Buzz Lightyear is unquestionably one of the most iconic animated characters of all time. Ever since the original Toy Story was released in 1995 (yes, it really has been that long), Buzz has captivated children’s hearts with his heroism. Not long ago, Pixar and Disney released Lightyear, a sort of origin story that explains how Toy Story’s Andy became so obsessed with Buzz. To celebrate the launch of that movie, we’re going back in time to tell you some facts you might not have known about Buzz Lightyear. Without further ado, let’s launch this trivia rocket!
1. He’s actually been to space
Of course, Buzz is well-known for going “to infinity and beyond”, but did you know that he’s actually been to infinity? Back in June 2008, NASA teamed up with Disney to send a real statue of Buzz Lightyear into orbit. The statue was around 30 centimetres tall, and the initiative was the result of an educational team-up between the companies that was intended to teach kids about space. If you ask us, that’s a pretty neat way to educate people about the world beyond our planet!
2. He’s inspired by G.I. Joe
During the inception of Toy Story and the Buzz Lightyear character, creator John Lasseter wanted someone who would be reminiscent of a G.I. Joe type, an uncomplicated hero with a square jaw. Given Buzz’s story arc, this makes perfect sense; the first movie is all about him realising that he’s not quite the hero he makes himself out to be (although he then becomes a hero for real), so he has to be set up as a charismatic leader type for that story arc to work.
3. His outfit is based on real NASA astronauts
Buzz Lightyear’s outfit is actually based on the Apollo 11 mission. If you look at pictures of the astronauts from that mission, you’ll see a much less cartoony, much more realistic (obviously) version of Buzz; they’ve got the same head-hugging skullcaps, the same bulky astronaut suits, and the same helmets that allow you to see each astronaut’s face. It’s clear that Pixar and Disney did their research for Toy Story, just like they do for every movie they make.
4. He’s named after Buzz Aldrin
The similarities between Buzz and real-life astronauts don’t stop there, though. He’s actually named after famous astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was one of the astronauts on the moon mission alongside Neil Armstrong (who doesn’t get a character in Toy Story, more’s the pity). Aldrin didn’t get any money for the use of his name, although he doesn’t exactly have a copyright on “Buzz”, so it’s not hard to see why. Aldrin himself is apparently over the moon (pun intended) with the endorsement, though, as he’s been seen giving speeches alongside Buzz Lightyear toys!
5. He was originally a tin toy
If you’ve never seen Tin Toy, it’s well worth seeking it out. It’s a 1988 short film directed and written by John Lasseter that revolves around a one-man band toy by the name of Tinny, who is trying to escape from the child playing with him. Tin Toy was an obvious inspiration for Toy Story, but did you know that Buzz Lightyear was originally supposed to be in the role of Tinny? Eventually, Pixar realised that nobody wanted to play with tin toys anymore, so they recast him as a modern astronaut toy instead.
6. He was originally supposed to be voiced by Billy Crystal…
Pixar fans will know Billy Crystal as the iconic, lovable voice of Mike Wazowski in the excellent Monsters Inc, but that’s not where he was always destined to end up. Originally, Crystal was down to voice Buzz Lightyear, but he eventually turned the role down because he didn’t feel that he’d be the right fit for it. In the end, comedian Tim Allen was cast, and Crystal’s decision turned out to be the right one; he would arguably have been too much of a wisecracker for the straight-laced Buzz.
7. …and Jim Carrey
The other voice in the running to play Buzz Lightyear was comedian Jim Carrey. It’s clear Pixar knew they wanted a comedian for the role, but if you ask us, both Carrey and Crystal were obviously the wrong fit. Carrey eventually didn’t play the character because he was too expensive for Pixar; the fee he asked for was too much, so they moved onto a different casting decision instead. The choice they made was once again the right one, as it’s hard to imagine a Buzz Lightyear voiced by Jim Carrey!
8. He almost drifted off into space thanks to a Pixar staff member
Back in the late 90s, Pixar machines ran on Linux, probably because it was a more efficient environment on which to render CGI. An unknown Pixar staffer (who still remains unknown to this day) ran a command on the company’s Linux computer that deleted every single Toy Story 2 file during the movie’s production, which could have led to a catastrophic situation. However, supervising technical director Galyn Susman had backup copies of the movie, so it wasn’t destroyed. Whew!
9. He was almost called Lunar Larry
It’s hard to imagine a child walking into a shop and asking for a Lunar Larry toy, isn’t it? Nevertheless, Buzz Lightyear was very nearly called Lunar Larry. When Pixar decided that they were going to make an astronaut character, Lunar Larry was seriously considered as one of his names; it wasn’t just a working title! Eventually, Pixar settled on the much snappier and more effective “Buzz Lightyear”, and thankfully, the character we know and love today was born.
10. He’s based on a fictional astronaut
Buzz Lightyear is not actually based on a real astronaut within the Toy Story universe. He’s based on a popular movie character, which means that the popular character in real life is based on a toy, which is based on a fictional movie character in a fictional universe. Are you following us? That’s the premise of the recent Lightyear movie, anyway, in which we see the movie that originally inspired Andy to rush out and buy his beloved Buzz Lightyear toy.
11. His voice actor cried at “When She Loved Me”
Tim Allen is the famous voice of Buzz Lightyear, but he hasn’t always been able to maintain his solid, dignified composure. When he was first shown the “When She Loved Me” scene in Toy Story 2, during which cowgirl Jessie tells the gang her origin, both he and Woody’s voice actor Tom Hanks broke down in tears. It’s not hard to see why; “When She Loved Me” is arguably the moment at which most kids realised that Pixar movies weren’t just going to be animation tours de force, but emotional experiences as well.
12. Toy Story 3 was almost very different
The plot of Toy Story 3 is an expansive, sprawling affair, taking in lost toys, the concept of moving on, and the inevitability of time. However, it was almost a very different film indeed. In 2005, when work on Toy Story 3 began, Disney thought they might have to make the movie without Pixar, so they created storyboards for a film that would have seen Buzz Lightyear toys recalled and his gang travelling all the way to Taiwan in order to save him from the recall.
13. “To infinity and beyond” is more than just a Buzz catchphrase
Most people nowadays know the phrase “to infinity and beyond” as Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase. It’s indelibly associated with the character, but it isn’t just his catchphrase. It’s also the title of a book about the concept of infinity written by intellectual Eli Maor in 1991. The phrase was also used by a father and his son who were trying to break a world record in 2008; they were trying to tread water for more than 15 hours, and they used the phrase to make sure neither of them got lost.
14. Lightyear isn’t the first solo Buzz movie
You might be excited to go and see Buzz Lightyear in his very first solo movie outing, but if you are, then you’re wrong to feel that way. Not the excitement, of course; we fully endorse that. However, Lightyear isn’t Buzz’s first solo rodeo. All the way back in 2000, when the popularity of Toy Story was arguably at its peak, Buzz starred in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins, which went direct to video but which was nevertheless a feature movie!
15. He’s the main character of the best Toy Story game
Finally, we’re going to close out with something that is technically a matter of opinion (although it isn’t really, of course). The PS1’s Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue is a platformer released back in 1999 and starring everyone’s favourite fictional astronaut. The game is surprisingly great; it stands up next to its peers as an example of the sprawling level design, collectathon gameplay, and tight controls that were popular during the PS1 era of gaming.