A Little Love for ‘Lightyear’

I’ve seen Lightyear twice in the theater now, and even though I’m pretty much over the whole public fandom thing, I thought I’d write a little about it before I sign off this blog for the foreseeable future. I want to put some positivity out there about the movie, which it most definitely deserves.

I’ve been excited about Lightyear ever since it was first announced back in 2020. The Toy Story Toon Small Fry and Toy Story of Terror television special – two of my absolute favorites in the entire Toy Story franchise – were both also directed by Angus MacLane and produced by Galyn Susman, so I knew Lightyear was in good hands. I’ve followed news about it, bought lots of merch, and supported the movie all through the (unnecessary and petty) controversies of Chris Evans voicing Buzz and the inclusion of a kiss shared between Buzz’s partner Alisha and her wife. It’s been really disheartening seeing just how ugly people can get over things that really shouldn’t be an issue, but I wasn’t going to let the haters keep me from enjoying a new Toy Story-related film.

First off, if you haven’t seen Lightyear yet, this isn’t completely spoiler-free. And I’d also like to point out that I’m not a film critic. I don’t have any profound analysis on cinematography, storytelling, or animation methods to share. In fact, I’ve struggled with writing at all in the past year or so – the pandemic really did a number on my creativity. So I can only speak simply, as someone who has loved the Toy Story characters for a long time, and is always happy to get to spend more time with them.

My family and I went to the Andy Experience preview showing the Wednesday before Lightyear’s official opening. Of course, we thoroughly enjoyed everything about it! We got wrapped up in the story. We laughed at all the references to the classic Toy Story movies, as well as the humor with the new characters. And my husband picked up on all the nods to ’70s and ’80s sci-fi, too. As soon as it was over, we were ready to watch it again, so we went back over the long holiday weekend. It was just as fun the second time around.

Print that we received at the Andy Experience.*

Buzz has always been a favorite of mine, so probably what I liked most about Lightyear was that he was the focus of practically the entire movie. After his reduced role in Toy Story 4, in a way Lightyear made up for that a little. There was something so satisfying about getting to see him as a human, with hair, wearing regular clothes, sleeping and eating and just being a normal guy. But it was also great being able to become better acquainted with him, and gaining an added depth to his character. He has such a good heart, and I love him for it. I know it’s a totally different Buzz from the one we all know and love as a toy (Chris Evans did an excellent job, by the way). But even though their life experiences are vastly different, I imagine toy Buzz still shares many of the same fundamental values and traits as the Buzz we see in Lightyear. And who knew Buzz with a pet cat was something we absolutely needed in our lives?

Speaking of that, the new characters were fantastic, too. I completely fell in love with Sox – how can you not? He’s just too cute and endearing (especially in his little Space Ranger suit at the end). I wish we had a little more time to spend with Alisha, to get to know her and her family better. It was great watching Buzz’s team – Izzy, Mo, and Darby – come together and grow in confidence throughout the film. And that Zurg plot twist – whoa! Even though I’d read the books beforehand, I didn’t see it coming at all. I don’t quite understand the whole time travel thing with Zurg, but that’s okay, time travel tends to confuse me in general. That doesn’t mean I can’t still appreciate the story – and the message of letting go of past mistakes and not letting them fill you with anger and regret, so you can find your place and your people.

I also really liked getting to finally see the world of Star Command – not the cartoony silliness of the old Buzz Lightyear of Star Command series, but a truly fleshed-out and realistic base, all beautifully animated. And it was so cool watching Buzz in action, in his element, flying ships like a badass and being the intelligent Space Ranger I know he is (that we didn’t really get to see in Toy Story 4). I flipped out at the end, when he and his team get the ship that looks like the toy box in the first movie – so awesome! The amount of detail in all of it – both visually and in the way iconic lines and details were seamlessly incorporated – is really incredible.

One of the best things, though, has been watching Lightyear with my 15-year-old son. The Toy Story gang has been such a huge part of his childhood – Toy Story 3 was his first theater experience – and it’s been so much fun sharing something with him that’s a super-cool action-adventure just perfect for the age he’s at. We’ve geeked out together as he caught all the movie references, and also over everything Sox. I feel like this film refreshes the Toy Story world for kids who might think they’ve “outgrown” the toy aspect a little bit – even though I know Toy Story is for all ages. Heck, look at me! I’ll never be too old to love it. But it’s nice to have a different perspective sometimes.

Now that Lightyear has been released, I’m gonna be going silent on this blog, at least for a while. With nothing new Toy Story on the horizon (I really don’t count the restaurant at Walt Disney World that’s been “coming soon” for years now), there’s not much of anything for me to write about. The internet has become too much of a battleground, anyway. I’ll still be on Instagram (@yodelincowgirl), posting now and then. And should there be something new with the toys someday, I’ll decide if I want to revisit blogging. But I might just let everyone else deal with the drama next time around.

Images © Disney/Pixar.

*The people online who are offended that the aliens are in this image really need to shut up already. It’s called artistic license. It’s just a cute poster that was given out as a free gift, not the definitive depiction of the exact moment Andy witnessed Buzz for the first time. Would he have really gone to the theater without his mom or a friend, and taken a crap ton of toys with him? Come on now. It’s nonsense like this that’s why I just can’t do this anymore.