briefly before being released digitally just weeks later. In the era of COVID-19, Soul, Luca, and Turning Red all debuted on Disney+ even when other Disney films got theatrical launches. Time will tell whether Lightyear can help Pixar reclaim its theatrical status.

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