How Lightyear’s Filmmakers Feel About Lightyear Heading To Theaters After The Disney+ Releases

While Pixar has continued to produce and release films since the start of the pandemic, one significant change that we’ve seen is that none of the projects have been going to theaters. 2020’s Onward was one of the last releases before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and movie houses shut down, and every feature made by the animation studio since then – including Soul, Luca and Turning Red – has been distributed as a Disney+ exclusive (and it’s reportedly generated some controversy internally).

This streak will end with the upcoming Lightyear, however, and two of the key filmmakers behind the project – director Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman – are thrilled that the Toy Story spinoff will be playing around the world on the biggest screens possible.

Not only will Lightyear be playing in normal theaters when it comes out this June, but it’s been planned as an IMAX release, and I asked MacLane and Susman for their thoughts about it when I interviewed them virtually earlier this month during a long-lead press day for the film (as featured in the video at the top of this article). The producer – a Pixar veteran dating back to the first Toy Story – explained that the animated sci-fi blockbuster is an experience built to be seen alongside friends, family, and strangers in the communal environment that the multiplex provides:

I think we've all missed being in the theater. We've missed being in the theater with our family and friends and complete strangers and having that communal experience. We make our films so that they can be shared communally. And we're very excited to get back into that space and for people to have that kind of release that you only get in [theaters].

Though the movie was only first announced back in December 2020, Lightyear has been in the works since long before that – and as you can probably assume, from the get-go it was planned to debut in theaters . Following Galyn Susman’s comment, this was something that Angus MacLane stressed, saying that this movie was in part made to emphasize the magic of the big screen:

Yeah, it's designed for theater visually and, story-wise, experientially. But the IMAX thing was something that started long before COVID and was always intended to be the kind of movie that we were gonna make. This is a movie that we made in IMAX, that we made for the big screen, that's meant to celebrate the shared experience of movie-going on a grand scale. And that we had a tremendous support internally for that ethos, just for this movie… it's just that kinda movie.

As designed, Lightyear is comparable in the Toy Story universe to what Star Wars is in our world. Obviously Star Wars wouldn’t be recognized as the phenomenon that it is today without the big screen experience, so it tracks that Lightyear would so heavily emphasize it.

Continuing, Angus MacLane noted that the fact that Lightyear is an IMAX movie should be seen as a reflection of the kind of experience that it is going to deliver, and it was treated as an important aspect of the film’s development. Said the director,

As a celebration of films in general, IMAX was the right kind of message to the formatting that we wanted. And it wasn't just a post-process. It was integrated into our pipeline directly so that we would have these IMAX action scenes that are really, really cool.

We still have more than a few questions about Lightyear, but regardless, it’s one of our most anticipated titles of the summer – with Marvel star Chris Evans playing the titular role. You’ll be able to see it in theaters and IMAX in less than two months (on June 17 to be exact), and you can plan all of your movie-going habits between now and then by scoping out our 2022 Movie Release Calendar.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.