While spending years attempting to return home, marooned Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by Zurg who are attempting to steal his fuel source.
“The faster I fl y, the further into the future I travel. I get it.” – Buzz Lightyear
Every cinephile loves a good hero—someone to admire, someone to root for. Heroes overcome insurmountable obstacles to save the day. And the best heroes—the ones who live on long after their films hit the big screen—are, at heart, human. They have flaws and fears—they’re utterly relatable, even as they soar to greatness.
Buzz Lightyear is such a hero—in fact, he’s the kind of big-screen phenomenon that inspired a successful line of toys. That’s what filmmakers pictured when creating the character for Pixar Animation Studios’ 1995 feature film “Toy Story.” That story placed Buzz Lightyear—the toy in this case—center stage as the brand-new, highly sought-after action figure that gives vintage pull-string Sheriff Woody a run for his money as Andy’s favorite. Fast forward 21 years, and director Angus MacLane found himself asking: What movie inspired Andy to beg for a fancy toy with lasers, karate-chop action and aerodynamic space wings? “‘Lightyear’ is the movie that Andy, his friends and probably most of the rest of the world saw,” says MacLane. “I wanted to make something that felt true to those fun, big-budget popcorn films.”
A sci-fi action-adventure and the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, “Lightyear” follows the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure. “I did a lot of research, breaking down the nature of genre thrillers,” says MacLane. “I knew Buzz would have to face a big problem, and I liked the sci-fi element of ti me dilation. There’s a rich history of character-out-of-time heroics: Captain America, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, to name a few.
“They say you can’t live in the past, but what if you could?” continues MacLane. “We all wonder what it would be like to go back in time, but instead we’re jumping forward in time. That’s the truth I wanted to build for ‘Lightyear’—nostalgia for the past while rapidly jumping into the future.”
According to producer Galyn Susman, Buzz Lightyear gave filmmakers a rich opportunity for exploration. “Ever since we met the character, Buzz has had this inherent and interesting tendency to view the world in a unique way,” she says. “His version of reality is never quite the same as everybody else’s, and there’s something super entertaining about that.
“He’s an aspirational character,” Susman continues. “And the world really needs more aspirational characters right now.”
The film kicks off with accomplished Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear, his commander Alisha Hawthorne and a crew of more than 1,000 scientists and technicians heading home from their latest mission. Approximately 4.2 million light-years away from Earth, a sensor signals their proximity to an uncharted but potentially resource-rich planet. Buzz makes the call to reroute their exploration vessel (aka the Turnip) to T’Kani Prime—a swampy planet with aggressive vines and giant swarming bugs. Efforts for a quick exit go horribly awry, culminating in a crash that shatters their fuel cell, leaving Buzz, Alisha and their entire crew stranded on the less-than-welcoming planet. “Buzz is the guy who’s been at the top of his game for a while,” says executive producer Andrew Stanton, who contributed to all four “Toy Story” films. “We’re witnessing in this movie his first fall from grace. He’s never experienced that before.”
Marooned on the decidedly hostile planet, the crew settles in for the long game. Says Jason Headley, who’s a screenwriter on the film, “Nobody’s going anywhere until the resident scientists can create a new ‘hyperspeed’ crystal that holds up to a test flight. It’ll be years of trial and error.”
Buzz blames himself. “Burdened with the guilt of having made a critical mistake, Buzz is consumed by the desire to rectify it,” says Susman. “Our story takes place in space—but it’s still something we all face at some point or another. We make bad decisions, but if we spend our lives regretting those bad decisions instead of investing in what’s in front of our eyes, is that really living?”
Adds MacLane, “Life is never what we plan for. It’s not about dwelling on the past and wishing things were different—that seems like a waste of time. While Buzz is obsessed with righting his wrong, Alisha decides that she’s going to do her best with where she is right now. She wants to make the most of her time regardless of what planet she’s on.”
Time. Among Buzz’s battles with guilt, technology, chemistry and surprisingly strong vines—it seems time is the most challenging. With each test flight he undertakes to gauge their latest ‘hyperspeed’ fuel concoction, he experiences time dilation. The initial four-minute test flight for Buzz takes four years on T’Kani Prime, and the phenomenon intensifies with each effort. Life is literally passing him by: Alisha and the crew members are living their lives—pursuing interests, building families, getting older—and Buzz virtually stays the same. The math is complex but Buzz sums it up in the film: “The faster I fly, the further into the future I travel. I get it.”
Filmmakers liken it to their own experience at Pixar. “Every time you make a film,” says MacLane, “at least four years go by. Then you come up for air and you realize the world has gone on without you.”
Decades—and friends—pass. Buzz, determined to “finish the mission” and get everyone back to Earth, continues to test fuel in a series of test flights as his crewmates age without him. But just when he’s about to crack the code, everything changes. After a series of impulsive decisions and the arrival of a mysterious alien ship that threatens the colony, Buzz reluctantly teams up with a group of ambitious recruits known as the Junior Zap Patrol.
According to Headley, Buzz somehow over- and underestimates the trio’s potential. “He starts out thinking, ‘This is perfect! I need an elite squad!’” says Headley. “He assumes they’re the A-Team. But pretty quickly—following a bungled battle with one of Zurg’s robots—Buzz realizes they’re the B-Team—if that. They aren’t trained, they don’t know anything, and he decides ‘they can’t help me. I don’t need them. I’ll do this on my own.’ But he has no idea the effect they’ll have on him.”
Filmmakers called on actor Chris Evans to voice the accomplished Space Ranger. “I’ve been a space nut my entire life,” he says. “But what excited me about this movie is the fact that it’s a Pixar film. I’m a massive fan—I always have been. It’s not just amazing what they’re able to do with a pen or a computer, but the emotions they can evoke—the eye movement of the characters—they are true observers of human behavior.”
“Lightyear” also features the voices of Uzo Aduba as his commander and best friend, Alisha Hawthorne, and Peter Sohn as Buzz’s dutiful robot cat, Sox. Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and Dale Soules lend their voices to the Junior Zap Patrol’s Izzy Hawthorne, Mo Morrison and Darby Steel, respectively, and James Brolin can be heard as the enigmatic Zurg. The voice cast also includes Mary McDonald-Lewis as onboard computer I.V.A.N., Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Commander Burnside, Efren Ramirez as Airman Díaz, and Keira Hairston as Young Izzy.
Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino, who’s behind the scores for “The Batman” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” scored “Lightyear.” Giacchino has a long history with Pixar; he won an Oscar®, Golden Globe® and GRAMMY for the original score in “Up.” His other Pixar credits include “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “Cars 2,” “Inside Out,” “Coco” and “Incredibles 2,” among others. The Lightyear Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from Walt Disney Records is available beginning June 17, 2022.
Directed by MacLane (co-director “Finding Dory”) and produced by Susman (“Toy Story That Time Forgot”) with a screenplay by Jason Headley and MacLane, “Lightyear”—Pixar’s first to be created specifically for IMAX— opens June 17, 2022.
Who’s Who in “Lightyear”
For director Angus MacLane, one of the big themes in “Lightyear” is particularly timely—and applicable to both the story and the making of the story. “It takes the collaboration of many individuals to achieve big things,” he says. “It really is a team effort. As much as we focus on the individual in our culture, there is tremendous value in a group. ‘Lightyear’ is one character’s recognition of that.”
Buzz Lightyear—the character, the toy—made his debut in 1995’s “Toy Story,” earning a place in audiences’ hearts for decades to come. “When I came on board, the idea of a spaceman-toy was already in the works,” says Bob Pauley, who was part of the design team for the original film. “The main priority when it came to the design was that Buzz needed to be a cool new toy to outshine and contrast Woody—it’s a buddy movie, they are opposites, first they clash then learn to work together. The old versus the new. The wild west meets the space program.”
As “Lightyear” began production, the filmmakers were challenged with ensuring Buzz Lightyear was recognizable but clearly not the toy audiences were familiar with. “We started with the toy, of course,” says characters supervisor Mark Piretti. “Artists did a lot of explorations of what that might look like with more realism. There were months and months of iteration to determine how stylized he would be.”
MacLane sought a very cinematic look for the sci-fi adventure—a vision achieved through the collaboration of every department. The design of the characters and how they moved was an essential part of the overall look. Says animation supervisor David DeVan, “It was important to make sure the characters felt grounded in the world. One of the ways we tried to do this was holding to a more contained style of performance, with fewer gestures and less unnecessary movement in the frame.”
The sci-fi setting created new challenges for the teams responsible for suiting up Buzz and his colleagues. Says tailoring and simulation supervisor Fran Kalal, “Much of our cloth had to be integrated with hard surface pieces— technically, the space suits hit a new level for our team and a new level of collaboration with characters, which was really exciting.”
While the fi lm is named for the Space Ranger, the whole cast of characters works together to create the story and ignite change in the star character, adding depth, sincerity and relatability to what the world knew about Buzz Lightyear.
BUZZ LIGHTYEAR is a confident, loyal and accomplished Space Ranger whose pride in his work shines bright. “He enjoys the thrill and adventure of gallivanting around the galaxy, successfully completing missions with his friend and mentor, Commander Alisha Hawthorne,” says MacLane. “Buzz really enjoys the kind of comfort and familiarity that comes with being part of a tight-knit team.”
Buzz’s respect for Alisha runs deep—but he doesn’t have ti me for the up-and-comers who dream of being a Space Ranger just like him. It might seem like arrogance, but Buzz is a perfectionist at heart—for everyone including himself. When his clutch decision leads to a mission-busting crash landing, stranding a spaceship full of intergalactic explorers on an uncharted and hostile planet, Buzz is determined to make things right, regardless of the cost. “While he’s busy testing the fuel, everybody on the planet ages 10, 20, 30, 40 years,” says story supervisor Dean Kelly. “Yet Buzz sti ll can’t see what he’s missing out on in the present because he’s stuck in the past, and at the same time, laser focused on the future. He’s never here and he’s not quite there. He’s essentially a man out of ti me.”
According to Jeremy Lasky, director of photography (layout/camera), Buzz’s growth in the story was supported by the shot compositions. “Aft er Buzz crashes and we’re with him on the base, we use a lot of one-point perspective behind him, framing him in different windows to divide the space around him so that he feels visually cut off from things,” says Lasky. “When he decides to break out, things really start to loosen up, and we move him more through frame. We move the camera much more—making everything more dynamic.”
The character is a deliberate contrast to the toy audiences have come to know. “We got used to Buzz providing a lot of the comedy,” says executive producer Andrew Stanton. “This film reminds us of his cool factor that the character was initially created to provide. The comedy really came from a toy who didn’t know he was a toy—but Buzz, the hero, is serious and ambitious.”
