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Interview: The Crew of Disney Pixar’s Lightyear

Directed by Angus MacLane, Lightyear follows a space ranger on a galaxy-filled adventure. To complete his mission, the space ranger needs a little help from his passionate recruits and his robot companion, Sox.

This sci-fi movie explores the origin of the hero Buzz Lightyear that makes his appearance in the Toy Story Franchise as Andy’s favorite toy. Lightyear is an inspiring yet nostalgic adventure worth going on.

Watch Lightyear in theaters on June 17th!

Here is the scoop on the crew of Lightyear that helped to develop the storyline and the animation!

lightyear movie poster
© 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Lightyear Crew

Angus MacLane juggles many types of roles in the entertainment industry including, director, screenwriter, animator, and even voice actor. His major works range from short films to acclaimed works like Finding Dory. In Lightyear, he is the screenwriter behind the film. I promise you won’t find anyone nearly as obsessed with Legos as MacLane.

Galyn Susman is a producer who has worked on projects that every Disney and Pixar fan has come to love. Galyn is known for her work in Ratatouille, Up, and Finding Nemo. For the Lightyear movie, she works closely with Angus MacLane.

Greg Peltz is the art director behind the set of the movie. In addition to his role in Lightyear, he has also contributed to visual effects in other popular Disney Pixar films including Incredibles 2, Coco, Cars 2, and Inside Out.

Fran Kalal is a technical director at Pixar Animation Studios. Her role in the film is the digital tailoring and stimulation of the characters. Fran Kalal has also worked behind the scenes on Soul, Inside Out, Brave, and Up.

Jane Yen is the visual effects supervisor of Pixar Animation Studios. Besides her artistic talent in Lightyear, she has also been a part of the visual effects for Finding Nemo, Cars, and The Incredibles.

Jeremy Lasky is the director of photography as well as cinematographer for many Disney Pixar films. Lasky has also taken on past projects including Monsters, Inc, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, and Soul.

Buzz Lightyear Characteristics

buzz talking to himself
© 2021 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Angus points out the qualities of Buzz Lightyear from an animator’s point of view. “He’s a square character who takes himself very seriously. And he sees himself as kind of this action hero character. And I was always drawn to his straight man, square demeanor and his focus and how the comedy kind of derived from his over seriousness for the job.”

Angus reveals more of Lightyear’s characteristics, especially his beard by saying that “the chin is the kind of cartoon action hero of it. I think that that was the interesting thing for me about telling the movie is how do you take what is meant to be kind of a stereotype of this lantern-jawed hero and make it interesting for a feature.”

Storytelling Development

shooting robots
© 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Even though Lightyear is a sci-fi animated adventure, Disney Pixar manages to balance comedy and the other genres fairly well without losing the audiences’ interest. Angus says, “from the get-go, it was always meant to be an action film, first and foremost, that would have comedy in it through character.” Angus also touches on the emotional aspect of the film. “We found how much time you dwell on it, and how much time you kind of move on to the second act, was something we needed to figure out and chart.  Otherwise, it gets to be sad upon sad. And so that was really our balance.”

Galyn offers more insight into the pacing of the movie by revealing that “loss is an important part, but ultimately, the message of engaging with what you have in the present is not a sad message. And really getting to that act two where he is starting to be challenged by these new characters and engaging in a way that he hasn’t engaged in act one. You know, that’s where we needed to get there faster, just so it didn’t get too sad.”

Lesbian Couple

lightyear and his team
© 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Since Disney and Pixar have a massive audience worldwide, it comes as no surprise the growing diversity within the films. With Turning Red and even Encanto, we get a glimpse of the diversity between the scenery and the characters.

Galyn offers her thoughts on the kiss scene in Lightyear. She says that “we’ve always had the lesbian couple. They’ve always been a part of the film. Being able to put back the kiss was important to us. It’s a touching moment. It helps Buzz to see what it is about the life that’s being lived in front of him by his best friend that he’s not having. He doesn’t have those kinds of relationships. He doesn’t have a child.”

Creating a Pixar Film

rocket ship in space
© 2021 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

With most films, a lengthy process is to be expected when taking into account characters, design, and storyline. Lightyear is no different with the overall project taking about six years to complete. Galyn simplifies the process by revealing that the “process is that we write it, we board it, we put it up on reels, everybody hacks at it, and then you go back, and you do it again.”

Agnus adds that “we’re always evolving our stories up until. Even through production, which is what makes a producer absolutely nuts. It changed. It changed a lot. The core elements Buzz, hero, who Buzz is fundamentally, that was all the same. What will be his challenges? What is he gonna have to solve? That definitely changed multiple times.”

Toy Story Universe

lightyear and sox
© 2021 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Lightyear stems from the legendary Buzz Lightyear that Andy grew to love, but the film attempts to create its own universe. Agnus expresses his thoughts by revealing that “I just wanted to branch off and get away from the Toy Story universe, so that it exists on its own. If you remind the audience of it being a movie too much, then they stopped caring about the peril of the characters.”

Space Exploration

sox and lightyear in ship
© 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Even though Lightyear is an animated sci-fi film, there was a generous amount of research taking place and what better way to learn about space through NASA? Galyn briefly touches on her thoughts surrounding space in the film. “Well, they certainly tried. I don’t know if, you know, if you’re a real science person, you’ll note that science is a small S and a big F in the sci-fi universe in our world. But they’ve been extraordinarily helpful.”

Galyn knew the level of complexity in Lightyear and was able to contact Tom Marshburn to help along the way. She mentions that “we had to speak with the expert and get the sense of it. And since he’s had so many flights, he had a lot of personal experience to draw from. It’s really fascinating.”

Since Greg is the art director of the film, there is an effort to purposefully include certain aspects that makes Lightyear exciting for viewers. Greg mentions that “Real cockpits have all sorts of details that shake and rattle, lights that blink, buzzers that scream while the whole vehicle shakes like crazy. Basically, space launches are a violent, chaotic event, and we wanted the designs of our ships to highlight that sense of danger so that audiences can experience that excitement for themselves while they’re watching.” 

What Audiences Should Know

chris evans as lightyear
© 2021 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Based on Galyn and Agnus, there are definitely some elements trickled in throughout the film that will have space nerds excited. According to Galyn, “we were certainly influenced by all the design aesthetics of these films, and certain scenes that evoke an emotion that sticks with you.” Agnus ends by saying that the movie has “very obvious referential stuff to my favorite movie, Aliens, from James Cameron from 1986.”

Lightyear is nostalgic with exciting moments throughout. Even though the Toy Story Universe is a part of the origin story, this film brilliantly finds its own trajectory into another universe.

Watch Lightyear exclusively in theaters June 17th!

For the scoop on more Disney and Pixar movies, visit these:

lightyear crew interview

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