New Buzz Lightyear character guide – from robo-kittens to killer cyborgs

Lightyear (group shot, helmets)

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

Check out the Lightyear film for daring hyperspace pilots, snarky old space dogs, burbling mech-kittens and towering big bads with daddy issues.

Before the new Buzz Lightyear movie lifts off on June 17th, here’s everyone you need to meet.

 

Lightyear release date: June 17th 

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

 

Chris Evans
is Buzz Lightyear

Surely Buzz Lightyear needs no introduction? After all, you’ve known the character since 1995’s Toy Story, when this four-inch, non-flying action figure swaggered into Andy’s bedroom and started yanking Woody’s pull-string.

Yes, but that’s not the Buzz we’re talking about here. Lightyear exists in a whole other universe, and the character voiced by Chris Evans is nothing like the flamenco-dancing, cowgirl-romancing, falling-with-style plastic plaything given life in the Toy Story movies by Tim Allen.

As we revealed in our preview, the Buzz we meet in the Lightyear film is a human test pilot, and the movie you’re about to watch on June 17th is the same one that Toy Story’s Andy might have seen before requesting the Buzz action figure. Make sense?

The Lightyear movie finds flesh-and-blood Buzz trapped on a hostile planet and about to lead the hyperspeed test flight that will either help his Star Command comrades traverse the 4.2 million light years back to Earth – or crash and burn. Safe to say, the stakes are higher than busting into Al’s Toy Barn, which is why director Angus MacLane fought to get an MCU veteran whose résumé probably reads: ‘Heroics a speciality’.

I knew that the Buzz Lightyear character was iconic enough that you needed someone with the gravitas and seriousness [who could] balance comedy and drama,MacLane told Ashley & Company of recruiting Chris ‘Captain America’ Evans. “There's a very narrow window of actors that could do it.


Uzo Aduba as Commander Alisha Hawthorne  in Lightyear (group shot, helmets)

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

Uzo Aduba
is Commander Alisha Hawthorne

He might be lost in space, but at least Buzz isn’t all alone in this dusty hellscape of tentacled xenomorphs and Jurassic-sized mosquitoes. Top of the Space Ranger pecking order is Commander Hawthorne, who mans mission control while Buzz blasts off into infinity and… well, you know the rest.

We’ve seen from the Lightyear trailer that Hawthorne isn’t afraid to prick Buzz’s ballooning ego (“You were narrating again!”). But as MacLane told EW, the close relationship between the test pilot and his queer commanding officer – played by Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba – is the emotional heart of the movie.

There have been other movies where the hero partners up with a really cool side character, and that side character is diminished by romance,” said MacLane. “I wanted Buzz to have a partner where you would know they didn't have a romantic relationship. So, in addition to being wonderful representation, Alisha's queerness was useful, narratively.”


Keke Palmer as Izzy Hawthorne in Lightyear

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

Keke Palmer
is Izzy Hawthorne

When you blast through the space-time continuum at full pelt, the timeline is liable to get a little tangled. So as Buzz splashes down on an uncharted planet – which looks remarkably like Yoda’s swampland hangout of Dagobah – he’s bemused to be rescued from the resident killer robots by a space marine with ‘Hawthorne’ on her chest plate.

Alisha? No – this is the Commander’s granddaughter, played by Ice Age: Continental Drift star Keke Palmer, who already has a busy year ahead with a lead role in Jordan Peele’s Nope. What Izzy represents, says MacLane, is Buzz’s makeshift family. “The people that he meets in the second act,” explains the director, “are really his second chance to live a life."

Film still from Disney and Pixar Lightyear

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

Taika Waititi
is Mo Morrison

Talk about a cultural tidal wave. Multi-talented Taika Waititi not only helms next month’s Thor: Love And Thunder (while reprising his MCU role as stoner gladiator Korg). The New Zealand renaissance man also contributes his voice talent to Lightyear as Buzz’s plucky fellow Space Ranger Mo Morrison.

According to producer Galyn Susman, Mo is the Lightyear film’s comic relief, and may also have a spiritual side that influences Buzz. “He’s uniquely able to challenge Buzz where he most needs to grow. Mo is a feather in the wind, never quite able to commit to any one direction.

Spaceship still from Lightyear

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

Dales Soules
is Darby Steel

Then there’s Darby Steel. Sullen, snarky and wrinklier than Rancor hide, this hardened space dog’s wisdom has been earned during a career pinballing across the galaxy. “Darby is the classic tough curmudgeon with a record,” says Susman. “She's handy, inventive and extremely salty.

The perfect role, then, for New Jersey veteran Dale Soules, whose TV credits include her recurring role in Orange Is The New Black as the inmate of the fewest words, Frieda Berlin.


Sox and Buzz in Lightyear

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

Peter Sohn
is Sox

Remember how BB-8 stole the promotional campaign for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? It just happened again with Sox: the droid that everyone is looking for. This AI robo-kittie is Buzz’s sole companion on his perilous mission, voiced by long-standing Pixar director and all-round talent Peter Sohn.  

Sox came into the picture pretty early,” MacLane told Collider. “It was originally a helper monkey. That changed to a cat, mostly because I think it was gonna be funnier to animate a quadri-ped. And more people have cats than monkeys, so that became a better comic well.


Lightyear and Zurg in Lightyear

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

James Brolin
is Emperor Zurg

For Angus MacLane, the villainous Emperor Zurg’s appearance in the Lightyear film brings his career full-circle. A quarter-century ago, as a Pixar noob, the director worked on this biggest of bads during production for 1999’s Toy Story 2.

During that movie, in a parody of the Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader plotline, Zurg was revealed as Buzz’s father. It’s not yet known if the Lightyear film will pull at that thread, but promo shots of the Space Ranger and the king-size villain tell us not to expect a harmonious family reunion.

According to veteran TV star Brolin (father of Thanos himself, Josh Brolin), Zurg will be as slippery as they come, “He’s being threatening one minute, then nice, then conning you.” But Susman tells Collider you’ll have to wait for the Lightyear release date on June 17th for the full picture. “You don’t want us to spoil it for you. Zurg is angry about something, sure. He has a purpose. He has a mission.” 

Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear in Lightyear

© 2022 Disney/Pixar.

 

Grab your tickets and prepare for lift off: Lightyear lands in cinemas 17 June.

 

Lightyear release date: 17 June 2022