“He wants to do it all himself,” adds Chris Evans, who lends his voice to the Space Ranger. “But as we move through the world and change, there’s friction in that growth. Friends are there to ease that transition and usher you along. But Buzz is consumed with past mistakes. That not only stifles growth, but it robs us of the now. There’s a lot of good to be explored in the now.
“Buzz Lightyear has always been a determined, confident and heroic character, but with ‘Lightyear’ we get a chance to see a more vulnerable and human side of Buzz,” continues Evans. “We witness his struggles, uncertainties and occasional failures.”
MacLane wanted the new side of the character to shine. “Buzz is such an iconic character. I wanted this film to be separate from ‘Toy Story.’ I thought of it more as a prequel. And I wanted it to be cinematic. I thought of Buzz as a different character from the toy we all know from ‘Toy Story’—in a cool, low-key, clever way. Our Buzz is a “human” in a movie that Andy saw. Chris has the gravitas in his performance, and also a square sense of humor that was appropriate for that character. And he has that inexplicable movie star quality that our larger-than-life character needed.”
The design of the character for “Lightyear” also needed to evolve to fit the director’s vision. “We wanted to give Buzz vulnerability,” says Matt Nolte, character art director. “We needed to take him to a place where we could empathize with him. His hairstyle, his shading, how they light him—it all came together to create Buzz Lightyear in a truly human way.”
According to production designer Tim Evatt, they started with the Buzz everyone knows and loves, maintaining the color palette for the iconic look as well as some physical features, like Buzz’s chiseled chin to ensure the character was instantly recognizable. “We had to incorporate some of the ingredients of the toy in the design—but almost as if we’d taken it to NASA and worked with experts who actually do space travel and add that authenticity of space to the suit.”
Artists did, in fact, get to visit NASA. “We had a crash course on space travel,” says Evatt. “We got to hang out with the astronauts and ask them anything. They took us around, and we went to the original mission control center and training flight simulators where they prepare astronauts for space.”
The final looks for Buzz were a mash-up of NASA and general military inspiration. Artists designed several spacesuits for the character—keeping top of mind that each time Buzz suited up, many years had passed since the last time. Team members later met virtually with a space-suit design consultant and studied reference from the Smithsonian, as well as cinematic resources. Fran Kalal, tailoring and simulation supervisor, says Buzz’s first suit harkens back to the early days of human space exploration, embracing function over form. “The chest box is bulky and secured with a webbed harness,” she says. “The oxygen hose is loose and unwieldy. The wrist communicator is strapped onto the suit. The suit has padded knees, elbows and shoulders to protect Buzz from jostling in the ship, and to afford mobility. The utility belt is bulky with large metal buckles. And the boots, gloves and neck rings all allow for rotation but are heavy and a bit unwieldy.”
With each mission, Buzz’s suits get sleeker, with better mobility and integrated tech, and each received shading to give it authenticity and believability. “We had to add a level of granularity to the materials to bring them into the real world,” says Bill Zahn, color and shading art director. “The detail—scratches, wear and tear—is done on a scale that makes him look human size. The same scratch on a toy would appear much bigger. Human Buzz has little scrapes and scratches, plus texture and discernible woven fibers.”
Those details are elevated through the efforts of the lighting and camera teams. According to Ian Megibben, director of photography (lighting), his team added a feature that might not be functional in real life but sells the look on the big screen. “In movies, space suits typically have their own lights on them by design—shining into the actors’ faces. We wanted to lean into that.”
ALISHA HAWTHORNE, Buzz’s long-time commander, is a fellow Space Ranger and friend. “She is skilled, competent and trusting,” says producer Galyn Susman. “She invests in people, mentoring recruits and welcoming rookies to the action, while Buzz just doesn’t have the patience.”
After crashing on an uncharted planet with Buzz millions of light-years from Earth, Alisha shares Buzz’s desire to fix their spacecraft, mine the planet’s resources to create the fuel they need and, one day, return home. But Alisha’s response to their marooning— specially as it continues far beyond their expectations—differs from Buzz’s. She opts to live her life regardless of the planet she’s on, advancing her career, falling in love and building a family with her wife. “She’s going to make the best life she can with what she has in front of her,” says Susman.
Adds MacLane, “Alisha is somewhat of a founder of the colony. She keeps everyone sane and moving forward while Buzz is focused only on correcting his mistake.”
According to Uzo Aduba, who lends her voice to Alisha, the character represents the flip side of Buzz. “While he is off in space, Alisha is growing as a woman, a wife and a mother,” says Aduba. “She understands and learns there’s more than one way to be a hero in a person’s life, and I think that’s exciting to watch.”
Also exciting, says the actor, was a key discovery about Buzz Lightyear’s ubiquitous expression, “To infinity and beyond.” Says Aduba, “When you’re watching Buzz Lightyear, the toy, say those words to Woody in that world, we think he’s talking about space, right? And then when you watch ‘Lightyear,’ you realize it’s really about connection. It’s about friendship.”
However, when it came time to record those words for the film, Aduba found herself tongue-tied. “As we were reading the scene through, when I got to the part when I say ‘to infinity,’ I couldn’t contain myself. I was blown away that those words were coming out of my mouth and being recorded.”
Filmmakers had no doubt that Aduba could bring the expression and character to life in an extraordinary way. “She has that super-commanding, authoritative quality to her voice,” says Susman, “but she’s also got a lot of warmth. It’s a hard combination to find.”
Artists had to strike a similar balance when it came to the look of the character. “Alisha is Buzz’s anchor,” says character art director Matt Nolte. “She represents a well-rounded human being. She needed to be just as strong and confident as Buzz with softer edges.”
Audiences will see the character age quickly in a montage sequence, so artists and technicians had to be agile. Says character supervisor Mark Piretti, “Given both the old and younger versions of Alisha, we actually created a dial—we could dial in more or less detail as needed to convey that passage of time.
“Next,” adds Piretti, “shading and groom does some heavy lifting.” Says Bill Zahn, color and shading art director, “You might not see a single wrinkle on a person’s face, but you know they’re older. You can’t quite pinpoint it. Their cheeks aren’t quite as high—they’re more weighed down. Hair color is also useful, with more grays being woven in. Skin tone becomes less constant. Eye color dims. It’s all very subtle.”
Artists gave careful consideration to Alisha’s costuming because of its role in showing the passage of time. Says Kalal, “At first, we see her dressed in whatever she would’ve had with her on the crew’s mission. As they start to progress as a society, they settle into this hostile planet as their new home. After Buzz’s first test flight, Alisha’s wearing the uniform of a commanding officer—she’s got a commander-rank pin, a Star Command medal, ribbons, decorated epaulets—all the things that show she’s the leader of this community.”
Illustrating how every detail is in service of the story, groom artist Sofya Ogunseitan designed several looks for Alisha’s hair. “We wanted her hairstyles to be authentic to her blackness and her queerness, while also reflecting who she is as a Space Ranger,” says Ogunseitan, who suggested cornrows for the character’s first style. “I think a big reason this hairstyle was chosen was because the cornrows gave her a really square and sharp silhouette.
“And in her second hairstyle, only some of her hair is cornrowed and the rest is out naturally,” continues Ogunseitan. “The change signals that a lot of time has passed and that she and everyone else are used to living on the planet. She still intentionally styles her hair but knows that she probably won’t need to be in a space suit, since things have settled down.”
Once the designs were locked, they had to be achieved in 3D. “The tools for procedural braids didn’t exist yet at Pixar, which made braided hairstyles—specifically styles with multiple braids—extremely difficult,” says Ogunseitan. “Creating a procedural braiding tool in time to be used for Alisha was a challenge. A procedural partitioning tool was also needed to complete these hairstyles.”
IZZY HAWTHORNE is the eager leader of the Junior Zap Patrol, a volunteer team of selfmotivated cadets training to become protectors of the nascent society that’s taken shape on the planet. Izzy dreams of becoming a Space Ranger like her grandmother Alisha—but that’s easier said than done: Izzy has a secret that is standing in her way.
For director Angus MacLane, Izzy represents a part of the community that Buzz can’t really understand. “She’s only ever known life on T’Kani Prime,” he says. “She’s heard tales about Space Rangers and knows everything about her grandmother’s career. Her self-imposed challenge is living up to the legacy.”
Keke Palmer voices Izzy. “Keke is just a burst of energy—as a performer and as a person,” says MacLane. “She’s a really creative force of nature.”
According to Palmer, she’s not the only one. “Angus’ imagination is amazing,” she says. “He’s brilliant in his ability to create an amazing world with action-packed energy—all in a very heartwarming story. It’s not just a bunch of gags and special effects. It also has a lot of really deep messages.”
“Keke quickly helped define the character,” MacLane says. “Izzy represents an opportunity for Buzz to reconnect with Alisha after losing so much time with his best friend through his own hubris. This is his chance to get it right.”
Says Palmer, “I think the reason why a character like Buzz Lightyear affected us so much in ‘Toy Story’ is the same reason he’ll affect us in ‘Lightyear’—it’s about friendship. It really carries you through time, whether learning how to work with others or that you don’t have to do everything on your own. There are people who will support you even if you make a mistake. I think we often have a big weight on our shoulders—a desire to make someone proud or validate ourselves through our accomplishments. It can make us lose out on the most priceless things in life. Life is so much more than what you’ve accomplished. It’s who you’ve loved and how they’ve loved you.” In the story, Buzz mistakes Izzy for his dear friend, so artists wanted Izzy to resemble her grandmother. “Izzy has a striking resemblance to her grandmother until she’s put into a tough spot,” says producer Galyn Susman. “She has spunk. She definitely has the courage, but she’s untrained and unproven, and not sure she can live up to the family name.”
According to character supervisor Mark Piretti, while the characters’ models are aligned, there are key differences between the final looks. “Izzy is younger, so her features are more youthful, more rounded,” he says. “As a veteran Space ranger, Alisha has a more angular look.”
For Palmer, who was a toddler when “Toy Story” debuted, the film was a validation. “I was that kid who believed when I closed my eyes, that my toys came to life. So, for me, that film made me feel like I knew it all along.”
MAURICE “MO” MORRISON suffers from a lack of direction—he just can’t seem to find his passion. He has long had a fear of commitment, especially when it comes to holding a full-time job. When Mo joins forces with Izzy Hawthorne and the Junior Zap Patrol, he doesn’t exactly share Izzy’s passion for the cause—it’s just something to do. “Mo joins the unit because he doesn’t have anything else going on,” says MacLane. “He doesn’t have a lot of confidence in his ability to succeed—he figures he’ll just quit before he has a chance to find out. But it’s impossible not to laugh at his antics.”
The humor, in large part, can be attributed to Taika Waititi, the voice of Mo. “He has a very dry, goofy delivery that is a nice contrast to the others,” says MacLane.
