"Lightyear" Legit Talkback Thread (Spoilers and Toy Story connection theories welcome)

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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We need one of these to discuss the movie in-depth without spoilers tags. Me first.

Lightyear

I think we might have a lot to talk about. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Let's find out.

In our last installment of "Matt reviews the Latest Pixar offering and finds it lacking" (an ongoing written chronicle that briefly, and I'm sure quite coincidentally, stopped publishing around the time of Luca's release) I mentioned two things about Turning Red. The first was that I absolutely hated that film and everything about it. The second was I was positive my opinion was going to be an outlier and extremely unpopular, and that everyone else, (particularly the little girls the film was targeting) would go ape for it. I was definitely right on the second thing.

Because Lightyear did not debut on Disney+, however, I saw it months later after general audiences rendered its lukewarm verdict via disappointing box office returns and tepid reviews. Like Turning Red, I can say two definite things about the film from the outset. First is that it's not terrible and I liked it a HELL of a lot more than I liked Turning Red. The second is that I can easily see why everyone else was put off by it. Make no mistake. I was too, on a very real level. The difference is I think people have been looking at the movie wrong. And the hell of it is I think the movie was looking at ITSELF wrong, which certainly didn't help matters.

People (and the producers) were looking at this as an origin story for Buzz Lightyear. From the opening subtitled sentences of the film I knew that was absolutely wrong, and that movie was both bigger AND smaller than both the filmmakers and audiences were claiming. What this movie is, and SHOULD have been, is a great sci-fi movie from the 1990's that moved a kid named Andy so much he was obsessed with getting a Buzz Lightyear action figure for his birthday. As an origin story for Buzz Lightyear it's serviceable. As an explanation for why Andy was so crazy for that character, it doesn't freaking work.

And I wanted it to. I loved much of the idea. The thing about the movie I loved (and I would have loved the movie more if it had more fully explored this) is the questions it raised to me about the Toy Story Universe. Buzz says "You are mocking me," to Hawthorne Senior. I did not interpret that as simply a tip of the hat to Toy Story. My messy brain was suddenly going into overdrive in trying to figure out how it was RELATED to Toy Story instead. Obviously that line was not one of Buzz's talking toy catchphrases. But maybe the toy says it to Woody because his personality is imprinted from the movie (and like most talking toys the voice of the toy isn't the actual actor in the movie). If that's so, how much of that is imprinted in all the Buzzes? And why did that not seem to happen for the Woody's Round-Up character toys? You see what attracted me to this concept, right? It's adding mystery and fuel to the fire of how the always inexplicable Toy Story Universe works, which is totally my wheelhouse and jam. Similarly pleasurable is realizing one of the characters is essentially a sentient toy cat, while none of the movie's actors or directors are aware that they all actually exist in the same world as real live living toys that come to life when no-one is watching them. I like thinking that when the lights on the Lightyear set dim for the night, and the teamsters go home, the mechanical Socks stand-in goes an actual adventures of his own every night. Did I mention the filmmakers didn't really understand this movie? I admit that to avoid spoilers I haven't been reading reviews TOO closely, but if anyone else brought that neat idea up, I'd be surprised. People don't view this movie as a Toy Story puzzle piece, and as a sci-fi adventure instead.

My problem with the movie is that at a certain point it stopped being a Toy Story related mystery, and becomes a Toy Story related plothole conundrum and headache. I don't care if this movie is a great sci-fi movie. I don't care if it's a great origin story for Buzz Lightyear. Although it's truthfully neither. What I care about is that it's believable to me that a young boy saw it in the mid-1990's and fell in love with it. And that it was so popular among kids back then that it started its own brand of mega merchandising fad on par with Star Wars. That was what I was looking for after that amazing opening sentence. The movie did not deliver there. At all. I'm going to wind up giving the film a very generous two and a half stars as a fair to middling movie. But it's not the amazing 90's defining sci-fi movie that blew Andy's mind that it needed to be.

Let's talk about its problems there, and pretty much nothing else besides them, because nothing else matters to me. I'm weird. First of all, it didn't feel like a movie from the 1990's. The way the characters spoke was very modern, and even back in Toy Story's day dialogue in films, even straight sci-fi films, was very arch. It also had a couple of tags at the end, which was completely unheard of for sci-fi movies back then. Grandma Hawthorne being married to a woman does not raise eyebrows in 2022, but no sci-fi film that kids could watch would do that in the 1990's.

So me being me, I wrestled with the conundrum, and tried to think of ways to make it fit. I see a mistake attached to a franchise I like, often my first instinct is to try and make it fit in my headcanon even if it's clearly a mistake on the creator's end. So I was up to the challenge. Maybe the answer is Toy Story takes place in 2022, and Andy's favorite movie is very much of the proper era. But that didn't satisfy my headcanon either. I'm thinking Woody's Round-Up in Toy Story 2 very firmly sets those proceedings around the 1990's (although I could be wrong because it's been awhile since I've seen it). Didn't work for me.

