The Toy Story film franchise has been synonymous with Pixar productions since the first film was released in 1995. The original film introduced audiences to a quirky collection of talkative toys donated by an impressive cast of actors and comedians. However, perhaps no movie character is more beloved than Buzz Lightyear, an intergalactic ranger in a futuristic spacesuit. Buzz has been a pivotal character in the first four movies, and recently audiences got a chance to learn a whole lot more about the space ranger in his spin-off solo film, the aptly titled Lightyear.
Lightyear was a surprisingly complex film, given its origin in a series of anthropomorphic animated films. In fact, the film contained so much content that the director, Angus MacLane, expressed interest in a potential sequel, as he believes “…there are more stories to tell.” There’s a lot to love about the latest installment in the Toy Story film franchise. Perhaps the most engaging aspect of the film was how it paid homage to several sci-fi movies that came before it.
Here are some sci-fi films that Lightyear drew inspiration from.
Interstellar: the tragic consequences of relativity
One of Lightyear’s main influences is Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar, a space epic hailed by the scientific community for its accurate portrayal of intergalactic travel. Both films are poignant explorations of relativity and how time dilation can wreak havoc on lives and relationships.
Near the beginning of the film, Buzz offers to test hyperspace fuel. When the several-minute test ends, he realizes that four years have passed around him. Nevertheless, he continues to do the tests, and all told, 60 passes Buzz. His relatives have aged considerably, and some even die in the time that passes during the tests. Some of Interstellar’s most heartbreaking moments revolve around Matthew McConaughey’s astronaut character watching his Earthbound children age rapidly as he completes his mission, and Lightyear uses that same scientific and moral conundrum beautifully.
Looper: encounter with his future self
2012’s Looper is a time travel action thriller. Although the plot is incredibly convoluted at times, it can essentially be boiled down to this; in the future, the mob has taken control of time travel, and a mobster stationed in 2044, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises), is tasked with executing the expelled mob enemies in time. However, this task is made considerably more complicated when an older version of her character, played by Bruce Willis, becomes her new target of execution.
At times, Lightyear seems to draw inspiration from the vexing chaos of Looper’s time travel. In the Toy Story franchise universe, Buzz Lightyear’s main enemy is an evil alien overlord named Zurg. In the recently released film, it is revealed that Zurg is actually Buzz from an alternate timeline, having traveled to the deep future using time dilation, where he acquired his technologically advanced suit and ship. Buzz is forced to stop Zurg from time traveling to prevent the film’s astronaut crew from landing on T’Kani Prime, an action that could cause a paradox capable of destroying the entire timeline.
Star Wars: Hyperspace Hijinks and Space Cruiser Chaos
Of course, Lightyear’s influences weren’t just limited to the realm of hard science fiction. The film also drew inspiration from the lighter space-centric fare. It features many exciting spaceship fights and multiple robot battles. In these scenes, the film becomes a sort of homage to Star Wars.
The film constantly references faster-than-light hyperspace travel, which is an integral part of the Star Wars film franchise. Additionally, Buzz Lightyear and his astronaut associates are constantly forced into battle with the evil Zurg’s robot minions, reminiscent of droid battles from the Clone Wars saga.
Lightyear is a fun family game that draws on all kinds of sci-fi movies to execute its unique artistic vision. For some reason, it underperformed slightly at the box office, although it still managed to recoup the $200 million invested in its production. Although the film is currently only available in theaters, it will soon be released on Disney+, where it will hopefully reach a whole new set of space enthusiasts.
Hopefully Lightyear’s relative lack of financial success won’t discourage Pixar creatives from making similar images in years to come. Making a spin-off film that avoids falling into the mundane trappings of cinema, choosing instead to pay homage to several excellent sci-fi movies, is no small feat. Buzz Lightyear likes to say, “To infinity and beyond!” If like-minded creatives license future Pixar products, the possibilities for new and creative animated spinoffs are truly limitless.
How Lightyear is inspired by popular sci-fi films | Pretty Reel