While we’ve always known Buzz Lightyear as a daring hero from Star Command’s Universe Protection Unit, the Toy Story movies were only telling part of the story. Disney/Pixar’s new movie release Lightyear drops us in the world of the movie that inspired many a playdate with Andy, and in this case, it’s Chris Evans who lends his voice to the “real” Buzz. With a new incarnation of Captain Lightyear comes not only a ton of Lightyear-related questions, but also a need for new cadets to train under him. This is what introduces audiences to a team of Junior Rangers voiced by Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer, and Dale Soules.
Speaking with all three of those actors during the Lightyear press day, the entire Junior Ranger team was at my disposal. As three new characters in the world of Buzz Lightyear’s Star Command, there’s a lot to explore with this rag tag team that's forced into action a little earlier than expected. With the right attitude of heroism, the proper skills and the assistance of scene stealer Sox the robotic cat, there’s nothing these folks can’t do under Buzz Lightyear's training.
But what are the most heroic traits in Lightyear’s fresh candidates? For Taika Waititi, who voices Maurice “Mo” Morrison, that heroism comes from a running gag that turns from a fun joke into some serious hero stuff. Here’s what Waititi told CinemaBlend about Maurice’s most heroic trait:
Perseverance is what turns jokes into dreams, especially when Maurice is trying to feel his way around the weaponry like his fellow Junior Rangers. Which leads us to Keke Palmer, whose character, Izzy Hawthorne, has a larger burden than the rest of her team, as she’s trying to live up to the legacy of her grandmother/Buzz Lightyear’s best friend, Alisha (Uzo Aduba). That makes Palmer’s answer to the question all the more appropriate:
What’s also perfect about Izzy Hawthorne’s natural leadership skills is that they're boosted by a wealth of knowledge. We learn in Lightyear that Izzy’s a master tactician who knows her Space Ranger history, as she’s read her grandmother’s books cover to cover - twice! That definitely comes in handy when trying to figure out a plan during an hour of need in Lightyear's mission.
To recap: Taika Waititi’s Mo is someone who will not quit to find a use for his suit’s pen, and Keke Palmer’s Izzy has the ability to use history and inspiration to get her team on board. Which makes the question of what heroism Dale Soules’ Darby Steel brings to Lightyear even more exciting. If her character’s name wasn’t enough of an indication, Soules herself sums it up rather neatly:
Darby can build an explosive device with any three components, and has earned herself probation through the Junior Rangers program through an offense that’s not known to us upon her introduction. In normal circumstances, she’d probably just lie low until her sentence was served, with some sly action under the radar.
Lightyear isn’t exactly a story that takes place in such times, as the now terrifying evil known as Zurg (James Brolin) has a master plan that puts the fate of the universe in the balance. These Junior Rangers might have the right stuff to rein in Buzz Lightyear’s rather Maverick-style nature, provided that he can slow down long enough to learn the lessons his younger counterparts are trying to teach him.
Just as the voice cast for Lightyear is a roster that feels like a dream, the characters who Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer, and Dale Soules voice are the ideal candidates to get this particular mission accomplished. How and why is something you’ll need to see for yourself, as Lightyear is currently in theaters.
Disney+ subscribers can also enjoy the majority of the Toy Story franchise through that very streaming platform. With all four films and a ton of TV specials to enjoy, infinity and beyond awaits.
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CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.