And the tone of the movie isn't just problematic because it's modern. I think back in the 90's kids preferred stuff like Star Wars because it took things seriously. This is clearly a family comedy along with every cliche Pixar bit that is in every single one of their films. Zurg being a future Buzz is morally gray and super interesting, and also something that would turn off little kids. Little kids like having Luke Skywalker fight Darth Vader. Even though Vader has a personal connection to Luke, his actions are clearly and unambiguously evil and wrong, so kids can root against him and cheer on Luke. The problem with Zurg is that while his goals are morally wrong and selfish, the truth is they aren't actually evil, much less criminal. Buzz's entire conflict with Zurg boils down to an ethical debate. That's Star Trek, not Star Wars. Little kids HATE Star Trek, or at least they did in the 1990's. I wanted this movie to make me believe Andy got obsessed with Buzz Lightyear, and instead its relatively mature tone conflicts with both the comedy, the ambiguous sci-fi plot, and the modern sensibilities. I can believe a little kid could see this specific movie and like it. But be obsessed with it? Buying all the toys and having themed birthday parties around it? No way! And I don't give a crap about the origin story for Buzz Lightyear, because as of the opening subtitles, that's not remotely what the film is supposed to be about. And it's like not even the producers understood that.

The movie itself is all right. But its goal (to me at least) was to make Andy's Buzz Lightyear obsession, not just plausible, or even believable, but totally understandable. No way does this movie do that idea justice. It's all right as a movie itself. As a movie that is supposedly a little boy in the 1990's favorite movie of all time? No way in hell. Him being into a lousy cartoon like Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command instead is far more plausible. How messed up is that? **1/2.
 

Pooky

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I think people have been looking at the movie wrong... People (and the producers) were looking at this as an origin story for Buzz Lightyear. From the opening subtitled sentences of the film I knew that was absolutely wrong, and that movie was both bigger AND smaller than both the filmmakers and audiences were claiming. What this movie is, and SHOULD have been, is a great sci-fi movie from the 1990's that moved a kid named Andy so much he was obsessed with getting a Buzz Lightyear action figure for his birthday.

People were very aware this was meant to be the film was meant to be the film Andy saw in 1995 that got him obsessed with Buzz Lightyear. Maybe not everyone but people who paid attention to the marketing were certainly aware, this was emphasised again and again, culminating in screenings that were called "The Andy Experience" and this truly baffling promotional image. And there were certainly a lot of comments when they film came out that it that it felt nothing like a 1995 movie. In my opinion this is a big reason why that film underperformed; it's a not particularly appealing angle that was difficult to explain, but they kept doubling down on it.

Little kids HATE Star Trek, or at least they did in the 1990's.

Not all of us ;)
 

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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People were very aware this was meant to be the film was meant to be the film Andy saw in 1995 that got him obsessed with Buzz Lightyear. Maybe not everyone but people who paid attention to the marketing were certainly aware, this was emphasised again and again, culminating in screenings that were called "The Andy Experience" and this truly baffling promotional image. And there were certainly a lot of comments when they film came out that it that it felt nothing like a 1995 movie. In my opinion this is a big reason why that film underperformed; it's a not particularly appealing angle that was difficult to explain, but they kept doubling down on it.



Not all of us ;)
That's what happens when I skip reviews to miss spoilers. If that is so, the movie is an even bigger failure than I said it was.
 

Classic Speedy

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More and more I'm thinking that Pixar shouldn't have included that prologue text and just presented this as a standalone film spun off from the toy (versus the other way around), it would've saved a lot of audience mind screw.
 

Dr.Pepper

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Even though I liked the movie for what it was, I do have a few problems with it. I agree that it does not feel like a movie that would have been released in 1995, let alone one that a young kid would love so much he got obsessed. There is no way they would blatantly put a gay couple in a toyetic kid movie ~30 years ago. It also begs the question why is there no toys of Sox in the Toy Story movies, even though he’s the most marketable character (and yeah I know it’s because the character hasn’t been invented yet, but what’s a good in-universe reason). In my head canon, this film is a modern remake of something from the ‘90’s.

Also is it just me or does Pixar have a new trend of shoehorning in cats and/or gruff old ladies with gender neutral names leading to a lot of viewer gender confusion?
 