Waititi was an easy sell when it came to the role. “I think it took about 4.8 seconds for me to say yes,” he says. “I’ve watched the ‘Toy Story’ films multiple times. I’ve got kids now—I get to experience it all over again with them. The idea of an origin story of Buzz—it was a no-brainer. I want to start doing things that my kids enjoy, and I love the idea of having a toy made of a character I’ve done.”
The Oscar-winning filmmaker appreciated Pixar’s process behind the scenes. “You’re never let down with a Pixar film, and the dedication to story is something that I feel like a lot of other writers in Hollywood could learn from,” he says. “Everyone is dedicated to making the best film possible. They’re relentless in their pursuit of a good film—it’s an amount of discipline that I don’t think many filmmakers who do live action have.”
It’s not unusual for voiceover performances to inspire artists, who might incorporate a mannerism or quirk to add authenticity to the look of the character. Character art director Matt Nolte says Waititi gave artists a perfect place to start.
Character supervisor Mark Piretti adds, “Mo’s the most cartoonish of the main characters. That’s intended to show that he’s a little more of a goofball compared to the others.”
DARBY STEEL is a gruff, no-nonsense and not-exactly-voluntary member of the Junior Zap Patrol. Nonetheless, she completes the trio in a refreshing albeit abrupt way—Darby says it like it is and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it. “Her mysteriousness is what I think makes her interesting,” says MacLane, “and kind of hysterical.”
Filmmakers designed the character to contrast with fellow Junior Zap Patrol members Izzy and Mo. “She’s older, tough as nails and someone who’s always been able to make it on her own,” says character art director Matt Nolte, who referenced Arctic survivalists to shape the look of the character. “I imagined Darby as a total buttkicker.”
Adds Bill Zahn, color and shading art director, “All of their suits are piecemealed, mismatched—cobbled together from whatever they could find. They’re the leftovers of the leftovers. And we gave each member of the Zap Patrol their own silhouette and color palette so that they’re instantly recognizable, even when they’re wearing helmets. We wanted their personalities to shine through those colors, so Darby, being more calculated, has cooler colors in her space suit.”
Dale Soules was cast as the voice of Darby. “We saw her in ‘Orange Is the New Black,’” says producer Galyn Susman. “She’s so tough and the perfect counter to Taika’s take on Mo.”
“Darby will do anything for you, will never give up, and be loyal to you as long as you appreciate her efforts and special skills and treat her with respect,” says Soules. “She likes to get to the point and keep it simple. She’s not easily satisfied and a bit curmudgeonly, but always willing to learn.”
For Soules, the best part of the experience was “getting to work with masters of storytelling in animation,” she says. “I knew I was in good hands. I have enjoyed so many of Pixar’s films that to be part of one is an honor.”
SOX is a dutiful robot companion cat gifted to Buzz from Star Command (and Alisha). Intended to ease the Space Ranger’s emotional transition after his time away, Sox basically exists to make Buzz happy. A hidden grab bag of gizmos in a cute kitty package, Sox is the friend and sidekick Buzz needs. Sox is also adept at providing white noise and is capable of complicated computations. “He can fill Buzz in on whatever he’s missed while he’s away,” says Susman. “And, according to Sox himself, he’s an excellent listener.”
Peter Sohn provides the voice of Sox. “He’s like your best friend and digital assistant all rolled into a cute robot cat,” says Susman. “Peter is Sox. He’s just perfect. His voice is so charming and the right mix of intelligence and innocence.”
Says Sohn, “I imagine Sox always having a big smile and a positive attitude to everything that’s put in front of him. He’s been created to process relationships and situations so that he can help whoever and whenever—especially Buzz, because Buzz is his mission.
“There are times when Sox has to sound more robotic,” continues Sohn. “With those lines I try to channel my inner Space Ranger. I imagine saying ‘yes, Captain’ in front of the line and it helps me get into a more formal robotic place. He’s always ready to take orders.”
Animation supervisor David DeVan says, “Angus [MacLane] wanted to keep Sox feeling true to its construction, like a robot toy. We focused on making him appealing and keeping things simple. We experimented with more mechanical movements like staggers and overshoots, but in the end, the simple appeal of the design showed the way.”
According to graphics art director Paul Conrad, details were added to reinforce the play between robot and pet in Sox’s look. “He’s got a litt le nametag with his name,” says Conrad, “and it’s got a barcode because it’s the future.”
COMMANDER BURNSIDE succeeds Alisha Hawthorne as the leader of Star Command. Buzz has been working nonstop to find the fuel that will allow them to reach ‘hyperspeed’ so they can all return to Earth, but Commander Burnside has no interest in the endeavor. He grew up on the uncharted planet—T’Kani Prime is the only home he’s ever known. Burnside’s big source of pride is building a high-tech laser shield to protect Star Command and its people from the planet’s dangers—giant bugs, aggressive vines and a mysterious alien ship overhead. “When Burnside takes over, he has no idea about the kind of emotional rat’s nest he’s just gotten into with Buzz,” says Jason Headley, who’s a screenwriter on the film. “He’s not a bad guy, but he quickly becomes an antagonist—he’s the anti thesis to everything that Buzz wants and stands for.”
According to tailoring and simulation supervisor Fran Kalal, Burnside’s look mirrored that of Alisha’s. “He wears a male version of Alisha’s formal jacket,” she says. “It was really important that we see that the torch has been passed. It’s immediately clear that he’s our new leader.”
Isiah Whitlock Jr. lends his voice to Commander Burnside. “He is the master of playing the tough guy,” says Susman. “He’s really perfect for this role.”
ZURG captains the alien spaceship that shows up at T’Kani Prime while Buzz is on his last test flight. The imposing presence comes complete with an army of ruthless robots and a spaceship full of high-tech gadgetry. Shrouded in shadow and mystery, Zurg’s mission is unclear, but the threat looms large.
Director Angus MacLane, who was one of the artists who worked on Zurg’s design in “Toy Story 2,” was excited to explore the character. “Of course, Zurg’s the villain,” says MacLane. “We’ve known for a long ti me that he’s Buzz’s nemesis. But we never really knew why.”
In “Lightyear,” Zurg is a giant robot that resembles the character audiences know. Bill Zahn, color and shading art director, says that Zurg’s design complements that of our hero. “Zurg’s purple color with hints of green plus the reds worked out really well and supports the story.”
The updated design was inspired by the best of sci-fi and Japanese anime, particularly mecha, says Greg Peltz, sets art director. “Zurg is a force to be reckoned with in our movie and adapting him for our film was a tall order,” Peltz says. “The original design from ‘Toy Story 2’ is iconic, and we wanted to draw from that source material as much as possible. But at the same ti me, our movie has a look that is more mature and detailed than the original toy version of the character. We needed our Zurg to fi t within that new aesthetic that we’ve developed for a sci-fi world. Above all, Zurg needed to be a threat. His design had to be inti midating so that he could carry the menace and the presence that our story demanded.”
According to shading supervisor Thomas Jordan, artists had to push themselves to find the look. “He’s meant to be made out of some hyper-futuristic space-age material that audiences have never seen before,” he says. “We had to figure out how to do that in a way that is believable and feels like it’s in the same universe as Buzz and the rest of the characters.
“He’s made of hundreds of individual pieces that are all interlocking, which was particularly challenging for the shading team,” Jordan continues. “Each piece gets a specific treatment of color, material properties, texture. The entire process to get Zurg right took a very long time.”
James Brolin lends his voice to Zurg. “I’m not sure I’ve ever played a real bad guy—it’s kind of fun, actually,” says Brolin, who marveled at the character’s sci-fi arsenal of weaponry. “When I was a kid, it was Buck Rogers with a ray gun. It was kind of a fantasy that you could zap someone from a distance. Zurg has some of the most creative, advanced weapons in this film. He also has an army of robots. Together, they become quite aggressive.”
According to graphics art director Paul Conrad, Zurg—and all of his high-tech gadgetry and robots—called for a custom-made font. “We started with a regular-looking alphabet and made it look more mechanical. We wanted it to look alien—we aren’t supposed to understand it. We kept designing those letters to take them further and further away from anything recognizable, adding a bit of a sinister feel.”
AIRMAN DÍAZ is a cheerful and dedicated member of the Star Command flight crew. He oversees the team that preps Buzz’s ship for each mission. Díaz also provides Buzz with an I.V.A.N. (Internal Voice-Activated Navigator) and the latest ‘hyperspeed’ fuel crystal. “He’s the guy on the tarmac who checks all of the boxes before Buzz takes flight,” says story supervisor Dean Kelly. “Díaz also serves as a measuring stick of time passing when Buzz leaves and returns—he’s a great visual representation for us to see just how much time has passed.”
Adds Headley, “He’s that likable, Jimmy Olsen kind of character. He guides us all through the missions in an ‘aw, shucks’ way—Efren did such a great job with him.”
Efren Ramirez provides the voice of Airman Díaz. The actor visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., to get a better understanding of his character’s role. “I had the honor to go into their control room and learn that every detail can lead to a new discovery,” he says. “Everyone did their part and worked together. It was exciting to see. And that’s what I enjoyed about working on ‘Lightyear.’ Everyone worked together to find the best outcome.”
Ramirez, who had a ball working with the filmmakers, says he could feel the stakes involved. “I found myself nervous at times because I wanted to be sure that Buzz Lightyear had everything he needed for [his test flights]. Buzz is someone my character looks up to. I had invested so much into the world that it felt like a dream come true!”
I.V.A.N.—an acronym for Internal Voice-Activated Navigator—is the portable onboard computer in Buzz Lightyear’s spaceships. Truth be told, Buzz is not a big fan of I.V.A.N.—but it’s not really the computer’s fault: Buzz likes to be in control—he doesn’t trust autopilots. Worse, I.V.A.N. alerts Buzz whenever things go wrong, pointing out each and every mission failure. Says producer Galyn Susman, “Mary McDonald-Lewis is the voice of I.V.A.N. She’s done a lot in her career, but you may recognize her voice for another reason. She’s the voice of OnStar—the onboard computer in your car. We got a kick out of that.”
McDonald-Lewis says her first recording session was a memorable one. “I’ve been a voice actor for 40 years, putting my pipes to dozens of very cool characters,” she says. “But this. Pixar! Buzz LIGHTYEAR! I met Angus [MacLane] and the team on the ‘Brady Bunch’ screen via Zoom. As I organized my script, Angus pipes up and says, ‘You know, I gotta confess—I’m kind of fanboying out right now.’ Turns out, Angus’ first voiceover crush was me! Or at least, me as Lady Jaye on ‘G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero,’ the great ’80s cartoon show still entertaining fans today.”
The ZYCLOPS are an army of dutiful automatons loyal to Zurg. They’re tasked with one mission: find Buzz Lightyear and bring him to their master.
