Disney Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ Characters And Themes, Explained

It is an underrated fact that Disney and Pixar sell emotions. And since Disney bought Pixar in 2006, their joint venture has given us some of the greatest animated flicks of all time, e.g., Up, “Soul,” “The Incredibles,” “WALL-E,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” “Ratatouille,” “Cars,” “Inside Out,” and more. Their latest film, “Lightyear,” is another addition to their Hall of Fame.

It has been 27 years since the first “Toy Story” (1995) came out. However, all the characters remain etched in our memories without a single scratch or even a little fade. And the proof of this is that even after so many years, we still can’t get enough of them. “Lightyear” is a result of this obsession. A film that not only gives us our beloved Buzz Lightyear, but the sheer quality of the visuals in the film shows how quickly time flies. It has a nice story that, supplemented with the hyper-real graphics, makes for a great family-friendly sci-fi animation movie.

After Buzz Lightyear and Alisha Hawthorne land their spacecraft, carrying many more people, on an alien planet to check if it’s habitable, they are attacked by living vines. While they try to flee, their aircraft is damaged. They have no other option but to stay and survive there until they find a way to return to Earth. To begin with, Buzz begins to test a space fuel to see if it can allow them to make use of hyperspeed to travel light years back to Earth. The first test fails, but Buzz returns to the planet to find out that 4 years have passed. In other words, he has bent time. And with each test, 4 more years pass until one day, he returns to find that his best friend, Alisha, has passed away. The new commanding officer, Burnside, tells Buzz that the decision has been taken to remain on the planet without the need to return to Earth. However, Buzz knows that he has to find a way to return to Earth and so manages to escape. He then meets Izzy Hawthorne, granddaughter of Alisha, and her friends Mo Morrison and Darby Steel. Buzz also has a robotic cat companion named Sox, gifted to him by Alisha. From them, Buzz finds out that the only way to escape the planet is to destroy a massive alien ship. But when he manages to get inside the ship, he finds that it is an aged version of himself, Zurg, who is in command of the ship and the robots. What follows is how our Buzz finds a way to get his hands on the hyperspace fuel to return to Earth.


Characters Explained

Buzz Lightyear

The main character of the film, Buzz Lightyear, is not the flawless, larger-than-life hero who saves the day every time. He is a space ranger who has flaws and makes mistakes. But it is his nature to not give up, especially in the face of failure, that makes his character so appealing. Since the very first Toy Story film, the character of Buzz Lightyear has been loved for his heroism. In “Lightyear” (2022), Pixar goes on to establish that one can be a hero but still have flaws.

There are moments in the film when we see him try to get things done on his own. Sometimes he succeeds, but other times he doesn’t. We see him try to reach hyper-speed and fail time and again. While it does show his never-give-up attitude, it also worries us as we see the world around him age, and it makes us judge him for not paying heed to his friends, especially Alisha Hawthorne (although she knows what Buzz is doing is to save everyone on board). The question is: at what point does heroism end and self-centeredness begin? Frankly, Buzz isn’t as self-centered as we might feel he is. He is always looking out for his friends and is always ready for adventure. However, we must not forget that Zurg became his enemy, whose main motive was to get back home, i.e., Earth. What are the chances that our Buzz will not become like him? This is where perhaps fate intervenes. Zurg escaped and traveled centuries to reach the future and discover technology ahead of our time. But our Buzz met with Izzy, Mo, and Darby, who not only helped him accomplish his mission but also changed his mind about what home is. Home is not where we are supposed to be; it is where we feel it is. It is where we have our loved ones who support us and stand by us during times of need. And it is their trust that ultimately helps us accomplish wonders.

Alisha and Izzy Hawthorne

We did pretty much get Interstellar vibes when we saw Lightyear watch the clip of an aged Alisha talking to him. It was sad to see Lightyear realize that he had lost his only friend with whom he had shared his life as a space ranger. Alisha and Izzy share a friendly nature, which makes them so congenial. As brave as both the characters are, the film compensates for the seriousness of Buzz’s character with an equal amount of mirth that both Alisha and Izzy carry in them. Needless to say, had it not been for either Alisha or Izzy, Buzz wouldn’t have made it as far as he has as a space ranger. They also made him a better human being. In return, Buzz helps Izzy get over her fear of space and helps her become a true space ranger.


The Themes Of ‘Lightyear’ Explained

Time

Naturally, time is one of the themes of the film as it showcases the nostalgia of time passing as well as the dangers of the nostalgia trap. As tangible as nostalgia is, we can not dwell in the past. Lightyear experienced how quickly time fled as he saw his best friend Alisha get married, and have a son; the son gets married, Alisha becomes a grandmother, and ultimately passes away. All of this happened quickly, making all of these events very clear in his mind. And it is not easy to come out of this nostalgic journey, but necessary all the same. So, for Buzz to meet Izzy was his good fortune, as it helped him come out of the nostalgia trap and gave him something in the present that he could carry forward “to infinity and beyond.”

It is also a nostalgia trip for us viewers, as we are taken on a journey that brings back so many memories. Just like Andy, who bought a Buzz Lightyear doll after watching the film “Lightyear” (the one we are talking about here), the film is our own Buzz Lightyear possession that we get after watching him do his stunts in the Toy Story movies. However, the film helps us come out of the nostalgia and realize how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

Failure

“Lightyear” tells us that stumbling and falling are a part of every journey in life. But only when we come to terms with our failure, do we become more. Throughout the film, Buzz tries to fix his failure of not being able to achieve hyperspeed, which is the only way to get back to Earth. But when he encounters Zurg, he realizes that finishing his mission would cost him his friends. So, he comes to terms with his failure and gives up his desire to fix it, and instead decides to live in the present with his friends who make it feel that he is home.

“Lightyear” does full justice to the character of Buzz Lightyear in the way it upholds his nature. It doesn’t overshadow the heroism and rather makes Buzz believable as a man who makes errors and tries to rectify them just like us. And that is what makes him one of us and makes us like him.


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Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata Dutta
Shubhabrata’s greatest regret is the fact that he won’t be able to watch every movie and show ever made. And when he isn’t watching a movie or a show, he is busy thinking about them and how they are made; all while taking care of his hobbies. These include the usual suspects i.e. songs, long walks, books and PC games.
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