Pixar’s Lightyear Didn’t Use Toy Story As A Reference For Its Human Characters And There’s A Funny Reason

Pixar’s upcoming film Lightyear is a strange creation. Announced back in December 2020 and tying back to the feature that launched the studio back in 1995, the concept behind the project is that the movie is the live-action sci-fi blockbuster that Andy from Toy Story was in love with. Because of this, fans can expect that it will be filled with all kinds of Easter eggs and callbacks to the beloved ‘90s classic – but one thing that the production didn’t reference was the look of the human characters. Why? In the words of the director, it’s because they’re “pretty grotesque.”

Earlier this month, I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing director Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman during an early virtual press day for Lightyear, starting a wave of buzz for the movie’s June release date, and during our conversation I asked if the human characters in Toy Story were used as models, given the whole shared universe thing. It got a rather blunt response from MacLane initially, who explained:

No. I mean, it's more a... they're pretty grotesque. I'm not supposed to say that.

Whether or not that was something that Angus MacLane was supposed to say, the statement immediately got vocal support from Galyn Susman – who is most certainly in an authoritative position in the matter. After all, she was a lighting supervisor and on the modeling team for the original Toy Story.

From one who built them, I can say that: yes. I learned on Andy, and Sid got better. And yeah, it's not good.

Of course, there’s a good reason why Toy Story human characters don’t look exactly perfect: it was the first wholly computer generated animated feature film ever made, and technology wasn’t at a place where it could render details that are a part of everyday moviemaking today (the VFX art form has come a long way in the last 30 years). It’s obviously an important piece of Pixar history, but that being said, when you look back at the 1995 movie with Angus MacLane and Galyn Susman’s comments in mind… yeah, you get it.

Sid and Andy and Andy's Mom in Toy Story

(Image credit: Disney)

Clearly there is going to be a style gap that exists between Toy Story and Lightyear, despite the fact that they inhabit the same universe, but Angus MacLane has reason to believe that it won’t be throttling at all when you actually see the upcoming movie. It has to do with utilizing your long-term memory of watching Pixar’s first film, and he described it in Star Wars:

I think of it like this. In Rogue One, of course, Rogue One was designed in a way that used your memory of the way Star Wars was, not the actuality of the props and sets. It was like how it built out in memory. That's kind the way I thought about this, where we were gonna make it so like the memory... You're gonna side-by-side it; it's not gonna make sense. It's more like what you fill in, and that kind of gauze over everything is how we wanted the world to feel too – this imagined world of a sci-fi film of that era.

Starring Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Uzo Aduba, Efren Ramirez, James Brolin, and Peter Sohn, Lightyear will be in theaters everywhere on June 17, and while we still have a number of questions about the Pixar film, we are incredibly excited to see them answered on the big screen this summer (and we’re definitely ready to see if it’s the latest feature from the studio to make us cry).

For more about upcoming releases, check out our 2022 Movie Release Calendar, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with the Pixar filmmakers behind Lightyear.

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.