According to graphics art director Paul Conrad, the Zyclops graphics are part of the overall Zurg approach. “They all have graphics that fit in the Zurg design language and actually use the font that we created for Zurg,” says Conrad. “Everything that you see in the Zurg world is written with that font. The Zyclops are numbered, and some of those numbers are pretty easy to figure out. But they may have other messaging on them that at first glance you wouldn’t be able to decipher.”
BUGS swarm the skies on T’Kani Prime—enormous gnat-like nuisances with a powerful punch given their size. Crowds animation supervisor Brett Schulz says, “We did a lot of tests to find the right locomotion based on their size and design. Since we had a lot of robots in our world we wanted to make the bugs feel a little more organic. We tried to find a hybrid between bugs we’re familiar with on Earth as well as something alien—they were ultimately natives to T’Kani Prime. However, our biggest challenge was the sheer number of bugs.”
Adds crowds technical supervisor Hsiao-Hsien Aaron Lo, “First we had to develop a pipeline that could handle more than two legs, which we hadn’t done to this extent before. Then we had to figure out how to scale that for a massive swarm.”
Filmmakers Take ’80s-Era Aesthetic into the Future
The “Lightyear” setting is mysterious, intriguing and exotic, says producer Galyn Susman, but the story remains rooted in an all-too-familiar reality. “Burdened with the guilt of having made a mistake, Buzz is consumed by fixing it to the point where he’s left alone,” she says. “Everybody regrets a decision at some point in time, but it’s important to learn how to let go—how to release the guilt and instead build upon what currently exists. And that’s what the story’s about—except we do it in space with giant bugs, crazy robots and zero-gravity fights.”
Although the character was introduced to audiences in “Toy Story,” director Angus MacLane insists the film is not an extension of that world. Indeed, his vision for “Lightyear” is a distinct departure from what audiences experienced in the “Toy Story” films. The setting, for starters, is deep in space, some 4.2 million light-years away from Earth. But, cautions MacLane—it’s not a tried-and-true sci-fi film either. “While this film does pay homage to some sci-fi references, a lot of it is a tribute to cinema in general,” says the director, who’s known around Pixar as a walking encyclopedia of film. “CG looks great in the dark. ‘Jurassic Park’ was made in the early ’90s and it still looks amazing because it was largely shot at night. I wanted to take advantage of that.
“The design aesthetic in general is a little retro,” continues MacLane, “a chunky, early ’80s look that is inspired by films ranging from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Parallax View’ to ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and a lot of anime of the time. I wanted the film to feel tactile and lived-in with a high level of contrast like French New Wave.”
Filmmakers had to bridge the toy Buzz with the hero who inspired him. “I wanted ‘Lightyear’ to adhere to the visual language of the Buzz Lightyear character, but I also wanted to take advantage of the technical and artistic advances in the last quarter century,” says MacLane. “And first and foremost I wanted ‘Lightyear’ to feel like a movie. It would mark a departure from the earlier films by using different lenses and lighting techniques to give the film a more cinematic look. We have bold lighting, emphasizing the graphic and letting the detail fall away, drawing the viewer into a rich world of a tangible alien landscape.”
Of course, filmmakers rooted the world in research. Says producer Galyn Susman, “I call myself a tech nerd, and in fact I went into college as a physics major hoping to be an astronaut. So, when we started working on this film, I absolutely had to get us a research trip to NASA. We tend to be a bit obsessive about research at Pixar. The goal is to take your key creatives and expose them to the people, the environments and experiences that will impact the design and the language of the film.
“And we completely lucked out, Susman continues. “Lindsey Collins, the producer for ‘Turning Red,’ introduced us to Tom Marshburn—an astronaut who was recently stationed on the ISS. He, in turn, grabbed his fellow astronaut friend, Kjell Lindgren. And we were treated to a comprehensive multiday exploration of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We saw the original control center for the Apollo missions, as well as the one being used today to track the ISS. We saw buttons, switches, knobs, dials and badges. We were guided through a replica of the ISS US quarters and the labs. We saw vehicles, training aircraft and capsules.”
Buzz Lightyear, Alisha Hawthorne and their large crew find themselves marooned on a hostile planet. While there was a clear starting point for the characters, given the Buzz action figure, the all-new, anything goes setting left the door wide open. Artists narrowed their options, deciding to include familiar features like trees and lakes—with an otherworldly twist—to ensure the audience would not be distracted. The planet itself, says production designer Tim Evatt, is smaller than Earth with a big difference. “It’s a tidally locked planet,” he says. “The sun only hits half of the planet: one half is always light—the other is always dark.”
Adds Ian Megibben, director of photography (lighting), “It doesn’t have a typical rotation as it orbits its star so there is no day-and-night cycle. There would be a very narrow, habitable band just along the edge of the planet, which lends itself to more of a magic hour of lighting a lot of action movies take place during magic hour.”
According to Evatt, the light side of the planet isn’t exactly peaceful and breezy. The terrain is part swampy and part rocky with wildly aggressive vines that target and capture unsuspecting victims. If the vines aren’t attacking, then giant bugs are likely swarming. The dark side, says Evatt, is devoid of life. “It’s colder there because it doesn’t get any sun,” he says. “There’s no plant life—it’s stark and barren and really underscores key moments in the story. But we decided that the light side does change with weather conditions, so there might be a buildup of clouds, bright sunlight or thick, steamy atmosphere.”
Shading supervisor Thomas Jordan says that artists explored many options before landing where they did. “We wanted the audience to know right away that this is not Earth,” says Jordan. “We did tests with large and small craters to make it recognizable from near and far. We added green water to some of the craters because it looks otherworldly. We added different types of rock with lots of jagged edges to make the planet feel uninviting, dangerous and intimidating.”
The planet, purported to be resource-rich, needed plant life. “The vegetation in our world is either really big or really small for the most part,” says sets supervisor Nathan Fariss. “We have these really big tree-like plants that stand up off the ground on their roots like giant mangrove trees so that you can kind of walk under them. The smaller stuff is actually based on research I did on the earliest forms of land-based vegetation—the wort family, which is like algae, except it has a little more structure to it. It’s been around for millions of years but is relatively unchanged. The texture of that tiny vegetation on a lot of our trees and rocks looks a bit like cornflakes.”
The hostile planet comes complete with hostile vines. Fortunately, filmmakers had a go-to tool to begin the process: Hank from 2016’s “Finding Dory.” “It took two years to build Hank, but the tentacle rig has been useful ever since,” says animation supervisor David DeVan, who served in the same capacity on “Finding Dory.”
Ian Megibben, director of photography (lighting), says that the nature of the planet created a lot of opportunity. “Throughout the movie we visit locations that have varied biomes—some are a little foggier than others, for example, some are more desolate, and we really play that up. There’s a particularly low point in the film when Buzz loses hope. We drew inspiration from a real-life event that happened in California in 2020 when everything went orange for a day up in the Bay Area—the scene is completely orange; we don’t really explain it. It’s just part of the inhospitable world that is T’Kani Prime.”
Effects supervisor Bill Watral and his team contributed to the look of the planet. “The idea was to make the planet feel both livable and foreboding—and volumetrics play a huge role in that,” he says. “There’s very dense atmospheric fog, big steaming plumes coming from cracks in the planet and lava fields, smoke and mist—the air needs to feel thick and oppressive at times. We built a big library of these effects.”
According to Jeremy Lasky, director of photography (layout/camera), composing shots within the richly detailed surroundings was a test in restraint. “We were constantly asking, ‘How little do we need to see?’” he says. “All the work is beautiful, but how much detail can we take away in order to focus on the characters and the emotion of what they’re going through? We leaned into negative space and made sure that the dynamic shapes and textures weren’t competing with the story being told. Minimizing information was a big theme across the film.”
TURNIP, SPACESHIPS AND BUTTONS
A movie set in space called for the kind of high-tech gear and blinking gadgetry that would make a sci-fi fan smile. Says producer Galyn Susman, “The look is a cool mishmash of retro and futuristic. Throughout the film—the knobs, the dials, the buttons are all very tacti le. The edges are all rounded in an eff ort to capture that feel Angus wanted.
“We hired John Duncan, who had done a lot of work for ‘Star Wars,’ and had him build our first spaceship design as if he were building it for a live-action prop use,” continues Susman. “Then we took the same designs and built them on the computer, because we wanted to see what it was about CG that lacked the warmth that you get when you use practical models like in a ‘Star Wars’ set. From that we developed a film language that put the warmth back into the CG models—curves where you would normally do straights, making sure that there’s no such thing as a single edge—all to move away from that super-sharp, super-crisp CG look.”
Jeremy Lasky, director of photography (camera), realized that the techniques used to shoot live-action sci-fi might lend themselves to animation. “Our models can rotate without moving forward, because the background is moving. If you see stars or other objects moving, the ship itself doesn’t have to go anywhere.”
Megibben found that space travel comes with a technical challenge that required collaboration between his team and a host of departments. “Whether it’s the Turnip, the solo spacecraft or the ground vehicle we spend a lot of ti me in during the second half of the movie, our primary source of lighting is the dashboard—all of the controls and buttons,” says Megibben. “We worked with art and sets departments to have them incorporate lighting sources—this style light here, this butt on there, a few screens here. All of that creates a lighting tableau that we can then use to light our scenes. They would work with us to come up with the correct color and intensity for every single light bulb, and then they would pass that on to the character team to rig so animation can animate the buttons to turn it on or off . It was actually one of the most all-encompassing aspects of computer animation I’d ever experienced.”
The S.C.0.1 spaceship, lovingly referred to as the “Turnip” thanks to its root vegetable-like look, is among the most important sets in the film. It not only transports the massive crew and supplies to T’Kani Prime, but also serves as a backdrop for much of the film. Says sets supervisor Nathan Fariss, “It was all about scale. We had to make it feel huge, as though it could contain 1,200 people. There was a lot of exploratory artwork placing the Turnip next to Pixar or the Space Shuttle to give it a sense of scale. We had to find the right balance of very large shapes and those small enough to show that a human had a hand in it.”
Adds Greg Peltz, sets art director, “Star Command is the huge base that sprawls outward from the Turnip after Buzz and company have been marooned—it’s the proverbial beating heart that is focused on building and launching ships to test ‘hyperspeed’ fuel. Star Command isn’t just research-focused though. They are in the middle of nowhere on a hostile planet, so there’s a necessary military influence with perimeter walls and other fortifications to protect crew and staff. The whole enterprise has this experimental science meets-rugged-military/aerospace vibe to it.”
Within the Turnip are smaller sets—an elevator, the bridge, an engine room, hallways, sleep chambers. “Giving our world a lived-in look was important to us,” says Peltz. “Everything needed to have a tacti le feel—we didn’t want our sets to look as though they’d just rolled off a factory-room floor, all shiny and new.”
