“Lightyear” Director Angus MacLane Talks Inspiration for Upcoming Pixar Film

Hi everyone!

I was invited to participate in an early “Lightyear” press day and will have a series of articles from it in the coming weeks. The press day included director/screenwriter Angus MacLane. MacLane has been with Pixar for 25 years in a variety of roles, including as an animator and director. For example, he was a co-director on “Finding Dory” with Andrew Stanton and an animator on “Toy Story 2” and “Toy Story 3”. He says working at Pixar has been a “dream job”.

Lightyear Director Angus MacLane reviews a model during an art review at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Pixar)

MacLane set the stage for Lightyear a bit by going back in time to when he was a child. He loved Spider-Man, cartoons and wearing a mask every day to school to scare people. But his life changed with one film: Star Wars. He said he only wanted to play Star Wars, draw Star Wars and it was one of a string of science fiction classics that he says defined his childhood. And then in 1995 MacLane saw Toy Story. In that movie, Buzz Lightyear was “a toy that would redefine playtime for Andy”.  And MacLane wondered what movie was Buzz from? “Why couldn’t we just make that movie?” And MacLane says that this is “Andy’s Star Wars“.

PROGRESSION IMAGE 7 of 7: LIGHTING AND FINAL IMAGE – The Lighting department helps to integrate all of the elements – characters, sets, effects, etc. – into a final, fully visually realized image. The Lighting process involves placing virtual light sources into the scene to illuminate the characters and the set. Technical artists place the lights to draw the audience’s eye to story points and to create a specific mood. The lit images are then rendered at high resolution. © 2022 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

MacLane explains in this film, Buzz Lightyear is not a toy, he is a human. “This is the real Buzz Lightyear”, and from there MacLane had to figure out what story to tell. “I wanted to develop something personal, something true”. MacLane figured out that the core trait for Buzz Lightyear was when he was at odds with his surroundings. And then he had to find a “universal truth”, and he chose time. MacLane talked about how he started working at Pixar when he was in his 20s and now he’s in his 40s, and that time movies on for all of us. And how even the passage of time can be felt for him with each film, including the five and a half years that Lightyear took. So he used that for Lightyear: “Nostalgia for the past, while rapidly jumping to the future”. He later says that the film is a “fish out of water story”, continuing, “It’s like a Rip Van Winkle trapped in a future he doesn’t recognize, desperately trying to correct the mistake of his youth”.

Lightyear Director Angus MacLane gives feedback during an art review at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Pixar)

MacLane says that Lightyear will “have everything you want in a Buzz Lightyear film”, including robots. “We’re going to have so many robots, you’re going to get sick of robots. And just went you get sick of robots, we’re going to give you one more”.

My next article from the Lightyear press day will be this weekend!

Lightyear opens June 17, 2022 in theaters.