It’s fair to say that Pixar’s Toy Story series is one of the most iconic movie franchises of all time. The original movie was released in 1995 and changed the face of animation as we know it; the 3D animation was not only groundbreaking but also incredibly detailed and full of pathos, leading to a new paradigm in the world of animated filmmaking. 1999’s Toy Story 2 was, against all odds, even better than the first movie, and Toy Story 3 – which released a full 11 years later – was a heartbreaking paean to growing up, moving on, and keeping memories close to your heart.
One of the most undoubtedly successful characters in the Toy Story franchise was breakout spaceman Buzz Lightyear. Buzz was one of the two main characters of the first movie, and the second film shifted the focus further onto him, suggesting that there was something about comedian Tim Allen’s performance that captivated audiences everywhere. Buzz’s mixture of self-doubt and heroic confidence led to some hilarious situations throughout the Toy Story franchise, but he represented so much more than that. Here’s why we loved Buzz Lightyear then and still do now!
Buzz’s design is excellent
First and foremost, it’s important to draw attention to the excellent design work put into making Buzz Lightyear feel like a realistic toy. How many of us can say that when we first watched Toy Story, we didn’t want a Buzz doll of our own? There’s something strange about watching a movie explicitly about toys and their lives outside of their owners, then wanting to pick up a toy based on one from the movie, but legions of kids everywhere had Woody, Buzz, Rex, and Mr. Potato Head dolls after the movies came out. This is partly thanks to Buzz’s tactile, well-crafted design, evoking the plastic nostalgia of kids’ toys with perfect precision.
Everyone knows someone like Buzz
When the first Toy Story begins, Buzz Lightyear represents the flashy future. The squishy tactility of Woody, Rex, Hamm, and their technologically less advanced friends pale in comparison to the futuristic glitz of Buzz, who emerges as a spaceman covered in buttons, functions, and adornments. However, it quickly emerges that Buzz is an arrogant, presumptuous toy who has delusions of grandeur, and it’s up to Woody and crew to convince him that he is, in fact, just a toy like everyone else. There’s a vicarious satisfaction in watching Buzz be brought down a peg, even as his story unfolds.
Buzz helps Woody and his crew, too
To some extent, Toy Story is one of Pixar’s least universal franchises. Wall-E teaches us about environmentalism, Up helps us deal with grief, and Inside Out is all about the complex world of emotions inside all of us. The plot of Toy Story, however – the first movie, at least – revolves around a new toy, and the horrified reactions of the old guard when Buzz arrives and threatens the group with obsolescence. However, Buzz helps Woody and his friends to realise that there will always be a place for them, even when new arrivals threaten to upset the balance.
Buzz’s character evolves across the course of the franchise
In the first Toy Story, Buzz’s journey is all about self-acceptance and understanding. The second movie sees Buzz taking a back seat as the narrative focuses on unwanted toys and takes on heavy subjects like the meaning of life. However, the Buzz we meet in Toy Story 2 isn’t afraid of leadership or shouldering the burden for his friends. His family is the most important thing in the world to him, and while he does have an important role to play in the story, we see him grow and change. Toy Story 3 even lets Buzz show off his comic chops in a hilarious scene in which his language settings are misconfigured.
Buzz is a pop culture icon now
The name “Buzz Lightyear” is now inarguably synonymous not only with Toy Story, but with pop culture in general. His catchphrase, “to infinity and beyond”, was ubiquitous in the 1990s, and although its usage has somewhat fallen out of favour today, it’s still embedded in the minds of everyone who grew up with Toy Story (or who knew someone who was young when the movie was out). Everyone knows who Buzz Lightyear is; his silhouette is immediately recognisable, which is the goal of every character designer, so Pixar can chalk this one up as a win.
You can still buy Buzz Lightyear toys
Buzz may have taken something of a back seat in 2019’s Toy Story 4, but his popularity is enduring. At the time of writing – and likely far beyond as well – it’s still easy to get Buzz Lightyear toys from any major toy store, proving the endless longevity of this incredible character. Of course, Woody, Hamm, Jessie, Bo Peep, and even Forky are all incredibly popular figures as well, but Buzz is a perennially in-demand toy, showing that the character has lasting staying power. In the hands of kids everywhere, Buzz really can be the space ranger he thought he was at the start of Toy Story.
As you can see, despite originating in the 90s, Buzz Lightyear has plenty of staying power into the modern day. Are you a big Buzz fan? Do you love the Toy Story movies? Let us know!