Helping to bring the Star Command base to life were the background characters—dozens created to quietly showcase a successful and busy operation. “Our human crowds characters were color-coded according to the unique jobs they had,” says Brett Schulz, crowds animation supervisor. “For example, green vests handled vehicles, purple uniforms dealt with fuel, and people in red vests dealt with search and rescue. We tried to give everyone a role to play while being as true as possible to structure and order of operations of the military.”
Crowds technical supervisor Hsiao-Hsien Aaron Lo says, “We added these targets to our pipeline that automates where the characters look—regardless of the animation. That way, an animator doesn’t have to micromanage every single head turn. We made the system as flexible as possible while being easy to use.”
Buzz’s primary mission in the film is to test fuel concoctions in an eff ort to reach ‘hyperspeed’ and get the crew back to Earth. The monumental mission involved risky test flights, which meant multiple space craft needed to be created. Says Peltz, “I’m a model maker at heart, and I’ve had a deep love for big machines ever since I was a kid. This movie is literally overflowing with cool models and machines, so it was kind of a dream come true for a nerd like me. We really wanted the look of our models to be such that you’d want to reach out and touch them and start playing with all the buttons and switches. There are no touchscreens or cloud sharing in the world of ‘Lightyear’—it’s all zip disks and 20-pound CRTs. In addition to looking cool, the chunkiness of our world has a toy-like appeal that ti es right into our main source material—Buzz Lightyear.
“Buzz’s first ship, the XL-01, is this big, brutish powerhouse that takes styling cues from 1970s aerospace design,” continues Peltz. “The cockpit is fi lled with analog control surfaces, buttons, knobs and exposed wiring. These details don’t just look awesome, they also serve a story purpose. Real cockpits have all sorts of details that shake and rattle, lights that blink, buzzers that scream while the whole vehicle shakes like crazy—space launches are violent, chaotic events, and we wanted the designs of our ships to underscore that sense of danger so audiences can experience that excitement for themselves while they’re watching.”
Artists made a library of parts—a host of shapes and textures designed and built to be reused across the film. The process mirrors what live-action model makers might use—it’s just a digital version.
Buzz’s test flights resulted in two key phases: pre-hyperspace and hyperspace. “They’re an amalgamation of every sci-fi thing that you’ve ever seen with added stylization that is unique to Pixar,” says effects supervisor Bill Watral. “We wanted to capture the essence of what going fast through space might feel like to Buzz. While it may look simple on the screen, it actually took a lot of thought and planning to get to that level of simplicity. We created these beautiful deceleration rings where Buzz must go to slow his ship down before returning to T’Kani Prime.”
“Lightyear” Marks Pixar’s First-Ever Film Created for IMAX Screens
While Pixar has released previous films in IMAX, “Lightyear” is the first created specifically for IMAX screens: 30 minutes of the film were made in the larger IMAX aspect ratio of 1.43 and 1.90. Filmmakers virtually shot in IMAX, carefully crafting the way they designed the film utilizing the larger aspect ratio to help enhance the storytelling.
“The film is a huge sci-fi action-adventure that was made for the big screen, as well as the biggest screen,” says Jeremy Lasky, director of photography (layout/camera). “Experiencing it in IMAX will put the audience in the middle of the action with Buzz, whether he’s traveling through space or fighting Zurg.”
Inspired by the way IMAX was used in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” director Angus MacLane proposed the format to his fellow filmmakers. “It was maybe three or four months into the film, and Angus came in one day and said he’d been thinking that he’d love for ‘Lightyear’ to be IMAX,” says visual effects supervisor Jane Yen.
“We all took a deep breath and thought about it, and we decided yes, we can do this. It actually got us really inspired thinking about what this film could be.
“We took a trip down to the IMAX headquarters and they showed us examples of films, some not intentionally made for IMAX and some live-action films that were shot specifically for IMAX,” continues Yen. “There has to be very thoughtful consideration of the timing and spacing of your compositions.”
“Lightyear” is the first animated film to work in this way with IMAX. The undertaking presented new challenges for filmmakers, which prompted innovative solutions. “We built Pixar’s first IMAX pipeline for film production,” says Yen. “We created a virtual IMAX camera with 1.43 aspect ratio and developed a pipeline to allow us to simultaneously shoot the film for IMAX and then crop down for our standard 2.39 format.”
Artists composed the action so it plays perfectly on both IMAX and widescreen. The IMAX scenes were selected based on their potential to immerse audiences in the action. “We looked at each sequence in IMAX and in 2.39 format and made sure the staging worked for both,” says MacLane. “We had to get creative and decide when’s the right time to make a dynamic change and use the IMAX format. It’s another tool in the toolbox.”
Filmmakers found IMAX to be a fitting format for “Lightyear” as it gives the audience a sense of scale between the characters and their expansive surroundings. “It’s a sci-fi space epic and we shot a lot of scenes specifically for IMAX, so it’s big, full-frame cinema with no place to hide,” says story supervisor Dean Kelly. “The other-worldly set that Buzz and the other characters interact with is like a character in and of itself. The scale and scope of the film feels as infinite as space itself, and it’s something we’ve never done before at Pixar.”
Adds Dominic Glynn, who’s a senior scientist within the studio mastering department, “The fidelity Pixar brings to the largest IMAX screens enables a whole new level of immersion in this film, especially during the scenes in space. These are the highest resolution images we’ve ever created for cinema.”
Producer Galyn Susman could feel the difference. “I have to say, sitting in the first IMAX review, when Buzz presses the launch button and you shoot into IMAX—it was breathtaking,” she says. “I was stunned by what I saw.”
Oscar-Winning Composer Michael Giacchino Creates Out-of-This-World Score
Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino is behind the scores of eight Pixar films, but “Lightyear” stands out as a real labor of love. “What I’ve enjoyed so much about working on ‘Lightyear’ is that it’s not just a sci-fi movie—it’s a sci-fi movie that exists within Andy’s world,” says Giacchino. “I felt that the music needed to embody the love that Andy felt watching Buzz on screen for the first time. The more I thought about Andy in the theater seeing this movie, the more I realized that ‘Lightyear’ is exactly the kind of movie that I would have loved as a kid. So, I tried to inject the music with as much fun and childlike joy as I could, to honor the spirit of kids—like me and Andy—seeing their favorite movies on the big screen for the very first time.”
“Michael Giacchino has been a friend and colleague for many years now, but that’s not the only reason he was our first and only choice,” says producer Galyn Susman. “‘Lightyear’ is a sci-fi action-adventure movie, and it needs a bombastic sci-fi score. Between ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Rogue One,’ he has clearly proven his sci-fi chops.”
The original score for “Lightyear” was recorded over 15 days with an 89-piece orchestra and a 39-member choir. In the midst of the COVID pandemic, sections were recorded separately in five different groups: strings, piano and harp; brass; winds; rhythm section and percussion; and choir. “‘Lightyear’ is my first Pixar film to have choir,” says Giacchino. “In order to firmly place this score and film within the world of big sci-fi flicks, I felt it was a really important element to have, during Zurg’s theme in particular.”
Adds the composer, “The main themes in ‘Lightyear’ are for Buzz, the Hawthornes and Zurg. Buzz’s theme is almost always played by the brass, and it’s all about the excitement of exploring space and the nobility of that pursuit. The Hawthornes, Izzy and Alisha, also have a theme, which is more about family and about everything that brings Buzz back down to Earth. As for Zurg, his theme is just big, scary and evil. He’s the ultimate villain.”
“With Michael, you know you’re in the hands of a professional and, honestly, he is so much fun to work with that you can hear that fun in his music,” says Susman. “The themes he creates have a personality in and of themselves. You hear the theme and realize he’s truly captured the essence of that character.”
But composing the score for “Lightyear” was not without its challenges. “One of my favorite sequences is called Mission Perpetual,” says Giacchino. “It’s early on in the film when Buzz is trying to accomplish a mission and keeps failing. It was an exciting challenge for me because there were so many things the music needed to convey: Buzz’s frustration with himself and the sadness of being alone in his pursuit, but also his undying ambition and drive to achieve his goal. I went through a similar ‘mission’ myself to get this cue right, but once I did, it was incredibly rewarding.”
Editor Tony Greenberg emphasizes the power that music choices, such as these, have over the audience. “The score informs and cues the audience as to how they should feel about what they’re looking at. You can really dramatically change the viewer’s perspective, if you change the score. I think that’s the magic of movie making.”
Giacchino recalls his close collaboration with director Angus MacLane: “This is my first feature with my great pal Angus. We first met on ‘One Man Band’ when he was an animator, and then we worked together again on the Pixar short ‘Toy Story OF TERROR!’ So, I’ve gotten to know him very well over the years. I love working with Angus. He is such an incredible storyteller, and after working together for so many years, our communication has become second nature. We’re both such big nerds about everything to do with film—specially sci-fi and space—and we had so many common reference points for how certain scenes, characters and moments should make us feel. It was like working with a childhood friend.”
MacLane concurs. “Whenever I get to work with Michael, it’s always a fun collaboration,” he says. “I consider him a very close creative partner independent of music. That’s his specialty, but he’s also a really good director. During production, I showed him the movie and involved him way earlier than normal. He understood what we were going for, not only as a composer but as a filmmaker. His score is just what you want to feel when watching ‘Lightyear.’”
The Lightyear Original Motion Picture Soundtrack from Walt Disney Records is available beginning June 17, 2022.
CHRIS EVANS (voice of Buzz Lightyear) is one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors for both big budget and independent features. He recently wrapped production on Apple’s romantic action-adventure film “Ghosted,” opposite Ana De Armas and directed by Dexter Fletcher.
Evans stars in Netflix’s film “The Gray Man,” alongside Ryan Gosling. The film, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, is Netflix’s biggest budget film to date and will be released on Netflix on July 22, 2022.
Evans recently starred in Adam McKay’s film “Don’t Look Up” for Netflix. The film, which also stars Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cate Blanchett, was released on the platform in December 2021 and later went onto receive an Oscar® nomination for best picture.
In April 2020, Evans starred in and executive produced the Apple TV+ limited series, “Defending Jacob.” The series is based on William Landay’s 2012 New York Times best-selling novel of the same name. The crime drama series, which starred Michelle Dockery, Cherry Jones, J.K. Simmons, and Jaeden Martell, was directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Mark Bomback.
In July 2020, Evans launched his new civics engagement project called “A Starting Point,” alongside partners Mark Kassen and Joe Kiani. The project launched as a website with the goal being to create informed, responsible and empathetic citizens who are empowered to further their understanding of the world of politics. Through ASP, they aim to demystify politics by providing answers to common questions directly from the people who create the policies that affect them.
In 2019, Evans starred in Rian Johnson’s critically acclaimed “Knives Out,” a mystery crime film. He starred alongside Daniel Craig and Michael Shannon. Lionsgate released the film on November 27, 2019 and it has grossed over $300 million worldwide.
