There’s much confusion over Lightyear’s relationship to Toy Story, which Pixar might’ve avoided had the studio made Woody’s Roundup instead.
Any confusion surrounding Lightyear‘s premise could’ve been avoided had Pixar chosen the more natural Toy Story spinoff – the one and only Woody’s Roundup. In 1995’s Toy Story, Andy callously discarded his old cowboy doll for a shiny new Buzz Lightyear action figure, abandoning the wild west friend who never left his side. That’s apparently how Pixar views Buzz and Woody here in 2021 as well. After a quartet of successful Toy Story movies, Pixar is now taking its signature property in a wildly different direction with Lightyear, which stars Chris Evans as the swirly-chinned Space Ranger.
Pixar traditionally keeps its movie concepts straightforward, but Lightyear bucks that trend. Chris Evans initially described his Pixar debut as “the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on.” Many interpreted this as meaning Buzz was a real astronaut (within Toy Story‘s world) who later has action figures manufactured in his honor, but Lightyear‘s trailer confirms otherwise. The presence of aliens, Emperor Zurg, and futuristic space tech proves Lightyear is clearly drawing from Buzz’s in-universe Toy Story mythology. Angus MacLane (Lightyear director) sums up the premise as “what was the Buzz Lightyear movie Andy saw before he asked his mother for the action figure?” Nevertheless, a Pixar movie shouldn’t be this tricky to figure out.
Had Pixar looked beyond the flashing lights and whirring noises of Buzz Lightyear, they’d have seen a dusty, one-armed cowboy perfect for the spinoff treatment. Toy Story 2 revealed Woody was once the star of “Woody’s Roundup” – a classic weekly western also featuring Jessie the Cowgirl, Bullseye, and of course, Stinky Pete. In Toy Story‘s universe, each episode of this cancelled TV show saw Woody save the day, and Andy’s doll was part of the tie-in merchandise line. Lightyear is essentially Buzz’s version of “Woody’s Roundup,” but because Toy Story 2 already introduced “Woody’s Roundup” as a show-within-a-movie, the relationship is much easier to grasp. If Pixar was intent on a genre spinoff starring a beloved Toy Story character, surely a Woody’s Roundup animated western was the obvious choice.
Lightyear‘s conceptual ambiguity makes Pixar’s reluctance to let go of Toy Story all the more obvious. Lightyear boasts a fascinating sci-fi world rendered in predictably stunning animation. There’s a dusty visual intrigue reminiscent of WALL-E, and if the semi-connection to Toy Story was removed, this could truly become animation’s answer Star Wars. Lightyear (obviously under a different title) could’ve starred a totally original hero without any franchise baggage, who’d lead Pixar into the realm of sci-fi and possibly instigate a whole new franchise for the studio. The muddled link to Toy Story is, arguably, a hindrance to this.
Watching Buzz get his own gritty solo movie, Woody is most likely having flashbacks to “the shelf.” Fortunately, all is not lost for everybody’s favorite toy cowboy. Regardless of how Lightyear is received, there’s plenty of space for Pixar on both the big screen and streaming, and with more esoteric Toy Story ideas now coming to fruition, it’s surely only a matter of time until Woody’s Roundup happens as either a feature-length movie in the Lightyear mold (but sans confusion), or a Disney+ series. If and when Disney pulls the trigger on Woody’s Roundup, the Toy Story relation will be both simpler to understand, and easier to justify… and there’s a great theme song ready and waiting.
More: Lightyear Trailer Breakdown: 21 Story Reveals & Pixar Easter Eggs
- Lightyear (2022)Release date: Jun 17, 2022
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