Lightyear doesn’t come out until June, but we got an early opportunity to talk to the filmmakers – specifically director Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman – about this highly anticipated Pixar Toy Story spinoff. And it’s not the first time we’ve seen Buzz Lightyear in his own adventure (in 2000 there was a direct to video film Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins, and then a series that followed) but this is something a little different. Though it’s still a little confusing and Chris Evans’s tweet explaining everything sure didn’t help. But the toy we see in Toy Story is based on the character we will see in Lightyear, which is both a movie for Andy from Toy Story and a movie for us.
There’s also the subject of the same-sex kiss, between Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) and the woman she’s in a relationship with, that was cut out of Lightyear and restored after Disney employees protested. As Susman explains, this decision to cut, then to restore, was over their pay-grade. But I did want know what it was like from their perspective and, also, how do they even get this news internally.
I’m assuming Lightyear is not quite done, right?
Galyn Susman: We’re not quite done, no.
Angus MacLane: We’re mixing it now. It’s being mixed.
Galyn Susman: But we still have three more weeks to picture tint.
Where did this concept even come from? In that, could it work for any character? Could there be a Woody movie?
Angus MacLane: Well, Woody has Woody’s Roundup. We know Woody’s Roundup, so you can already imagine where the origin of that toy came from. For me, it was what is the universe of Buzz Lightyear? And what is that movie or TV show? What is that? So I imagine it as a larger-budget, sci-fi epic from the early ’80s, basically. And so I want to just make that movie. And because of that, making it in the universe, a movie was just a way to kind of frame it. Well, why is Andy so excited about Buzz Lightyear? What is the source of that excitement? And if Andy is meant to be the proxy for us, for the toys, then in the same way, that’s the way the movie could be seen.
I feel people had an okay grasp on what this was. And then Chris Evans tweeted. I think it’s one of the funniest tweets ever sent, just for starting, “To be clear.” Anyway, I’m curious what you guys thought of it when that went out.
Angus MacLane: I mean, Chris and I, we talked about it, and he thought it was kind of funny that he created more confusion. And for as much positioning as the movie has … it’s been amazingly challenging to kind of communicate where it is. But I think we’re on track now.
Galyn Susman: I think so, too. In the end, as long as people go out and have a good time, walk out saying, “Wow, that was really awesome. I enjoyed that movie.” if they don’t quite get it, it’s okay. That’s not the core of the film.
Angus MacLane: I think by the time it comes out … I feel like it’s like a hazy Polaroid that’s coming to be developed. I think we’re right where you can make out the faces. It’s a little yellow, a little jaundiced…
Right. I don’t think it’s that complicated. But then you read that tweet, it makes it sound like there’s a real human being out there right now named Buzz Lightyear.
Angus MacLane: I think the issue was the wording, “character” versus “hero.” Say “character,” that makes sense.
He said the “real human Buzz Lightyear.”
Angus MacLane: Yeah. Human. He is. Yes. Yes and no, so that’s the challenge of it. I pitched an idea where we’d have Chris Evans go and talk to other celebrities like, “No, no, no. You don’t understand.” So they’d be each going from person to person, trying to explain the movie and they’d be like, “So he’s a live person?” “No, it’s animated. It’s still animated!,” as a way to promote the movie.
Is he not going to do that? Because that’s a great idea.
Angus MacLane: I thought it was a great idea, too. I mean, his schedule’s pretty busy.
Galyn Susman: And I don’t think marketing thought that was a good idea.
As we know, the same-sex kiss is back in the movie. But when you first found out you had to take it out, what were you thinking? Because how is this still a thing?
Angus MacLane: That’s fair.
Galyn Susman: “How is this still a thing?,” was definitely a question. But, I mean, the important thing is that the couple was always there and the relationship was always there, and it was a meaningful relationship. And it showed what was missed, and it was clearly a loving, connected, meaningful family and relationship. So ultimately that was the goal, and we were able to achieve it. The kiss is a beautiful and sort of a touching addition to that. And we were glad that we were able to put it in. I hope that audiences enjoyed that whole montage, but the ultimate intent of the montage was always there.
So how do you get the news that you can put it back in? Did you just get an email? Is there a meeting?
Galyn Susman: That’s sort of above our pay grade.
But how does it get to you? How do you hear the news?
Galyn Susman: Pete Docter told us.
Ah, okay. So he just tells you, “Good news…”?
Galyn Susman: Exactly.
Where do you want this all to go? Are we going to have Lightyear 5 someday?
Angus MacLane: This took five and a half years to make this, so I will not survive … sure, sure.
There’s my headline. Will there be a Buzz Lightyear 5 movie? “Sure.”
Angus MacLane: I mean, that’s the whole pitch in the movie was like, it takes us five years to make a movie, right? Well, it’s the same with Buzz going on these missions. So if you go on too many of these missions, you go five missions, then everyone’s gone.
I get animation takes a long time and movies take a long time to make, especially Pixar movies. But why does it take that long? Especially with an idea like this.
Angus MacLane: I’ll explain. There’s a number of factors to consider. Let’s back up from where we are now. So once we have a full crew on, it takes two, two and a half years of solid production just to execute the film. And the amount of people we have, and all those departments working full steam, it’s like two and a half years. Then before you have probably two years of story development and execution of just storyboarding and editing it together to get the story written and designed. But more than anything, and then before that you have a year of development just trying to formulate it. Because there’s all the movies ahead of us, they’re utilizing the crew that will eventually be ours.
Angus MacLane: So it’s not five years at full 400, 500-people capacity. It starts off with like four people.
And then a pandemic happens, too.
Angus MacLane: So then that’s also the thing. I don’t think that…
Galyn Susman: It didn’t really add to our timeline.
Well, I’m looking forward to seeing the final movie. Anyway, I hope you finish it.
Angus MacLane: There are lots more exciting stuff you have not seen, we purposefully held back. So there is more… you did not see just the best bits.
‘Lightyear’ will hit theaters on June 17th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.