How Star Wars and Other 1970s Sci-Fi Movies Became Lightyear's Biggest Influences

Lightyear, the next film from Pixar Animation Studios, is obviously based on the beloved character from the Toy Story franchise. Other than being a Pixar movie, however, Lightyear is nothing like Toy Story. This new film is Pixar’s first true sci-fi action blockbuster. In fact, the film’s biggest influence didn’t necessarily come from the Toy Story franchise before it. Yes, Toy Story laid the groundwork for the Buzz Lightyear character, but it was actually the sci-fi films of the 1970s that provided the backbone for what director Angus MacLane wanted Lightyear to be.

MacLane, like many kids growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, had his entire life changed when he saw Star Wars for the first time. The concept of that type of influential sci-fi film became the basis for Lightyear. This movie is to Andy what Star Wars was to MacLane and countless others. Naturally, films like Star Wars became the starting point for Lightyear.

“After I saw Star Wars, all I wanted to play was Star Wars. All I wanted draw was Star Wars. Star Wars was my religion,” MacLane said during a recent press conference. “And it lasted for years. But Star Wars was-is only the beginning of a string of sci-fi classics that defined my childhood.

“It seemed like every year there was another genre defining classic. And then, in 1995, I saw another film that changed my life: Toy Story. Now you remember in Toy Story, Andy had a birthday party. His favorite gift was a character that he loved, Buzz Lightyear the Space Ranger. And it was a toy that would redefine playtime for Andy. And I’ve always wondered what movie was Buzz from, you know? Why couldn’t we just make that movie? So that’s what we did. Presenting Lightyear as the movie that Andy saw that changed his life. Andy’s Star Wars. A sci-fi epic designed to inspire a new generation.”

Greg Peltz, Lightyear‘s sets art director, spoke to about bringing that 1970s sci-fi feel to a Pixar animated movie, and how the team utilized the settings to bring MacLane’s vision to life.

“I think from early on, before we knew the movie that we were going to make, or what it was going to look like, you kind of have a blank slate in a way. You have Buzz Lightyear over here, the toy that you know, but it’s like, ‘What does that world look like,'” Peltz told us. “And so I think it was early on, as you learn what Angus wants to make, as soon as Angus was leading us down the path of, ‘I want to make a very cinematic movie. I want to make a very sci-fi, in capital letters, kind of film.’ And I think that was when we were like, ‘Oh, okay. This is fun because it’s not what I would’ve necessarily been expecting when I first started working on the film.’ But I love it, right? I love that look and that kind of world. And that means that audiences are not going to be really anticipating that either.”

“I thought that that was really exciting, that we’re going to be able to reimagine this character through a new lens that we’re all jazzed about, and it’ll be something that people will see and be like, ‘Oh! Okay. That’s new and different and not what I expected, but I think I like it,'” Peltz continued. “And then once we got into actually designing, Angus is very inspired by film and classic sci-fi. We obviously are also just fans of NASA and just real-world aerospace. There was a lot of that flavor that we were excited about infusing into this world. As opposed to kind of a pulpy, more comic book-based world, we wanted something that had a little bit of flavor of real life but just more fantastic. And then, from there, it was just figuring out, ‘Okay, what’s the look of our world going to be?'”

Lightyear arrives in theaters everywhere on June 17th.


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