Disney-Pixar’s “Lightyear” sees Chris Evans voicing a new version of one of the company’s most famous characters, Buzz Lightyear. First introduced in 1995’s “Toy Story,” Buzz was made famous thanks to Tim Allen’s voice performance across the franchise’s four films, and Evans admitted that taking on the title role was a daunting prospect
“The first time you have to do that iconic line, ‘To Infinity and Beyond…,’ you kind of just do a shameless Tim Allen impression. It’s intimidating,” Evans told Variety senior entertainment reporter Angelique Jackson at the “Lightyear” premiere. “But Angus [MacLane, the film’s director] and everyone at Pixar was so collaborative, and you kind of let them guide you. Eventually you feel comfortable enough to make your own tracks in the snow and find your own interpretation, while still using Tim Allen as the blueprint.”
Evans was joined at the “Lightyear” premiere by his co-stars Keke Palmer, Uzo Aduba and Peter Sohn, as well as MacLane and producer Galyn Susman to discuss the new film, which styles itself as the blockbuster ’80s action movie the Buzz Lightyear toy featured in “Toy Story” was based on. On the purple carpet, the cast and crew — which also includes James Brolin, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Dale Soules, Mary McDonald-Lewis and Efren Ramirez — reflected on their own “Toy Story” fandom and launching a new interpretation of Buzz onto the big screen.
Palmer, who voices new recruit Izzy Hawthorne, is a self-proclaimed fan of the “Toy Story” franchise and shared her excitement about audiences getting to hear Evans’ take on the character.
“Wait until you guys hear how Chris Evans did Buzz, ” Palmer teased. “A lot of people probably feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, how can you do Buzz again? How can you replace Tim?’ There’s no replacing, but there is some evolution, and Chris nailed it. I can’t wait for the kids to get into it, and the parents.”
Palmer also shared the “Toy Story” character she’d most like to see get the “Lightyear” treatment with their own origin story movie. The answer was obvious — the lovable cowboy Woody, voiced in the original films by Tom Hanks.
“Point blank period! I need to know where my man Woody came from,” Palmer said.
Both Evans and Aduba — who voices Izzy’s grandmother and Buzz’s best friend, commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne — shared Palmer’s excitement for Woody, but she also offered another idea: “Mr. Potato Head. Who Wouldn’t want to see that?” Aduba asked.
These are the types of stories that “Toy Story” fans have been itching to see and Aduba believes audiences will be particularly satisfied as they explore the backstory of the human Buzz Lightyear and come to understand who the man is versus the toy through this films
“I think a lot of us had questions about who Buzz was and now we get a lot of those answers through this film,” Aduba said, sharing her top queries: “What does ‘To Infinity and Beyond’ mean, and why [is he] so serious?”
Buzz and Alisha’s friendship plays a major part in this space ranger story, which also explores Alisha’s family life and sexuality (the character is married to another woman). Earlier this year Variety exclusively reported that a kiss between the spouses had been cut and later restored to the film, as a wide-spread debate raged about LGBTQ representation in media. On the carpet, Aduba discussed the kiss and the conversation it sparked.
“I was not aware of the in-or-out of it at all. I knew that it had happened. [The kiss] is still in the film … which, appropriately so,” Aduba said. “It’s wonderful that a character such as she exists. This film is doing such a tremendous job of including all of the stories effortlessly and allowing for everyone to dream.”
“Lightyear” arrives in theaters June 17.