Pixar’s return to movie theaters hasn’t gone as well as the animation studio would have hoped. So far Lightyear has grossed just $97 million in the United States, making it Pixar’s weakest American release ever except for Onward, which opened in theaters on March 6, 2020, just before multiplexes around the world closed at the start of the Covid pandemic.
If Lightyear’s word of mouth is good, it might sneak past The Good Dinosaur and wind up one spot higher on the company’s all-time grosses list. But The Good Dinosaur is widely regarded as Pixar’s worst movie. That’s not great company to be in, financially if not creatively.
Some observers are scratching their head about the film’s struggle to connect with audiences. It features one of Pixar’s most popular characters, Buzz Lightyear, in a whole new, extremely handsome adventure. So what went wrong?
Some have criticized the film for not connecting strongly enough to the Toy Story franchise where Buzz originates. And, that’s true; this is not a movie about a Buzz Lightyear toy. The concept instead is that this is the movie that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy all those many decades ago.
Others have complained that the movie should have starred the original voice of Buzz, Tim Allen. (In Lightyear, the character was played by Chris Evans.) Allen himself was asked about the movie’s performance by Extra, and while he didn’t necessarily say the movie would have done better if he had been in it, he did say he wished the film had “a better connection” to his Buzz and the Toy Story movies, and that there‘s basically no Buzz without Woody — and there’s no Woody in Lightyear.
“It has no relationship to Buzz,” he added. “It’s just no connection.” He also said the idea for the project had come up years before, but that he’d believed if Pixar had made the movie they would make it in live-action, not animation.
Allen also claimed that “the brass that did the first four movies” were not involved in Lightyear, and that “a whole new team that really have nothing to do with the first movies” created this one. In fact, Lightyear director Angus MacLaine worked on Toy Story 2, 3, and 4 as an animator and a member of the Pixar Senior Creative Team. He also directed Toy Story of Terror! in 2013, which included Allen as Buzz.
Lightyear is in theaters now. And whoever made it, or whatever the reasons it’s not a massive hit, it’s a solid movie. You can watch Allen’s full comments on Lightyear to Extra below.