Pixar's latest film, Lightyear, is an origin story of sorts for the character of Buzz Lightyear, serving as the film that Andy would have seen that made him a huge fan of the toy. But while the film focuses on Buzz (Chris Evans), there are other characters who flesh out the world and portray a diverse vision of the future, including Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), Diaz (Efren Ramirez), Izzy (Keke Palmer), Burnside (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and Morrison (Taika Waititi).
Lightyear director Angus MacLane said that diversity is at the forefront of Pixar's mission to tell engaging stories. As he said, sci-fi has always been a way for him to explore a more equitable future.
"I've always seen sci-fi as a way to branch out and show a positive future of diversity and it's certainly a reflection of our lived experience now," he said. "The core idea of the film was always Buzz Lightyear finding a family and I think there's a rich history of these superhero movies where the protagonist saves the day and I really wanted a character that felt like that was what he needed to be at the beginning of the movie and realize over the course of the movie recognize it was actually the friends they made along the way type of thing."
"There was this found family aspect of it and that the people that he meets in the second act are really his second chance to live a life," he continued. "…That aspect was always baked into the story idea of the movie, but it also reflects the passion that we have as a studio to represent a wide variety of experiences of people, and even if they aren't our own, getting in people to help educate and make sure those [representations] are authentic."
The throughline of the film has to do with the flow of time, as in how we can miss the present moment if we're always focused on the past or the future. McLane said he wanted to explore that aspect of humanity because of how easy it is to miss the present moment.
"We wanted to tell the story of…trying to be comfortable and live in the moment. So much of our life is present planning for the future or reminiscing or stressing out about the past," he said. "In the most extreme version of this, we planned for years to make this movie. We worked on this movie for five and a half years. That's thinking about five and a half years in the future all the time…at the same time, we need to be experiencing our lives as they are, our families as they are, as we're going through that. I think those competing forces are really fascinating."
"At the same time, nostalgia, both in its positive and negative aspects, is something that I thought was interesting to explore for a character who really wanted to go back and fix something and thought things would be better if he could just go back, and the challenges with that as well," he continued.
Lightyear comes to theaters June 7.