Chris is internationally renowned for his role of Captain America in the Disney/ Marvel Avengers franchise. In 2019, Evans starred “Avengers: Endgame,” which was released by Disney on April 26, 2019. The film became the fastest in history to pass $2 billion at the global box office. In the spring of 2018, Evans was seen in “Avengers: Infinity War,” the first of two back-to-back sequels of “Avengers.” Disney released the film on April 23, 2018.
Evans made his Broadway debut in Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero” on March 26, 2018. The play opened to rave reviews. Ben Brantley from the New York Times called it “a terrific Broadway debut” and said, “Mr. Evans is a marvel.” Chris starred alongside Michael Cera and Bel Powley. The play, directed by Trip Cullman, centers on a slacker security guard, a veteran police officer and murder investigation. His run concluded in May of 2018.
In 2017, Chris starred in Marc Webb’s “Gifted” alongside McKenna Grace, Octavia Spencer and Jenny Slate. The film follows a man (Evans) who sues for custody of his 7-year-old, intellectually gifted niece. Fox Searchlight released the film April 12, 2017.
In 2016, Evans starred in “Captain America: Civil War,” the highly anticipated third installment to 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” and 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Evans reprised his role as the famed Marvel Comics character, Steve Rogers. In this film, after the government sets up a governing body to oversee the Avengers, the team splinters into two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability. The film was released by Disney on May 6, 2016 and is the top grossing film of 2016 with more than $1.1 billion worldwide.
Evans marked his feature film directorial debut with “Before We Go”. He also produced and starred in the film alongside Alice Eve and Mark Kassen. The film premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and was released by Radius on September 14, 2015. Prior to its release, the film garnered $1.53 million in VOD and was the first pre-theatrical film of 2015 to reach both the top 5 on iTunes and the top 10 on Rentrak’s weekly digital chart.
Evans starred in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opposite Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth. Disney released the film May 1, 2015 and to date it has grossed over $1.4 billion worldwide. Evans was seen in “The Avengers” in 2012 which in its opening weekend, smashed previous domestic records and continued its box office success with a current worldwide gross of over $1.5 billion.
In June 2014, Evans also starred in Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer” opposite Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Ed Harris. Set in a world covered in snow and ice, the film follows a train full of travelers who struggle to co-exist.
His other film credits include Gideon Raff’s “Red Sea Diving Resort,” Ariel Vroman’s drama “The Iceman” opposite Michael Shannon; Mark Mylod’s comedy “What’s Your Number?” opposite Anna Faris; Edgar Wright’s action comedy, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” opposite Michael Cera; Sylvain White’s “The Losers” with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Zoe Saldana; “Push” opposite Dakota Fanning; “Street Kings” with Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker; “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” opposite Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis and Ioan Gruffudd; and Danny Boyle’s critically acclaimed “Sunshine.” Additional credits include “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond,” “Cellular,” “The Perfect Score,” “Fierce People,” “Puncture” and the romantic drama “London.” Evans’ first cinematic role was in the 2001 hit comedic spoof, “Not Another Teen Movie.”
Raised in Massachusetts, Evans began his acting career in theatre before moving to New York where he studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute. Philanthropies he regularly lends his time to include Boston’s Children Hospital, Make-A-Wish and Concord Youth Theatre.
KEKE PALMER (voice of Izzy Hawthorne) is an Emmy® Award–winning actress, singer, songwriter, producer and television host. Kicking off the year, Palmer starred and executive produced the feature “Alice” alongside Steel Springs Pictures opposite Common and Jonny Lee Miller from writer and director Krystin Ver Linden. The film premiered at Sundance and was released in March by Roadside Attractions. This summer she is set to star as the lead in “Nope,” Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated next feature at Universal.
In 2021 she received a Primetime Emmy Award for her portrayal of the five Taylor family members in her own series, “Turnt Up with the Taylors,” which she produced with Kids at Play for Facebook Watch based on the original characters who rose to popularity on her social media.
Palmer is currently lending her voice to Maya in Disney+’s revival of “The Proud Family” and Rochelle in Netflix’s new “Big Mouth” spinoff, “Human Resources,” after appearing in season five of “Big Mouth.” She hosted Disney+’s food competition show “Foodtastic” and can be heard voicing the role of Brynn opposite Pete Davidson in Broadway Video’s Audible scripted podcast “Hit Job.”
Palmer was recently tapped to host Vogue’s first-ever official livestream for the annual Met Gala, which garnered 15 million views across all platforms and 54 million minutes watched in the first 24 hours alone, with Vogue touting record-breaking viewership and digital engagement around the event. She also hosted the 2020 MTV VMA Awards, which boasted a whopping 4.1 million social media impressions, the most impressions of any event that year just behind the Super Bowl. In 2020 Palmer received an Emmy® nomination for her work as a host on ABC’s “GMA3: Strahan, Sara and Keke” and hosted Quibi’s “Singled Out” based on the iconic ’90s MTV series. She also released two hit EPs, “Virgo Tendencies: Part 1 & 2,” on her own Big Bosses record label. She hosted Nickelodeon’s “Kids Pick the President” and “Our White House,” the official Inauguration Day program for kids. Palmer recently starred opposite Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B and Constance Wu in “Hustlers” for Gloria Sanchez and STX, directed by Lorene Scafaria, which was released to massive critical and popular acclaim.
Palmer rose to prominence through her breakout role in “Akeelah and the Bee” at age 12, starring opposite Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, and has gone on to star in over 25 films and 30 TV shows. In 2018 she played the lead in the dark and gritty film “Pimp,” executive produced by Lee Daniels. She also starred in 20th Century Fox Television and Lee Daniels Entertainment’s hit television show “Star,” EPIX’s “Berlin Station” and FOX’s “Scream Queens,” produced by Ryan Murphy.
Palmer has broken barriers from a young age, becoming the youngest actress ever to receive a SAG Award nomination in a lead actor category for her work in “The Wool Cap” at the age of 10, the youngest and first Black Cinderella in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s iconic musical “Cinderella” on Broadway, the first Black woman to star as Marty in the Emmy-nominated TV movie version of “Grease Live!” and the youngest talk show host in history. She is a passionate activist for the causes she believes in and an advocate for young people. She hopes to inspire her millennial contemporaries to harness their power and drive the change they hope to see in the world.
PETER SOHN (voice of Sox, Director/Vice President, Creative Pixar Animation Studios) joined Pixar Animation Studios in September 2000, and has worked on Academy Award®–winning feature films including “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles” and “WALL•E.” Sohn made his directorial debut on the Pixar short “Partly Cloudy” before going on to direct his first feature, “The Good Dinosaur.” He was also an executive producer on “Luca,” which debuted on Disney+ in June 2021.
In his role as a Creative VP, Sohn is involved in key creative decision-making at the studio and consults on films in both development and production. Sohn is currently in production directing Disney and Pixar’s “Elemental,” which releases June 16, 2023.
In addition to his contributions as a filmmaker, Sohn has lent his voice talents to Pixar’s feature films. In “Ratatouille” he voiced the character of Emile, and in “Monsters University” he is the voice of Scott “Squishy” Squibbles.
Prior to Pixar, Sohn worked at Warner Bros. with “Ratatouille” director Brad Bird on “The Iron Giant,” as well as at Disney TV. He grew up in New York and attended California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). He currently lives in the Bay Area.
TAIKA WAITITI (voice of Mo Morrison) is an Academy Award–winning writer, director and actor. His film “Jojo Rabbit” received six Oscar® nominations, including best picture, and earned him an Oscar for best adapted screenplay. The film, which was released by Searchlight Pictures, was also nominated for a Golden Globe for best motion picture musical or comedy and earned a GRAMMY® nomination for best compilation soundtrack for visual media, among other accolades. Previously, Waititi directed the critically-acclaimed blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok” for Disney, as well as the beloved indie films “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Boy” and the Oscar-nominated short film “Two Cars, One Night.” He also executive produced, through his production company with Carthew Neal, Piki Films, “The Breaker Upperers,” “Baby Done” and the first Indigenous Canadian/New Zealand co-production, “Night Raiders,” which premiered at the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival.
Waititi is currently in post-production on “Next Goal Wins” for Searchlight Pictures, which he wrote, directed and produced, based on the 2015 documentary of the same name, as well as “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which will be released on July 8, 2022. The highly anticipated film, written and directed by Waititi, stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman. Previously, Waititi was seen in Shawn Levy’s “Free Guy” from 20th Century Studios, alongside Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer and Joe Keery.
For television, Waititi is the co-creator and executive producer of the Indigenous American teen comedy “Reservation Dogs” for FX, for which he co-wrote the first episode with co-creator Sterlin Harjo. The series has been well-received, winning the 2021 Gotham Award for short-form breakthrough series and the 2022 Independent Spirit Award for best new scripted series, as well as earning nominations for this year’s Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards. On screen, Waititi stars as Blackbeard in the HBO Max period comedy “Our Flag Means Death.” He is also the executive producer for the series and directed the pilot episode, which debuted on the streaming platform this past March. Additionally, Waititi directed the season one finale of “The Mandalorian” for Disney+, in which he also voices IG-11, and serves as executive producer on the critically acclaimed TV adaptation of “What We Do in the Shadows,” for which he’s directed several episodes.
DALE SOULES (voice of Darby Steel) is a prolific performer. On stage and screen there is hardly a job she has not done in her decades- and genre-spanning career; from stage manager to starring roles. In 2013 she began a six-year run with her portrayal of Frieda Berlin on the ground breaking Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” becoming a fan favorite and series regular, and winning SAG Awards® in 2015, 2016 and 2017 with her stellar cast mates for best ensemble in a comedy/dramatic series.
On Broadway, most recently she created the role of Janis Curtis in the musical “Hands on a Hardbody” (Neil Pepe, director). She has also performed in “Grey Gardens,” covering and playing Edith Bouvier Beale (Michael Greif, director); “The Crucible,” as Sarah Good, with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney (Richard Eyre, director); “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” as Mary Jo Sadler (Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director); “The Magic Show,” creating the role of Cal, co-starring with magician Doug Henning and introducing Stephen Schwartz’s songs “Lion Tamer” and ”West End Avenue” (Grover Dale, director); and as Shadow in “Dude.” She made her Broadway debut in the ground breaking musical “Hair” as Jeannie (Tom O’Horgan, director).
Soules has appeared in many off-Broadway, regional and international productions. Some favorites are “Shows for Days” with Michael Urie and Patti Lupone at Lincoln Center; “I Remember Mama,” playing Papa, Arne and Dr. Johnson with an all-female cast over 60, one of Ben Brantley’s Top 10 picks of 2014 in The New York Times; Arlene in Marsha Norman’s “Getting Out” at the Lucille Lortel Theatre; Doug Wright’s “Posterity,” “The Joy of Going Somewhere Definite,” “Blithe Spirit” and “The Water Engine,” all at Atlantic Theatre Co.; “Jet Lag” with The Builders Association in New York; and the international tour of Karen Hartman’s “Girl Under Grain.”
