Pixar's Pete Docter Opens Up About Where Things Went Wrong With Chris Evans’ Lightyear Movie

Unlike Pixar’s first 2022 movie, Turning Red, Lightyear, the Toy Story spinoff, was sent to theaters first rather than delivered exclusively to Disney+ subscribers right off the bat. Unfortunately, the cinematic tale chronicling the origin story of the sci-fi character that the Tim Allen-voiced toy was based off of failed to make a splash either critically and commercially. Pete Docter, one of Lightyear’s executive producers and a key figure at Pixar, has now opened up about where things went wrong with the Chris Evans-led flick.

Review-wise, Lightyear was met with a decent amount of positive reception, but it soon became clear this wouldn’t be one of Pixar’s most exceptional theatrical offerings. Conversely, Lightyear only made a little over $226 million worldwide off a reported $200 million budget, rendering it a box office bomb. While chatting with The Wrap, Pete Docter shared his take on why Lightyear failed to connect with audiences, saying:

We’ve done a lot of soul-searching about that because we all love the movie. We love the characters and the premise. I think probably what we’ve ended on in terms of what went wrong is that we asked too much of the audience. When they hear Buzz, they’re like, great, where’s Mr. Potato Head and Woody and Rex? And then we drop them into this science fiction film that they’re like, 'What?' Even if they’ve read the material in press, it was just a little too distant, both in concept, and I think in the way that characters were drawn, that they were portrayed.

The name Buzz Lightyear has been tied with the Toy Story franchise for nearly three decades now, so Pete Docter speculation that the general public was confused by Lightyear doesn’t sound implausible. Between this Buzz Lightyear operating in a sci-fi world surrounded by new faces besides Emperor Zurg (who ended by being an older Buzz from an alternate timeline), as well as Chris Evans voicing the character rather than Tim Allen, there were enough elements at play to produce confusion. Plus, as Docter noted, the design of Buzz himself and the supporting cast of characters was a sharp contrast to how people have seen the toy version of Buzz and his cohorts have been depicted since 1995.

So Lightyear won’t go down in Pixar history as one of its hits, and while Pete Docter acknowledged that the movie that was made failed to meet the expectations of what many people thought it would be, he also expressed his admiration for the product that director and co-writer Angus MacLane made. In his words:

It was much more of a science fiction. And Angus, to his credit, took it very seriously and genuinely and wanted to represent those characters as real characters. But the characters in Toy Story are much broader, and so I think there was a disconnect between what people wanted/expected and what we were giving to them.

Angus MacLane crafted the Lightyear story with Matthew Aldrich and Jason Headley, with the latter writing the script alongside the director. Chris Evans costars on the movie included Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Isaiah Whitlock Jr. and James Brolin. While Evans has shared his “selfish” reasons for wanting Lightyear 2 to happen, given the way this first movie performed, it’s probably safe to say the chances of that happening are slim.

Still, if you’re among Lightyear’s supporters, the movie is easily available to watch on Disney+ and/or acquire on home media. You can also read through the quick things we know about Pixar’s next movie, Elemental, which comes out on June 16 and dropped its first trailer last November.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.