Prolific Pixar Producer Explains What Went Wrong With ‘Lightyear’

Pixar logo
Pixar logo / Credit: Pixar

For nearly twenty years, Disney and Pixar have made some of the most beautiful and incredible stories The Walt Disney Company has released. This includes films like Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, Inside Out, UP, Soul, Luca, and more. Many of these movies were massive successes, with sequels, attractions, and even areas of Disney theme parks dedicated to them. Pixar and Disney have been so successful that Disney is even retheming Disney’s Paradise Pier hotel at Disneyland Resort into Pixar Place.


Credit: Disney

Sadly, in recent years, Disney and Pixar have not seen as much success as they have in the past. In 2022, the studios released Turning Red and Lightyear. While Turning Red received its fair share of criticism — due mainly to its subject of teenage menstruation — and didn’t perform very well at the box office, but it did multiple award nominations.

Sadly, Lightyear fared even worse in terms of performance and fan love. Lightyear cost Disney approximately $200 million to make (not counting marketing costs), but only made about $155 million at the box office. This was shocking, as films in the Toy Story universe tend to perform very well and the film starred superstars Chris Evans and Keke Palmer. Fans just couldn’t seem to get behind the story — especially without Tim Allen. There was also a lot of debate and criticism surrounding one of the film’s openly gay characters.

Buzz Lightyear movie banned

Credit: Disney/Pixar

Pete Docter is the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and the man behind many of Pixar’s biggest hits. Docter has been with Pixar for decades, not only as an executive producer, but also as a writer. Some of Docter’s writing credits include Dug Days, UP, Inside Out, Soul, WALL-E, Toy Story, and Toy Story 2.

Docter recently spoke with The Wrap about all things Pixar, including Lightyear, which has become of the least successful stories told in the Toy Story universe:

“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?” Docter said. “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. 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.”

Buzz Lightyear Movie Reviews

Credit: Disney/Pixar

Docter is currently hard at work on two more Pixar movies — one set to be released this year and one coming out in 2024. This year, Docter and his team will release Elemental, a film that tells the story of a world where the elements — Earth, Air, Fire, and Water — all live together in harmony. In 2024, the studio will release Elio, which tells the story of a young boy who feels like he doesn’t fit in, until he becomes the global ambassador for aliens.

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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