Regional work includes “Candide” (Guthrie), “Paris Commune” (La Jolla Playhouse), “All’s Well That Ends Well” (Yale Rep.), “Macbeth” and Karen Hartman’s “Gum” (Center Stage), to name a few.
Her work in TV/film includes “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “New Amsterdam,” “At Home with Amy Sedaris,” “War of the Worlds,” “American Playhouse” (“Until She Talks,” “The Grapes of Wrath”), “Sesame Street,” Maurice
Sendak’s “Really Rosie,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Unforgettable,” “Aardvark,” “AWOL,” “The Messenger,” “Diggers” and “Midday Black Midnight Blue.”
Soules was honored with the New Dramatists Charles Boden Award for dedication to new work and extraordinary contribution to theater. She is a teacher, oral historian and currently writing about her rough-and-tumble, lifesaving career (www.dalesoules.com).
JAMES BROLIN (voice of Zurg), Emmy and two-time Golden Globe® award-winning actor/producer/director and Hollywood icon, is among the entertainment industry’s most popular stars, with acting and directing credits that range from comedy and drama to large-scale action-adventure.
His early start in film came as a teenager, when he began shooting 8mm motion pictures. By 20, he had made his motion picture debut in “Take Her, She’s Mine,” alongside James Stewart and Sandra Dee. He went on to appear in many feature films, including “Sisters,” “The 33,” “The Steps” “Traffic,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Antwone Fisher,” “A Guy Thing,” “The Alibi,” “The Hunting Party,” “The Amityville Horror” and “Westworld.” Additionally, Brolin produced and starred in several independent films, including “Cheatin’ Hearts,” “Ted and Venus,” “We the People,” “Night of the Juggler,” “Last Chance Harvey” and “Gas, Food, Lodging.”
A true Renaissance man, Brolin made his feature film directorial debut with “My Brother’s War,” which won best film at the Hollywood Film Festival and stars his son, Academy Award®–nominated actor Josh Brolin. He also directed and starred in two hit films for the Hallmark Channel, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” starring his “Life in Pieces” co-star Giselle Eisenberg, and “Royal Hearts,” starring Andrew Cooper. Brolin began directing in the early ’80s, with countless episodes of “Hotel” and “Pensacola: Wings of Gold” in the ’90s, and hasn’t stopped since. Brolin also plans to direct the true story of Ruby McCollum, a wealthy married African American woman in Live Oak, Fla., arrested and convicted in 1952 for killing a prominent white doctor and state senator.
In front of the camera, Brolin is best known for his starring role in “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” which earned him an Emmy and two Golden Globe® Awards, and for starring in the immensely popular drama “Hotel.” Brolin also starred as Ronald Reagan in the TV movie “The Reagans,” where he earned additional Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
Up next, Brolin has a starring role in season two of Netflix’s hit TV series “Sweet Tooth,” which he deftly narrates. Previously, Brolin wrapped a four-season run as the gregarious patriarch on the No. 1 CBS comedy series “Life in Pieces” opposite Colin Hanks and Oscar winner Dianne Wiest.
Brolin is an avid pilot, a race-car driver, an equestrian, an accomplished dog trainer and a home designer. When he’s not leading the cast of hit television shows or directing his next masterpiece, he can be found weekend piloting his two small airplanes. Brolin races cars professionally worldwide with the B.F. Goodrich Team and France’s Renault Factory, among others. Having grown up around horses, he spent many years breeding, raising and training two-year-olds for both western riding and the racetrack. He has served over 35 years as a spec house designer and builder with his Oak Country Lumber company in San Luis Obispo County.
UZO ADUBA (voice of Alisha Hawthorne), a formidable talent to be reckoned with, is a three-time Emmy Award–winning actress whose work spans television, film and theater.
Aduba recently wrapped production on the upcoming Netflix limited series “Painkiller.” She stars alongside Matthew Broderick during the six-episode series, which dramatizes the origins of the opioid crisis with a focus on Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin.
Aduba launched her production company, Meynon Media, and signed a multi-year producing deal with CBS Studios early last year. Under her production company, Aduba produced Marianne Farley’s “Frimas.” The live action short tells the story of Kara, who turns to an illegal mobile abortion clinic when she finds herself pregnant in a country where abortion is banned, with devastating consequences.
In January, Aduba starred alongside Ron Cephas Jones in Second Stage Theater’s Broadway production of Lynn Nottage’s play “Clyde’s,” set in a truck stop sandwich shop, where its formerly incarcerated kitchen staff are given a shot at redemption. The play ran from November until January at The Hayes Theater.
On the small screen, Aduba recently starred in the Emmy-winning drama series “In Treatment,” which returned for a fourth season in May 2021 on HBO. Aduba earned her fifth Emmy Award nomination playing Dr. Brooke Taylor, who is at the center of the series, treating a diverse trio of patients while also dealing with her own issues. Aduba also starred alongside Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway and Helen Mirren in Amazon Studios’ anthology series “Solos.” The dramatic and thought-provoking seven-part series explores the deeper meaning of human connection, as explored through the lens of the individual. “Solos” tells unique character-driven stories, each from a different perspective and moment in time.
In film, Aduba was last seen alongside J.K. Simmons in the STX film “National Champions.” The film is an adaptation of Adam Mervis’ play of the same name, which tells the story of a quarterback who ignites a players’ strike to fight for fair compensation, equality and respect for athletes. Aduba played Katherine, the outside counsel to the NCAA in the Ric Roman Waugh–directed feature. Film credits also include the independent drama “Miss Virginia,” “Beats” (Netflix), “Candy Jar” (Netflix), “My Little Pony” (Lionsgate and Hasbro), “American Pastoral” (Lionsgate), opposite Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning, and Sian Heder’s “Tallulah” (Netflix).
In 2020 Aduba earned her third Emmy® Award and second Critics Choice Award for her portrayal of Shirley Chisholm in FX on Hulu’s limited series “Mrs. America.” Chisholm not only made history as the first African American congresswoman but also became the first African American candidate to run for president from a national political party when she launched her unprecedented 1972 campaign. The critically acclaimed and award-nominated series tells the story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the backlash led by a conservative woman named Phyllis Schlafly, played by Cate Blanchett.
Previously on television, Aduba finished her celebrated run as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in the critically acclaimed Netflix Original Series “Orange Is the New Black.” Her performance garnered a sweep of awards, including 2016 and 2015 SAG Awards for best actress in a comedy, a 2017 SAG Award nomination for best actress in a comedy, the 2015 Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series and the 2014 Emmy Award for outstanding guest actress in a comedy. In addition, Aduba was honored as part of the show’s win in the category of best ensemble in a comedy at the 2017, 2016 and 2015 SAG Awards. For her Emmy wins, Aduba joined Ed Asner to become only the second actor ever to win Emmys for the same role in the comedy and drama categories. Furthermore, with her SAG Award and Emmy honors, she became the first African American actress to win the award in each category. She was also nominated for the 2015 and 2016 Golden Globe Awards for outstanding supporting actress in a series, miniseries or TV movie. The show’s seventh and final season launched on Netflix in Summer 2019.
On stage, Aduba made her Broadway debut in “Coram Boy” in 2007, followed by the hit musical revival of “Godspell” in 2011. She discovered her talent for singing at a very early age and became a classical music major at the Boston University School of Fine Arts. Work in theater quickly followed, with critically acclaimed performances at both the Huntington Theatre in Boston and A.R.T. where, under the direction of Diane Paulus, she won the prestigious Elliot Norton Award for best actress in a play. She made her West End Theatre debut in the Jamie Lloyd Company’s contemporary adaptation of Jean Genet’s “The Maids.” Directed by Lloyd, the play also starred Laura Carmichael and Zawe Ashton.
Aduba was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for best supporting actress in a play for her work in the Kennedy Center/Olney Theater production of “Translations of Xhosa.” Other theater credits include “Dessa Rose” at the New Repertory Theatre, “Turandot: The Rumble for the Ring” at the Bay Street Theater and “Abyssinia” at the Goodspeed Theatre.
She resides in Los Angeles.
MARY MCDONALD-LEWIS (voice of I.V.A.N.) has been a voice actor since 1980, when she burst onto the scene as Lois Lane in “Super Friends” and Lady Jaye in “G.I. Joe,” among many others. She made history as the first AI voice ever heard as the in-car voice of OnStar (named Mary!).
Fans love her for all her characters at comic cons around the world, and her commercial work’s been heard during the Super Bowl, the Emmys® and more.
McDonald-Lewis is also a dialect coach. Stars lighting up the screen depend on her to give life to their voices, from Juliette Binoche to Patrick Stewart and hundreds more.
For McDonald-Lewis, there’s magic and mystery in the voice. There’s power and hope and joy. That’s why she loves what she does, and that’s what she brings to the mic.
ISIAH WHITLOCK JR. (voice of Commander Burnside) is a veteran theater, film and television actor. Most recently, Whitlock can be seen in Netflix’s “History of Swear Words” starring Nicolas Cage, Showtime’s “Your Honor” opposite Bryan Cranston, as well as in Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed Netflix film “Da 5 Bloods.” Whitlock also appeared in Netflix’s “I Care a Lot” starring Rosamund Pike, Eiza González and Dianne Wiest. Other notable film credits include “BlacKkKlansman,” “Pete’s Dragon,” “Cedar Rapids” and the voice of River Scott in Disney’s “Cars 3.” Additionally, he can be seen in Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It,” Warner Bros.’ “CHiPs,” directed by Dax Shepard, and “Person to Person,” directed by Dustin Guy Defa. Further film titles include Amazon’s “Chi-Raq,” directed by Spike Lee, “Detachment,” directed by Tony Kaye, and “25th Hour” and “She Hate Me,” directed by Spike Lee. Other films in which Whitlock appears include: “Corporate Animals,” “All Square,” “Lying and Stealing,” “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “Twelve,” “Main Street,” “Choke,” “1408,” “Enchanted,” “Pieces of April,” “Everyone Says I Love You,” “The Spanish Prisoner,” “Eddie” and “Goodfellas.”
On television, Whitlock recurred on HBO’s Emmy-winning comedy series “Veep” as Secretary of Defense General George Maddox. He also starred as State Senator Clay Davis on the acclaimed HBO series “The Wire.” He can be seen as Detective Burl Loomis on the Netflix series “The Good Cop” opposite Josh Groban, Tony Danza and Monica Barbaro. He appeared on Spike TV’s series “The Mist” and Starz’s “Survivor’s Remorse,” and he also played the role of Gunnar on Fox’s “Thin Ice” (pilot). Whitlock was also a series regular on ABC’s “Lucky 7” as Bob Harris. He has appeared on numerous television series including: “Elementary,” “Atlanta,” “Lucifer,” “Limitless,” “The Carmichael Show,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “The Blacklist,” “Gotham,” “Louie,” “Smash,” “The Chappelle Show,” “Rubicon,” “Meet the Browns,” “Human Giant,” “New Amsterdam,” “Madigan Men,” “Wonderland,” “New York Undercover” and the PBS documentary “Liberty,” as well as “Third Watch” and “Ed.”
