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Is Lightyear about the real Buzz Lightyear or a Buzz Lightyear who is real?

Welcome to a dumb debate

Buzz Lightyear (the real one) flying in space Image: Pixar
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

At 7:39 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2020, Disney and Pixar announced Lightyear, touted as the “definitive story of the original Buzz Lightyear.” Retweeting the 30 seconds of footage, which saw a realistically rendered Buzz soaring across the stars in a spaceship, star Chris Evans wrote: “I don’t even have the words.” But he did have words.

At 8:14 p.m., as bewildered onlookers tried to make sense of the announcement, Evans clarified the intention behind Lightyear. “Just to be clear,” he wrote, “this isn’t Buzz Lightyear the toy. This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on.”

On Wednesday, Disney debuted the first trailer for Lightyear, due out in June. The movie looks how you think it might, a blend of Interstellar and Star Wars with the Pixar cartoonery intact. But with flashes of Buzz at work, close-ups on his dog tags (which note his O-positive blood type), and a hard science fiction approach to world-building that verges on “realism,” Evans’ tweet came back to mind. Was Buzz Lightyear a real guy? Really?

What you are about to read is an actual transaction in the Polygon metaversal offices. None of the names have been changed in order to protect the innocent, because no one is innocent when openly theorizing on Pixar movies. Is Buzz Lightyear a real guy or a construct of a movie world within the universe of Toy Story? You be the judge.

Matt Patches: Hello, does the existence of a #RealBuzzLightyear zipping through space in the far future imply that the world of Toy Story is also set in the far future

Petrana Radulovic: I hope the Pixar Theory guy NEVER sees this

Susana Polo: NO, it implies that Real Buzz Lightyear is the show Andy watched to become obsessed with Buzz Lightyear toys. Which had a villain that looked like this.

zurg from toy story Image: Pixar

Maddy Myers: What Susana said. I feel like a lot of people aren’t understanding the conceit of this movie and it’s confusing me that anyone else is confused by it.

Susana Polo: I mean the reason they’re confused is that it in absolutely no way looks like a toyetic kids cartoon

Maddy Myers: Right, because in the world of Toy Story this is a live-action movie, no?

Susana Polo: ...I guess???????

Matt Patches: Wait.


Matt Patches: No. [Multiple people reply with a “Yes” emoji.] I do not think this is the implication of Chris Evans’ tweet.

Susana Polo: Who cares about Chris Evans’ tweet. We’re talking about the trailer.

Matt Patches: CHRIS EVANS’ TWEET IS CANON. Unless there is a shot of Andy going into the movie theater to watch this movie I will not agree with any of this. By the way, here is Pixar’s summary:

Check out a brand-new, action-packed trailer, poster and image for Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear, an original feature film releasing June 17, 2022. The sci-fi action-adventure presents the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—introducing the legendary Space Ranger who would win generations of fans.


Maddy Myers: That doesn’t mean he’s a real guy. Toy Story is not set in a world where aliens are just real and that’s fine with everyone. That isn’t a thing in those films. That’s just not the case. We would know if it were.

Matt Patches: Why would we know that. Andy is busy he doesn’t need to think about aliens.

Maddy Myers: Because there’s a pizza place with jokey little alien toys? And because the conceit of Toy Story is that Buzz Lightyear ISN’T REAL and it annoys the shit out of Woody the whole movie?

Matt Patches: Those alien toys could be based on real aliens.

Maddy Myers: Are you forgetting the plot of the movie lmao — the point is he’s NOT real! I feel insane rn patches are you trolling me.

Matt Patches: I don’t trust toys to tell me what is real and what is not

Susana Polo: Patches get out

Matt Patches: Woody has an unreliable perception of reality. [Maddy posts a “Bye” emoji.]

Maddy Myers: I think this entire interpretation rests on how you interpret the phrase “the hero who inspired the toy” which, to me, means like... Master Chief or whatever

Susana Polo: Toy Story 5 is us convincing Patches that Buzz Lightyear is a child’s plaything

Matt Patches: I would like to submit this as evidence of my take

Neil Armstrong - Apollo 11 Commander Astronaut - DiD 1/6 Scale Figure
Photo: Timewalker Toys

Maddy Myers: Patches my argument is not that people don’t make action figures based on real people.

Susana Polo: Yeah Patches I’m pretty sure that Neil Armstrong figure never had A COMMERCIAL LIKE THIS

Matt Patches: I’m being won over but I think Disney and Pixar could be clearer about this. Chris Evans mucked up the discourse

Maddy Myers: Toy Story 1 has of-the-moment technology and the conceit of the movie is that Buzz is a fictional character. I think it’s pretty clear in-canon as to what this is. But yes Pixar’s marketing has been confusing for no reason

Petrana Radulovic: it is too early for this.