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‘Lightyear’ Trailer Sells An Origin Story For The ‘Toy Story’ Hero

Well, for a studio that recently promised to cut back on sequels, this seems like a deeply cynical pitch. The animated feature is a non-sequel outer-space adventure that presents the origin story of, uh, the “real” Buzz Lightyear on which the Toy Story toy is based. Chris Evans is voicing the character this time out. I chuckled at the logline that listed his credits with Knives Out before Avengers: Endgame.

Considering the wave of Pixar originals have struggled theatrically, Onward bombed even before Covid and both Soul and Luca became Disney

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+ premieres during the pandemic as A+ lures to the streaming platform, I shudder to think what might happen if Seeing Red struggles theatrically in March while Lightyear soars to infinity and beyond in June. That’s obviously not fair to the film, directed by Angus MacLane, which frankly looks absolutely gorgeous. There’s a less-cynical (but no less depressing) case to be made that Pixar just wanted to make a mega-budget outer-space swashbuckler and went with a marquee character for understandable commercial reasons.

Even so, the very notion that this is being branded as an origin story is… unfortunate. I can only hope it’s more like Casino Royale or Star Trek (he’s fully formed, he just gets a newer, more challenging job and runs with it) and less like Jem and the Holograms or Fantastic Four (which spends the entire running time setting up the actual dynamic we all wanted in that first flick for a sequel which never happened). What’s doubly-cynical is that we already have a quasi-origin story for Buzz Lightyear.

I’m not going to pretend that the 2000 toon Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins was some masterpiece of non-theatrical animation, because it’s not. However, its existence makes Lightyear almost feel like a glorified “live-action remake” of one of Disney’s direct-to-video animated films. I’m guessing Lightyear will be better, and again I’m impressed by the visuals and the tone (serious but not somber, thanks to David Bowie’s “Starman”), but it’s an odd dichotomy at play.

Disney’s Lightyear opens June 17, 2022, right in between Universal’s Jurassic World: Dominion (still my safe bet for summer’s biggest domestic earner) and Paramount’s

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Transformers: Rise of the Beasts on June 24. All three summer biggies are opening in their arguable “franchise-specific slot,” as is Minions: The Rise of Gru on July 1. At the very least, summer 2022 will be filled with expectedly big franchise titles opening in their as-expected summer slots.

The overriding feeling about this project is fear. I’m genuinely concerned as to what might happen if it’s a hit while Disney’s Encanto and Pixar’s Seeing Red face Covid-specific challenges. Again, speculative and not fair, but that’s the scenario. The ideal scenario would be that Encanto and Seeing Red are big hits while Lightyear turns out to be pretty good on its own merits and also a hit. As always, we’ll see.

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