Once Pixar decreed that “Lightyear” was the fourth entry in their critically acclaimed, hugely popular “Toy Story” franchise, the decision was to go not forward exactly but turn back to 1995 and tell a tale without any of those beloved toys.
“Lightyear” is the hit movie that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy voiced by Tim Allen (Tom Hanks did the pull toy Woody, a cowboy).
For this elaborately plotted space adventure, a human plays charismatic Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear with vocals by Boston’s own Chris Evans.
Why this starry switch with Evans instead of Allen?
“Tim voices the toy but we’re not making a ‘Toy Story’ movie,” co-writer-director Angus MacLane explained in a virtual global press conference last week.
“We’re making ‘Buzz Lightyear,’ separate from the toy in a live action, not an animated, film.
‘Lightyear’ is the movie Andy (the boy in the original ’95 ‘Toy Story’) saw that inspired him to get a Buzz toy.”
“And by taking a character who is now the protagonist of the movie,” added producer Galyn Susman, “you need someone who can do drama, comedy, pathos. You make a huge laundry list — and it’s only Chris.”
“I love Buzz, I love ‘Toy Story,’ which kicked the doors down in an approach to a new medium,” a bearded Evans offered. “I was just getting to explore a character we know so well in a slightly more nuanced interpretation.”
Evans has now two iconic characters: Captain America and Buzz. Which wins as his favorite trademark phrase, ‘Avengers Assemble!’ or “To Infinity and Beyond!”
“That’s impossible. ‘To Infinity’ was something I knew in earlier chapters of my life and as proud as I am, that line belongs to someone else. You do your best to honor it and put your own spin on it but let’s be honest: That’s Tim Allen’s line. But ‘Avengers,’ I was the first to put a spin on it.”
Buzz has Sox, a robotic cat who is destined to be a super-popular Disney toy. As for that shamelessly scene stealing four-legged companion, “I like the idea of Buzz, this austere guy, who’s given this cat to address problems that he might overlook.
“It’s a nice metaphor. We all need to talk about our problems in some way. I like that Buzz who’s so independent needing someone like Sox.
“I have a real life Sox the cat,” he revealed. “His name’s Dodger and he’s sick of hearing my problems, I can tell you that.”
‘Lightyear” opens Friday.