‘Lightyear’ Is an Emotional Journey to Infinity and Beyond

‘Lightyear’ Is an Emotional Journey to Infinity and Beyond

This article contains spoilers for Disney/Pixar’s newest film, Lightyear.

Calling all space rangers, Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear soared into theaters on June 17, and you’re next in line for a life-changing intergalactic space mission — all you’ve got to do is count down to blast off. Oh, and bring tissues, trust us.

Lightyear tells the story that explains Andy’s special birthday gift when we first met him in Toy Story back in 1995. While he was thrilled to open all of his gifts, a space ranger quickly became his favorite present and his most beloved confidant. Andy took Buzz Lightyear everywhere with him, though he never quite felt (or acted) like just a toy.

Disney’s mission with Lightyear was simple, explain that feeling, and they did it effortlessly. When we first meet Buzz Lightyear, he’s on a space mission with his partner, Commander Alisha Hawthorne, as they detect life on an unknown planet. Of course, otherworldly lifeforms and untapped terrain lead to more trouble than adventure, and they soon find themselves up against their toughest odds yet.

Try as they might, the team ends up marooned on the planet T’Kani Prime, and it’s not exactly a paradise they’ve stumbled upon. Lightyear simply couldn’t maneuver the ship in the right direction, which resulted in a crash landing.


That fateful decision rests heavily on Lightyear’s shoulders, and he’s fighting an inner battle as the rest of his team begins to adjust. This is a significant theme in the Lightyear movie. While it’s a prominent storyline, the depths of what they’re playing at unfold over the first thirty minutes in a surprisingly emotional way.

Lightyear’s only hope to right his wrong is to find a way to travel at hyperspeed safely. Upon his return from the first attempt, Lightyear learns that his trips come at a steep cost. While a mere 4 minutes elapsed for our favorite space ranger, four years go by for those on the planet. That’s right; his friends are aging quickly while time dares to keep up with Lightyear.

This could have spurred two ideas for Lightyear — to quickly throw himself into perfecting hyperspeed travel or to take a moment to think about what that means. Lightyear goes with the first option, and soon, those around him are changing rapidly. His best friend, Hawthorne, soon marries and has children — and before long, she’s celebrating her 40th anniversary with her partner. Her curls soon turn grey, and her face begins to wrinkle as Lightyear continues to try to travel through time and space.

Hawthorne gifts Lightyear a friend to help him deal with these gaps in time, and fans meet Sox, his robot cat companion and the character that steals the show. Her gift to Lightyear would help him more than he could have known as, upon a return from another failed attempt at hyperspeed — Hawthorne’s office is empty sans a device used to play a video message.

Audiences tear up immediately as Hawthorne speaks to Lightyear from a hospital bed, realizing she won’t be there anymore for his next return home. She loved her friend but missed him dearly over the last several decades, and it hits him as it sparks an emotional jolt in all of us — he didn’t soak in those moments with her. He spent all his days trying to change the past instead of enjoying the life they’d all built around him. He missed everything.

Upon that realization setting in, Lightyear also learns that his future travel adventures are being scrapped via an order from Star Command. This sets him off on a forbidden mission, and with Sox in tow, he successfully travels at the necessary speed to get home, but his course isn’t smooth sailing — or flying.

Without giving too much away, Lightyear soon meets his greatest foe yet, Zurg and his robot minions. He also meets his greatest allies, one of which is Hawthorne’s daughter, Izzy. The team of misfits soon band together to fight the mysterious robots and conquer their fears at the same time. It’s a mission written in the stars, and it’s one they’ll ultimately face together.

This final act sees Lightyear come face to face with Zurg — who just so happens to be a familiar character. What does he learn from the villain? Can he overcome his power and the fight of his life? Will he travel home with his crew, or will they realize that home is where you make it? You’ll have to get your ticket to space to find out, and you’ll want to board your spacecraft quickly because it’s a mission you won’t want to miss.

You’ll fall in love with Sox, Moe, Darby, and Izzy, and you’ll feel for Buzz Lightyear, the space ranger, and the man — in all of his strengths and weaknesses. Lightyear gives us all an afternoon to be a kid again; it brings us back to an authentic kind of joy.

All in all, Lightyear reminds us of the enchantment we felt the first time we sat down to watch Toy Story. It inspired us to find that child-like belief in magic again and within ourselves, and most importantly, it allowed us the realization that our most important moments are happening all around us — if we only slow down enough to notice.

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