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The trickiest part of turning Buzz Lightyear the toy into Buzz Lightyear the sci-fi hero

Turns out catchphrases are hard to reverse engineer

buzz lightyear flying a ship, with an orange cat robot on his shoulder Image: Pixar

By now, it’s pretty clear that Pixar’s Lightyear isn’t a Toy Story sequel or a movie about the real human Buzz Lightyear; it’s a fictional film that would’ve come out in the Toy Story universe, featuring a science fiction space hero named Buzz Lightyear, who would later inspire the toy that Andy treasured.

That means that all Buzz’s little quirks in the Toy Story movies — his mission logs, his costume, and his serious demeanor — would all theoretically come from this movie. While it was fun to figure out just how Buzz’s hair looked underneath that purple snood, the filmmakers struggled to incorporate one of Buzz’s most iconic elements: his signature catchphrase, “To infinity… and beyond!”

“In the beginning, ‘to infinity and beyond’ was a joke, like you can’t go beyond infinity and you got into that kind of thing, which then Key and Peele riffed on for Toy Story 4,” director Angus MacLane recounts to Polygon. “So then, it was just like a saying that all Space Rangers had and Buzz wasn’t a Space Ranger at the time or something like that. [He was like] Those guys are dumb. And then he embraces it by saying at the end. That didn’t quite feel right.

“And then we had just this gesture,” MacLane says, while demonstrating the finger touch that Buzz and his best friend Alicia do as a sort of secret handshake. “It was not ‘to infinity and beyond,’ that was just what Alicia and Buzz did to show they were together. And then they were apart. It was a sad moment. And then one of our editors, Chloe, she’s like, just have them say ‘To infinity and beyond.’ And I was like, Yeah, okay, great. That’s perfect.

Buzz Lightyear talks to his commander and friend Alisha in Lightyear Image: Pixar Animation Studios

“The interesting thing is that it ended up having two different meanings over the course of the film,” producer Galyn Susman says. “Because at the beginning, it’s talking more about the next adventure and the next one and the next one, and at the end, it’s much more about being together and being here in the present.”

Buzz’s signature catchphrase, then, became a touching tribute to his closest friendship, instead of a rallying cry to explore the vast expanse of space. And because Alicia goes on to live a whole life, while Buzz continues his futile missions over and over, it also takes on a more poignant meaning. Does that make it an odd choice to turn into a toy’s catchphrase? Maybe so. But on a more meta level, the Toy Story movies have an underlying message about the limited time we have with our loved ones, so perhaps the bittersweet undertones of “To infinity… and beyond!” perfectly fit within the greater overarching themes.

Lightyear is out in theaters now.

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