For stars Keke Palmer and Uzo Aduba, “Lightyear” takes the “Toy Story” franchise to infinity and beyond by reflecting heroes of all kinds.
Disney and Pixar’s latest animated movie serves as an origin story for the fan-favourite Buzz Lightyear, but the actors agree their film’s new characters’ journeys are just as pivotal.
“It’s ‘to infinity and beyond’ for all of us,” Palmer told the Daily News.
“Leaders, heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and I think that’s the thing that ‘Lightyear’ is also writing for. That is the future. ‘To infinity and beyond’ with that. Yes, Buzz is a hero, but so are all of the faces that you are going to meet along the course of the journey.”
Zooming into theaters Friday, “Lightyear” is the first spinoff film in the “Toy Story” series, premiering nearly three decades after the original movie introduced the Buzz action figure as a favourite toy of a child named Andy.
The opening sequence of “Lightyear” informs audiences they’re watching Andy’s favorite movie, which depicts the adventures of the human space ranger Buzz Lightyear who inspired the toy.
“We’re so familiar with the toy, but very rarely do we ever get to learn the story behind the man, or the toy, and they have a full life,” Aduba told The News. “We get to see Buzz’s full life, along with the full lives of our own characters.”
The film picks up with Buzz, voiced by Chris Evans, and his fellow astronauts getting stranded on a strange planet. They work to develop hyperspeed technology to return to Earth, but every time Buzz goes on a test run, multiple years pass without him aging at all.
Aduba, 41, voices Buzz’s trusted partner Alisha Hawthorne, while Palmer, 28, portrays her granddaughter Izzy, whom Buzz meets decades in the future.
Buzz works alongside people from different backgrounds throughout the film, including Alisha, who is one of Pixar’s first openly LGBTQ characters.
Aduba — a three-time Emmy winner for “Orange is the New Black” and “Mrs. America” — praises “Lightyear” for showcasing “faces, ages, sizes and identities in ways that we haven’t seen before, and proving that all of those people can be heroic.”
“It certainly makes anybody who gets to see those stories dream differently,” Aduba said. “It certainly makes them dream of their own possibility. Everybody needs to see themselves on screen.”
Joining the “Toy Story” franchise delighted Palmer, who grew up a major fan of the previous films that starred Tim Allen as Buzz and Tom Hanks as the cowboy doll Woody.
“I always loved Andy’s journey, even as the ‘Toy Story’ franchise continued to grow,” Palmer said. “We were also growing alongside Andy and understanding our relationship with our toys and the experiences that we had and how to transition.
“I think that’s why I loved (2010′s) third ‘Toy Story’ so much, because we were all adults at that point. It’s like, how do we make away with those memories and those things of the past? How do we grow and still hold on to that child that still exists in all of us? I love how that franchise continued to grow with us and taught us stuff along the way.”
Palmer, who also has the Jordan Peele-directed horror movie “Nope” out next month, loves how “Lightyear” captures the spirit of the “Toy Story” films.
“It’s such an original story,” Palmer said, “that still carries that nostalgia.”