UPDATE: There was confusion regarding the Lightyear film during the time this article was written and some of the information below is unfortunately incorrect. Apologies from Nonstop Nerd.
With the upcoming Pixar film Lightyear announced and set to release next year, there has been a bit of confusion as to why there’s a real-life Buzz Lightyear. There’s already been the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command animated series and the Buzz Lightyear we know and love has typically been a toy in the Toy Story film series, so what’s exactly going on with this new version, and why is he voiced by Chris Evans and not Tim Allen? Let’s map out all the versions of the beloved space hero to figure that out.
Buzz Lightyear was introduced to the world in Toy Story in 1995. At that time, we only knew him as a space hero toy voiced by Tim Allen. He had glow-in-the-dark trim, a retractable helmet, high-pressure space wings, a pulsating laser light, and karate chop action. He quickly became one of Andy’s favorite toys and Woody’s trusted best friend.
Obviously, Buzz Lightyear appears in the Toy Story sequels as a toy as well. In Toy Story 2, however, Rex is seen playing a Buzz Lightyear video game in which he must do battle with the evil Emperor Zurg. When the movie came out, it was a safe assumption that Rex’s game existed as a part of the general “Buzz Lightyear” brand. A toy set (Buzz, Zurg, etc.) and a video game simply seem like part of an IP that would exist in this world. We see Buzz Lightyear bed sets, lunch boxes, and posters. One could expect to see Buzz Lightyear comic books and other media within the world of Toy Story.
About a year after Toy Story 2, an animated series known as Buzz Lightyear of Star Command was released. This exciting cartoon lasted for four seasons and followed the adventures of space hero Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Patrick Warburton) as he led a team of space rangers to battle evil in the galaxy, like Zurg and other villains. It overall felt like a fun superhero cartoon. Where this show focused on Buzz as a person and not a toy, it was heavily thought that this version was the real Buzz, and the character in Toy Story was just a toy based on him. However, we now know that’s not the case.
Now, Pixar is releasing the next version of the character in Lightyear. Lightyear is set to focus on the real space hero named Buzz Lightyear who actually existed in that universe. It turns out that the toy in the Toy Story films, Rex’s video game, and the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command animated series are all based on this real person that the Lightyear film is about. Whatever this man accomplished and whatever adventures he went on were enough to inspire the world to celebrate him by selling games, toys, posters, and cartoons of him.
You may be wondering why the voices for each version of Buzz are so different. Well, that’s likely because whomever is in charge of the Buzz Lightyear brand in this universe wasn’t able to get the real space hero to record a few voice lines for a toy or cartoon, so they hired in-world voice actors for the job. Real Buzz was likely up in space battling aliens when the merchandise was made.
It is a rather surprising idea that real aliens and space battles are taking place within the universe as Toy Story since nothing else seems out of the ordinary (except of course for the talking toys, but humans aren’t aware of that). Also, if there are people making toys, games, and cartoons of this guy’s true adventures, then everyone on Earth in Toy Story is aware of these sci-fi events taking place, which is fine and believable, but pretty wild to think about.
With this new movie releasing, it looks as though Buzz was a real person and all this merchandise is specifically based off of him and his adventures, so it will be truly exciting to see what these adventures are.