How Lightyear is linked to Toy Story, explained

Buzz in Lightyear
(Image credit: Pixar/Disney)

Lightyear, the movie all about Buzz, is a Toy Story spin-off that isn't quite a spin-off. It's a sci-fi adventure that sees the Space Ranger stranded on a distant, hostile planet, with only a few new recruits and an adorable robot cat named Sox to help him get back home. Oh, and there's the ominous presence of Zurg that might cause some problems…

But how exactly is Lightyear connected to Toy Story? It can be quite confusing, considering the film makes no reference to Woody and co., and we're clearly watching a film about a human being rather than a plastic toy. We explain all you need to know about where the film fits into the Toy Story universe right here.

How is Lightyear connected to Toy Story? 

Let's clear up which version of Buzz Lightyear is in the movie. This isn't an in-universe real human being – it's not the origin story of the astronaut that the Buzz toy line is based on, as a tweet from Chris Evans initially seemed to suggest. Instead, Lightyear is the in-universe movie that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy line. Still with us?

As the text at the beginning of the movie explains, Toy Story's Andy received a Buzz Lightyear action figure for his birthday back in 1995 (that's the year the first Toy Story came out). The action figure was based on his favorite movie – and Lightyear is that film. Essentially, Buzz in Lightyear is a fictional character, who was then turned into the toy we know and love from Toy Story. 

That also explains why a different actor voices Buzz. Tim Allen has not returned to reprise his role as the Space Ranger, with Evans stepping in instead. 

"Tim really is the embodiment of the toy Buzz, and this isn't the toy world, so it really doesn't make sense," producer Galyn Susman told The Hollywood Reporter of the change. "There's not really a role. It would just cause more confusion for audiences instead of helping them understand the movie we're trying to tell."

So, there you have it: in the Toy Story universe, Lightyear is the movie that inspired the Buzz toys. 

Do you need to watch Toy Story before Lightyear?

Toy Story

(Image credit: Pixar/Disney)

It's not necessary to watch any of the Toy Story movies before you see Lightyear. The new film makes no reference to any other Toy Story characters or the events of those films – apart from, during the opening, explaining that this is Andy's favorite film – because they don't actually form one big story. Lightyear is a separate story. 

It's worth catching up on the original quartet, though, because not only are they great movies, but there are also some nods to them in Lightyear. Buzz's famous catchphrase "To infinity, and beyond", for example, was first heard in the original Toy Story, and his habit for calling things exactly as he sees them (like referring to Darby Steel as "elderly convict") and penchant for narrating is something he shares with his toy counterpart. Plus, things like Star Command, the concept of being a Space Ranger, and big bad Zurg were first introduced in the Toy Story movies. 

Lightyear is in theaters now. For much more on the movie, check out our interviews with the cast and filmmakers and producer Galyn Susman on reinventing Buzz's iconic catchphrase, as well as astronaut Tim Peake.

Fill out your watchlist with our guide to the best movies on Disney Plus – and you can catch-up on the Toy Story movies on Disney Plus, too.

If you've seen the film already, get the lowdown on the Lightyear post-credits scenes and what they mean.

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.