Whitlock was nominated in 2002 for a Lucille Lortel Award as best featured actor for his work in “Four,” which enjoyed a renowned off-Broadway run at the Manhattan Theatre Club. “The Iceman Cometh,” “The Merchant of Venice” and “Mastergate” are among his Broadway credits, while “Farragut North” (Atlantic Theatre Co., Geffen Playhouse), “The Cherry Orchard,” “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” “Up Against the Wind,” “A Lesson Before Dying,” “High Life,” “Edmond,” “The American Clock,” “White Panther” and “The Illusion” comprise his off-Broadway credits. He was also part of the national tour of the play “The Piano Lesson,” in the lead role of Boy Willie.
EFREN RAMIREZ (voice of Airman Díaz) has been working as a professional actor for the entirety of his adult life. Initially, his career consisted of guest appearances on television, as he appeared in diverse character roles on “E.R.,” “American Dad,” “Judging Amy,” “The District,” “Boston Public” and “Scrubs.”
However, it was his memorable portrayal of Pedro in the feature film “Napoleon Dynamite” that dramatically launched what has become a hugely prolific acting career with an unusually diverse series of performances in film, television, drama, comedy…every imaginable medium and genre.
In the years since that film was released, Ramirez has appeared in scores of films and network television shows, including leading roles in the HBO film “Walkout” with Edward James Olmos, “Employee of the Month” opposite Dane Cook and Dax Shepard, “Crank” and “Crank High Voltage” opposite Jason Statham (playing his own twin brother in the sequel), “Gamer” with Gerard Butler, “When in Rome” with Kristen Bell, “House of My Father” opposite Will Farrell, HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” with Danny McBride, “Middle School” with Lauren Graham and Andy Daly (based on a James Patterson best-seller), “Ice” with Jeremy Sisto, “Perpetual Grace Ltd.” with Sir Ben Kingsley, Jimmi Simpson and Luis Guzman, and “Monsters of God” with Garret Dillahunt. Ramirez’s vocal diversity has allowed him to voice countless characters in such animated series as “Bordertown,” “The Casagrandes,” “Trip Tank,” “Robot Chicken,” “American Dad” and “El Tigre.”
Most recently, Ramirez has appeared in the HBO Max series “Made for Love” and stars in the upcoming films “7 Cemeteries” and “The Traveler.” Ramirez currently resides in Los Angeles and New York. When he isn’t filming, he is spinning records as a guest DJ in clubs across the country. He has published his first book, “Direct Your Own Life.” He has participated in a USO Tour, visiting our troops in Bahrain, UAE, Dubai and Africa. He frequently speaks to students at high schools and universities.
ANGUS MACLANE (Director/Screenplay by/Story by) joined Pixar Animation Studios as an animator in 1997. He has since worked on a number of Pixar’s feature films including “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and the Academy Award-winning films “The Incredibles,” “WALL•E” and +“Toy Story 3.” For his work on “The Incredibles,” MacLane won an Annie Award from ASIFA-Hollywood for outstanding achievement in character animation.
MacLane directed the short films “BURN•E” and “Small Fry.” He won an Annie Award for outstanding achievement in direction for his work on the television special “Toy Story OF TERROR!” and co-directed “Finding Dory.”
MacLane grew up in Portland, Ore., and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Rhode Island School of Design. He is a huge LEGO fan and designed the LEGO Ideas WALL•E set released in 2015.
MacLane resides in Berkeley, Calif., with his wife, their two children and two cats.
GALYN SUSMAN, p.g.a. (Producer) joined Pixar Animation Studios in November 1990 to work in its television commercial production department as technical director, animator and producer. Soon after, she worked on Pixar’s first feature film, “Toy Story,” as a character technical director and lighting supervisor.
Susman continued her work building character models on “A Bug’s Life,” then served as supervising technical director on “Toy Story 2” and as simulation and effects supervisor for “Monsters, Inc.” In 2007, she worked as the associate producer for the Academy Award-winning animated film “Ratatouille.” Susman went on to become the producer for Pixar’s DVD-Promo Department and oversaw the production of the DVD and Blu-ray™ bonus features and original animation promotional content for five years.
From 2013 to 2014, she produced two of Pixar’s first-ever ABC television specials, “Toy Story OF TERROR!” and “Toy Story That Time Forgot.”
Before arriving at Pixar, Susman conducted graphics research and development at Apple where she was on the team that created a short film entirely on Macintosh computers.
Originally from Park Forest, Ill., Susman is a graduate of Brown University. She and her husband reside in Piedmont, Calif., where they raised their three children.
ANDREW STANTON (Executive Producer) has been a major creative force at Pixar Animation Studios since 1990 when he became the second animator and ninth employee to join the company’s elite group of computer animation pioneers. As Vice President, Creative he currently oversees all feature and streaming projects at the studio. Stanton co-wrote and directed the Academy Award®-winning feature films “Finding Nemo,” “WALL•E,” as well as “Finding Dory.” He also co-wrote and co-directed “A Bug’s Life.” He has been nominated for an Academy Award four other times for best original screenplay (“Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “WALL•E” and “Toy Story 3”), and was executive producer of “Monsters, Inc.,” “Monsters University,” and the Academy Award-winning films “Ratatouille,” “Brave” and “Inside Out.” He most recently co-wrote and was the executive producer on the Academy Award-winning “Toy Story 4.”
In addition to his animation work, Stanton made his live-action writing and directorial debut with Disney’s “John Carter,” released in March 2012. Since then, he has delved into the world of television, directing for two Emmy Award-winning series, “Stranger Things” and “Better Call Saul,” helped develop the Showtime/Blumhouse series “The Loudest Voice,” and most recently directed episodes for the FX series “Legion,” the Amazon series “Tales from the Loop,” and two seasons of the Apple+ series, “For All Mankind.”
PETE DOCTER (Executive Producer) is the Oscar-winning director of “Monsters, Inc.,” “Up” and “Inside Out,” and chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios. He most recently directed Disney and Pixar’s Oscar-winning feature film “Soul” with producer Dana Murray and co-director Kemp Powers, which is now streaming on Disney+.
Starting at Pixar in 1990 as the studio’s third animator, Docter collaborated on and help develop the story and characters for “Toy Story,” Pixar’s first full-length animated feature film, for which he also was supervising animator. He served as a storyboard artist on “A Bug’s Life,” and wrote initial story treatments for both “Toy Story 2” and “WALL•E.” Aside from directing his three films, Docter also executive produced “Monsters University” and the Academy Award®–winning “Brave.”
Docter’s interest in animation began at the age of 8 when he created his first flipbook. He studied character animation at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, Calif., where he produced a variety of short films, one of which won a Student Academy Award. Those films have since been shown in animation festivals worldwide and are included on “Pixar Short Films Collection Volume 2.” Upon joining Pixar, he animated and directed several commercials, and has been nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best animated feature winners “Up,” “Inside Out” and “Soul,” and nominee “Monsters, Inc.,” and best original screenplay for “Up,” “Inside Out” and “WALL•E.” In 2010 “Up” also was nominated for a best picture Oscar® by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
JASON HEADLEY (Screenplay by/Story By) has written two feature films for Pixar Animation Studios. He cowrote the Academy Award®-nominated feature “Onward,” alongside director Dan Scanlon and writer Keith Bunin. Most recently, Headley co-wrote Pixar’s upcoming feature film “Lightyear,” set to release in theaters on June 17, 2022.
Outside of his work at Pixar, Headley wrote and directed the SXSW Special Jury Prize-winning feature “A Bad Idea Gone Wrong.” His short films—including the viral videos “It’s Not About the Nail” and “F*ck That: An Honest Meditation”—have been featured at Banksy’s Dismaland, NBC’s TODAY Show, SundanceTV, the TED Conference, Vimeo Staff Picks, and more.
Headley is also a Cinereach Fellow as well as a former IFP/Gotham Labs Fellow and member of SFFILM FilmHouse. He’s also been commissioned by Heineken, Sony, and Chrysler to write, direct, and produce original short films.
MICHAEL GIACCHINO (Music by/Music Produced by) has credits that feature some of the most popular and acclaimed film projects in recent history, including “The Incredibles,” “Coco,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Ratatouille,” “Star Trek,” “Jurassic World,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Spider- Man: No Way Home,” “War for the Planet of the Apes” and “The Batman.” Giacchino’s 2009 score for the Pixar hit “Up” earned him an Oscar, a Golden Globe, the BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Critics’ Choice Award and two GRAMMY Awards.
Giacchino studied filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. After college, he landed a marketing job at Disney and began studies in music composition, first at Juilliard, and then at UCLA. He moved from marketing to producing in the newly formed Disney Interactive Division where he had the opportunity to write music for video games.
After moving to DreamWorks Interactive, he was asked to score the temp track for the video game adaptation of “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” Subsequently, Steven Spielberg hired him as the composer and it became the first PlayStation game to have a live orchestral score, recorded with members of the Seattle Symphony. Giacchino went on to score numerous video games including Spielberg’s “Medal of Honor” series.
Giacchino’s work in video games sparked the interest of J.J. Abrams, and thus began their long-standing relationship that would lead to scores for the hit television series “Alias” and “Lost,” and the feature films “Mission Impossible III,” “Star Trek,” “Super 8” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
Additional projects include collaborations with Disney Imagineering on music for Space Mountain, Star Tours (with John Williams), the Ratatouille ride in Disneyland Paris, and the Incredicoaster on Pixar Pier at California Adventure. Giacchino was the musical director of the 81st Annual Academy Awards. His music can be heard in concert halls internationally with all three “Star Trek” films, “Ratatouille,” “Jurassic World,” “Up” and “Coco” being performed live-to-picture with a full orchestra.
In June 2018, Giacchino premiered his first work for symphony orchestra, Voyage. Commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the piece celebrates the 60th anniversary of the founding of NASA. In July 2019, a third movement, Advent, was added for the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing.
In 2019, Giacchino’s first LP of original music, “Travelogue Volume 1,” featuring his Nouvelle Modernica orchestra, described as a story in song, was released on Mondo Records. The holiday song “Christmas Number One,” written with Elyssa Samsel and Kate Anderson was recorded and performed by UK based band Itchy Teeth, and released as a specialty single with Death Waltz Records.
His upcoming film projects include “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Giacchino sits on the advisory board of education through Music Los Angeles.