It’s now three years since Toy Story 4 hit our cinema screens in 2019. Fans of Tom Hanks-voiced Everyman protagonist Woody may have to wait to find out if there’s going to be a fifth installment in the animated franchise with Hanks and producer Mark Nielsen is split on whether it will happen.
In the meantime, however, Disney and Pixar have come up with a very different vision for their charismatic starman and frustrated astronaut hero, Buzz Lightyear, voiced by comedian Tom Allen in previous episodes. And, as the character would surely approve, we have an all-action sci-fi summertime blockbuster space adventure ahead of us.
Lightyear is slated to hit theaters later this month. Buzz is finally gaining his wings, stepping out of Woody’s shadow as the film’s unique star.
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Directed by Angus MacLane, the animated feature film is a spin-off/prequel/origin story that explores the hero who inspired Buzz’s toy figure. The premise of the film is that the spaceman Lightyear and his friends are stranded on an alien planet.
Our hero is forced to travel 62 years into the future to help the gang get home while escaping the clutches of space villain Emporor Zurg. McLane, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay, explained what moviegoers can expect and how Lightyear fits into the Toy Story “universe.”
At a press conference last month, he said: “You remember Andy had a birthday party in Toy Story. His favorite gift was a character he loved, Buzz Lightyear the Space Ranger.
“And it was a toy that would redefine playtime for Andy. And I’ve always wondered what movie Buzz is from, you know?” He added, “Why couldn’t we just do this movie?
“So that’s what we did. We presented Lightyear, the movie Andy saw that changed his life. Andy’s Star Wars. A science epic destined to inspire a new generation.”
When is Lightyear in UK cinemas?
The film is set to hit cinemas across the UK next Friday 17 June. Its release date is the same as in the US.
It is understood to be available to online viewers quickly via Disney Plus. However, that won’t be until after its summer blockbuster theatrical run. The digital release date has not yet been confirmed.
Who is in the Lightyear cast?
It will be the first film in the series where Buzz will not be voiced by Tim Allen. On this occasion, that honor is reserved for superhero actor Chris Evans from Captain America and the Avengers/Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Speaking of his star career, he said: “The phrase ‘a dream come true’ gets thrown around a lot, but I’ve never meant it so seriously in my life. Anyone who knows me knows that my love for animated films runs deep.
“I can’t believe I’m becoming part of the Pixar family and working with these truly brilliant artists who tell stories unlike anyone else. Watching them work is nothing short of magic. I pinch myself every day.”
Evans is joined by Dale Soules, who fans of the American comedy-drama series Orange Is the New Black will recognize. She will voice the character of Darby Steel in Lightyear.
James Brolin, father of Hollywood star Josh and husband of Barbra Streisand, will be the voice of Kaiser Zurg. Kiwi star Taika Waititi will voice the character of Buzz’s space crewmate Mo Morrison. Best known for directing 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, he also wrote, directed and starred in Jojo Rabbit, where he played the titular character’s imaginary friend – Hitler – to hilarious effect.
Other members of the case include Isiah Whitlock Jr., Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis and Efren Ramirez. Director MacLane described the cast as his “dream team”.
In a press release ahead of Lightyear’s release, he said, “The cast of Lightyear is truly a dream team. Each of the performers immediately embodied their character, which gave us a chance to play a bit during the recording sessions.
“This introduced a level of specificity that enhanced the material and added depth to the characters’ relationships. It has been a privilege to work with such a talented and generous cast.”