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

Image: Pixar

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.

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.


No one asking the real question of where XR, and the rest of Star Command, are

Star Command is to Lightyear as The Real Ghostbusters is to Ghostbusters

There we go.

"The Real Ghostbusters" established that the live-action movies were just rough interpretations of the actual adventures experienced by said "Real Ghostbusters," which we are shown in the series.

So by that logic, Lightyear is just a rough interpretation of the real adventures as shown in "Star Command"? And… Toy Story is an AU where all of the above is fictional?

Was just going to say something about how Patrick Warburton is a better Buzz Lightyear than Tim Allen.

I just remember 8-year-old me thinking the blue chick who could pass through walls was hot stuff.

Ok, good, Docter just straight up said what this is

"Back when we created the first Toy Story, we designed Buzz Lightyear with the idea that he was a toy based on some really cool character from an epic blockbuster film," Docter says. "Well, all these years later, we decided to make that film."

(via AV Club and their snippets from the Disney statement with the trailer release)

This concept isn’t even new within Toy Story: We’ve seen the tv show that the Woody toy is based on, too!

I guess that sums it up.

At some point my brain decided that Susan and Maddy were arguing with a dog named Patches.

Sounds about right, hehe

Maddy is right.

(Also, is it a coincidence that the person with the best grasp of Metroid lore also has no problem understanding this?


I think that the commercial in Toy Story describes Buzz as a "superhero" is the nail in the dumb coffin for Patches interpretation.

God I hate that I have a take on this, but Maddy’s argument that the plot of the first movie is about how Buzz Lightyear isn’t real doesn’t hold water.

Buzz Lightyear’s story in the first movie is about how he is not real. That particular toy that Andy got for his birthday isn’t real — not that "Buzz Lightyear" isn’t real. We get no info whether the toy is based on a fictional character or a real person, but the Buzz in the movie has to come to grips with he himself not being real. He is a toy.

Did anyone else read the word "conceit" multiple times and wonder if it was supposed to say "concept"….. but then started wondering if they truly know English?

I read that word multiple times in the article and now I don’t know if they missed it in editing, if Maddy wrote that word in chat (maybe it was autocorrected) and they just left it as is, or if I just don’t know how English works….


No joke, though, this was fun to read. Thanks for making my morning entertaining!

I believe they’re attempting to use the word in this sense:

But if you’re already aware of that usage and you’re arguing that this is an incorrect application of it, then… you’re probably right. I think people have taken to casually using "conceit" as a synonym for "concept" over the past 5-10 years.

I see. That does make much more sense. Though, I wasn’t aware of that use of the word, so I just assumed it was an error. I guess I was looking at the word solely by the "excessive pride" definition. As in, someone being conceited. Interesting to know that this is just another English word with multiple definitions!

not to be a jerk, but the correct move was to look up ‘conceit’ (:.

also, @TheBacklogger, Maddy’s use of ‘conceit’ is correct. the concept of toy story is that toys live and talk to each other and shit when people aren’t around. teasing buzz lightyear for not being real is one of many conceits in the film (check the examples for sense 7).

the concept of lightyear appears to be "the star wars/marvel-style film that inspired the toy," (maybe a better way to say it, "what if we actually made the movie that "popularized" buzz?") but the conceit is the extended intertextual play with toy story and the invitation to the audience to think about the movie of the toy in the movie. another even more nuanced way to think about the difference: "what if we made [that movie]?" = the concept. the systematic characterization of how we actually make it = the conceit.

…which really would always be "a conceit." i still think Maddy’s use is correct, but it’s kind of eliding (appropriately) "the conceit [that we’re talking about; the whole ‘this is where buzz came from’]." presumably there will be more conceits in the movie, and you could not in some objective way talk about "the conceit of the film," which is nonsense. but, contextualized by the conversation in this article, the conceit of the film is "we’re pretending the buzz lightyear film actually existed and showing it to you." it’s the because it’s the conceit of the film that would be misunderstood if you took Patches’s view.

N.B. i’ve never seen toy story (nor any pixar film) and don’t intend to. however, i know enough about what happens to make this post. i think.

Is being real even real?

No, but these eggs are. Wanna try? munch

Okay, between this and the other post, it is sort of mindboggling how confused people are making themselves over a concept that is so securely backgrounded in our own lives.

Buzz Lightyear is a Star Wars toy.
This show is the Star Wars that Buzz Lightyear is based on.

That’s it! That’s all it ever was. I don’t get how it’s been confusing, since anyone younger than 45 has literally grown up with this basic idea playing out, over and over again in their lives, LOL.

This is like watching folks see a toy, play with a toy, find out the toy was based on something, and then out-loud wondering if that something was in fact a biopic.

I liked the part where "this doesn’t look toyetic" got thrown out as if the whole reason a word like "toyetic" exists isn’t sprung specifically from corporate executives trying to successfully surf the merchandising avalanche Star Wars created.

So yeah, between this and the other post, this is a pretty fascinating example of how ingrained the modern reaction to fictional storytelling has become – the FIRST INSTINCT is to pre-catalog it and file it in the correct longbox before even trying to read it and experience it for what it is. The most pressing question is "so how does this fit in the LORE" and if we can’t fit the piece into the larger puzzle we get uncomfortable.

The actual notion of just watching the piece of fiction and letting it be whatever it is and appreciating it (or not) on those merits is so obviously secondary to the satisfaction of slotting it in the correct place on the shelf.

God I wish this was Reddit so I could give you Gold. This is a perfect summary and voicing of the frustrations with what would otherwise be "cartoon space movie" that could JUST BE CARTOON SPACE MOVIE.

Things like Unraveled don’t just happen. They’re the byproduct of the collective interconciousness that festers inside each and every one of us whenever something that doesn’t need a deep-dive thinking about triggers you to want to go down that rabbit hole.

This is one of those times.

Normally I’d agree with you but Chris Evans’ tweet:

And just to be clear, this isn’t Buzz Lightyear the toy. This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on

would imply that this Buzz Lightyear was a real dude, and this upcoming movie is an in-universe thing that happened, and not just a movie Andy might have randomly seen. True, that doesn’t make sense, but Pixar and Evans did actually seem to say that at first!

Is the entire thing dumb and pointless? Yeah probably, but I totally see why people are getting the wrong idea about what this movie is.

Let’s be clear that it is definitely dumb and pointless. I think we can have a little fun with this stuff without succumbing to the idea that "the most pressing question is ‘so how does this fit in the LORE.’" The above story is not the only cultural criticism you will find on Polygon Dot Com!

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