AdrenalineRush1996

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I saw Lightyear back in June and I enjoyed it, though I do understand why it divided longtime fans of the character and the overall Toy Story franchise.
 

zakawer2

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If I am correct, then within the Toy Story universe, this film (which may be animated to us, but is live-action within the Toy Story universe) is the very first entry within the in-universe Buzz Lightyear franchise. The Buzz Lightyear and Zurg toys we see in the Toy Story films aren't directly based off of this film, but rather on Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, which within the Toy Story universe is a Saturday morning cartoon based off of the Lightyear film. Even the Buzz Lightyear video game we see in Toy Story 2 is based off of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command rather than Lightyear. This is because whereas Lightyear within the Toy Story universe is more aimed at general audiences (but remains relatively family-friendly), Buzz Lightyear of Star Command within the Toy Story universe is explicitly a cheesy children's cartoon. All this explains why the Buzz we see in Toy Story is more bombastic and hammy—he is literally based off of the cheesy Buzz from that silly cartoon and not the original, more realistic and nuanced "live-action" Buzz.

Since Lightyear is a film that exists within the Toy Story universe and forms part of the fictional in-universe Buzz Lightyear franchise, perhaps it would've made much more sense to just release the entire movie exclusively on Disney+ instead, rather than releasing it in movie theaters before dropping it on Disney+. Many theater-goers simply don't get what it actually is supposed to be, which contributed to the film's subpar box office performance.

Now that the film is officially out on Disney+, I think it's probably already doing much better on streaming than it did on the big screen—it's already number one on D+'s Trending section in most countries where Disney+ is available (not including Arab countries, where the film is straight-up unavailable; France, where an infamous law prevents it from being released on Disney+ for a long time; and Turkey, where the film won't be released until a few more months have passed due to legal restrictions).
 
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Pooky

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So I've talked quite a bit about the how baffling and misguided I thought the marketing was, but what did I think about the actual film?

I was pleasantly surprised; it's fun. It doesn't really feel like a film from 1995 (or 1986, or whenever they finally decided this was supposed to have been made), but it does have more of a 20th century pulp feel than I expected from the trailers or the reviews (good and bad). I think the first half is mostly more fun than the second, which starts inching towards a mediocre climax and an inevitable and overfamiliar moral, but it zips along at a pleasant pace that kept me engaged.

Sox always seemed to me to be a very calculated attempt at a breakout character that influencers had been coaxed for months beforehand to say was the "surprise star of the show!". In the final film he's OK. I don't think I found him as funny or endearing as I was supposed to, but he wasn't annoying either. The other characters were fine, not hugely memorable or well defined, but fine. I'm one of the people who finds Taika Waititi's public persona pretty grating, but his character here was OK.

I don't think it's a new classic, but I do think the worst thing about it was the marketing campaign. Although I've already watched this, whereas I still haven't gotten around to watching Turning Red or Luca, or for that matter Encanto or Raya so I guess it worked on me in a roundabout way.

If I am correct, then within the Toy Story universe, this film (which may be animated to us, but is live-action within the Toy Story universe) is the very first entry within the in-universe Buzz Lightyear franchise. The Buzz Lightyear and Zurg toys we see in the Toy Story films aren't directly based off of this film, but rather on Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, which within the Toy Story universe is a Saturday morning cartoon based off of the Lightyear film. Even the Buzz Lightyear video game we see in Toy Story 2 is based off of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command rather than Lightyear. This is because whereas Lightyear within the Toy Story universe is more aimed at general audiences (but remains relatively family-friendly), Buzz Lightyear of Star Command within the Toy Story universe is explicitly a cheesy children's cartoon. All this explains why the Buzz we see in Toy Story is more bombastic and hammy—he is literally based off of the cheesy Buzz from that silly cartoon and not the original, more realistic and nuanced "live-action" Buzz.

Shortly before the film came out the director said that in his mind the film was from around 1986(?!) and that by the time Andy got into the franchise there were toys based on a "Real Ghostbusters-style" cartoon spin-off of the film, but that Andy probably saw the film on VHS...none of which you would ever guess from the opening crawl and which is seemingly contradicted by some of the other marketing, a good example of why they should have pivoted away from this angle, instead of sticking to it stubbornly all the way up to release and making it far more confusing.
 

Classic Speedy

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Shortly before the film came out the director said that in his mind the film was from around 1986(?!) and that by the time Andy got into the franchise there were toys based on a "Real Ghostbusters-style" cartoon spin-off of the film, but that Andy probably saw the film on VHS...none of which you would ever guess from the opening crawl and which is seemingly contradicted by some of the other marketing, a good example of why they should have pivoted away from this angle, instead of sticking to it stubbornly all the way up to release and making it far more confusing.
...Are they trying to drive us insane by all these retcons and mind screws?

Pixar people, it's okay, we would've accepted a Lightyear movie without "This was made in 1995 or 1986". Y'know what, screw it. In my head canon, this was a spin-off movie from the Toy Story toy. The opening text and outside-film comments don't exist.
 

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