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The new animated film serves as an origin story for earnest space ranger Buzz Lightyear – the role originated by Tim Allen in 1995's "Toy Story" and voiced here (as a cartoon human and not a plastic dude) by Evans.
"Lightyear" is essentially the movie that Andy, the boy from "Toy Story," became obsessed with in ’95 and spawned the Buzz toy that Andy famously received for his birthday.
Due to the structure of the film, it makes a plot distinction from being perceived as "Toy Story 5." Evans voicing Buzz rather than Allen also allows viewers to step into a different mindset.
The choice to cast Evans as Buzz is something that weighed heavily on the "Captain America" star and has stirred comments from Allen and Tom Hanks, who played Woody, one of Andy's favorite toys.
Here's what they – and the movie's director – have said about the casting decision.
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Tim Allen addresses why he's not the voice of Buzz in 'Lightyear'
Allen revealed that the idea of a Buzz spinoff was discussed with him in the past, but it never came to fruition. "The brass that did the first four movies is not (involved). This is a whole new team that really had nothing to do with the first movies," he said to Extra on June 29.
"I thought it was live-action. When they said they were doing a live-action, that it would mean real humans, not an animated thing," Allen continued.
The "Home Improvement" alum also criticized the film for not having a Woody character. "Really, Hanks and I, well, there's really no 'Toy Story' Buzz without Woody," he said.
Addressing the plot, the actor said, "This was done in 1997, it seemed to be a big adventure story and, as I see, ('Lightyear' is) not a big adventure story. It's a wonderful story, it just doesn't seem to have any connection to the toy."
"It's just no connection. I wish there was a better connection," he added
A rep for Allen declined to comment to USA TODAY.
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Chris Evans talks being inspired by Tim Allen, carving out a new Buzz
"The reason we're doing this movie is because Tim Allen made such an iconic impact," Evans told USA TODAY shortly before the June 17 premiere of "Lightyear." "Not only would you be a fool to not take his interpretation because it worked so well, but the truth is this character is in fact the human version of that toy, so there does need to be overlap in terms of their cadence and nature."
It took a while, however, for Evans to find the right voice-acting mojo. "At the beginning, I almost felt like a deer in the headlights," he recalled. "I would just be so still. You're so focused on your voice, it almost would rest every other part of my body. But with every passing session, you find a little more comfort and before you know it, you are incorporating your physicality and that would inform the deliveries."
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Tom Hanks questions why Tim Allen isn't voicing Buzz in 'Lightyear' and Woody's absence
Hanks, who is currently starring in "Elvis," was asked by CinemaBlend what it is like having a film in theaters opposite "Lightyear." "I actually wanted to go head-to-head with Tim Allen and then they didn’t let Tim Allen do it. I don’t understand that," he responded.
In regards to Evans being Buzz's new voice, Hanks said, "Here's the thing: I want to go back in the theatre with a bunch of strangers and leave with something in common. That's what I want to do and, going to see a movie with (Allen in it) – I'm looking forward to that."
'Lightyear' director talks intentional decision not to cast Tim Allen
"Lightyear" director Angus MacLane told USA TODAY he didn’t want to cast an Allen impressionist or even a "superheroic type" for Buzz but instead someone who had “a commanding presence that also is able to be funny without being goofy.”
The filmmaker found that watching Evans in Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian film "Snowpiercer," "where you really could see the range of what Chris could do."
MacLane similarly told Newsweek last month: "We needed an actor that could be heroic, and emotional, and dramatic but be funny, also being funny in a way that wasn't too goofy and didn't undercut the drama. So, with that in mind, for such an iconic character, we needed an iconic star and Chris was the natural choice."
How does 'Lightyear' measure up with critics?
"Lightyear" did not go to infinity (or beyond) in its first weekend in theaters: Pixar's first major theatrical release since March 2020 blasted off with $51 million in its first weekend in North America, according to studio estimates on June 19.
However, the space adventure (★★★ out of four), gives new meaning to Buzz’s "To infinity and beyond" catchphrase and adds in some Easter eggs that’ll make old fans smile, writes USA TODAY's Brian Truitt, adding it doesn’t go overboard with the “Toy Story” connections. "It instead embraces a more cosmic 'Bad News Bears' vibe as an exasperated Buzz wants to do everything himself and is forced to learn the importance of a crew who’s got your back," the review adds.
Contributing: Brian Truitt, USA TODAY; Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tom Hanks reacts to Chris Evans, not Tim Allen, voicing Buzz Lightyear