ROADTRIPPIN’ co-hosts Robert Meyer Burnett and Mike Bawden respond to letters from listeners proposing a variety of reasons as to why Pixar’s latest animated feature, LIGHTYEAR, didn’t meet expectations during its opening weekend. Was it a result of bad casting, a strained relationship between studios, convoluted marketing or stronger-than-expected competition? No one is sure – but it’s possible the problem runs much deeper than an origin story for an action figure might let on.

What’s behind LIGHTYEAR’s failure to launch?

by Mike Bawden

I saw LIGHTYEAR at the theater this Sunday with my family. Tickets for the four of us were just under $65, so by my figuring, we were just four of around 3 million people who saw that movie during its opening weekend.

And while that missed projections, it’s still a pretty healthy opener for an animated movie.

But should we evaluate it as “just” an animated movie? That may not be fair to the movie, to Pixar, to other animated features or to the legions of Buzz Lightyear fans who felt a little bit cheated by the movie.

And if not cheated, that at least confused (or possibly misled).

Robert Meyer Burnett and I discussed three letters from Imagination Connoisseurs who expressed their concern and disappointment about LIGHTYEAR – and while we didn’t agree entirely, we didn’t disagree either.

Why is that? Give the podcast a listen to find out.

Listen to “Attention Star Command, there seems to be a problem with Buzz Lightyear (#046)” on Spreaker.

All three letter writers presented their objections to the movie in terms of how it fit within the broader picture of the Toy Story “franchise” – meaning all of the movies and related media that work together to build a world where the toys of Toy Story (and especially Buzz Lightyear and Woody) live, interact and have their adventures. Just how was a movie about a character that inspired a major player in this universe supposed to fit?

Is LIGHTYEAR too clever for its own good?

There aren’t any hard and fast rules for this because, interestingly enough, I’m pretty sure this approach hasn’t really been taken before. I’m not saying it hasn’t, but I’m not aware of a time where characters have gone quite this meta.

This isn’t Deadpool-meta, either. That’s done for humor and Deadpool’s awareness that he lives inside a comic book universe is a key part of the “Deadpool-verse” (so to speak). And word on the street is that She Hulk will also explore some meta-ish commentary.

But this isn’t what Pixar has tried to do with LIGHTYEAR vis a vis the “world” Toy Story.

According to an opening title card in the movie, what we were about to see was “the” film Andy saw in 1995 that turned him on to Buzz Lightyear and ignited his interest (and, I presume, endless requests) in a Buzz Lightyear action figure. Then for a little less than two hours, we were witness to a beautifully animated story about a space ranger’s redemption and the birth of Star Command.

But this was an animated feature. And Toy Story was animated. And both Buzz Lightyears looked enough alike, they could easily have switched places – with the exception that the version of Lightyear voiced by Chris Evans played his part straight and the version of Buzz voiced by Tim Allen was an over-the-top version of the same character.

Are you confused yet?

Yeah, I think most of the movie-going public is, as well. And, honestly, I think that’s both the fault of Disney and Pixar. It seems someone forgot to read (or even issue) the memo that if you’re going to tell a story that’s part of a larger, meta-story, you need to have both stories figured out in advance to make sure they work together. That didn’t happen in this case, which is an unexpected failure on the part of Pixar.

But how much of the decision-making behind how that larger, meta-story was supposed to be told and sold to the public was Disney’s? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like some of the reasons behind LIGHTYEAR’s failure to launch are also the problems underlying the confusion and frustration with recent Marvel and Star Wars releases.

Star Command, we might have a problem at Mission Control … and its location is on South Buena Vista Street in Burbank, California.

What do you think?

Remember, you can always send us a letter. Just click here and then send us a message to let us know how we’re doing and what’s on your mind. We look forward to hearing from you.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast

I invite you to listen in on my weekday conversations with my friend and business partner, Robert Meyer Burnett, as we talk about the things we love: great movies, inspiring television programming, nostalgic genre entertainment, and pop culture.

This episode was recorded on June 21, 2022.

Does “stunt casting” work?

Does “stunt casting” work?

Imagination Connoisseur, ROBB, shares his thoughts on how Star Trek: Discovery handled its casting of Democratic politician, Stacey Abrams, as the president of a united Earth in the show’s finale. Personal politics aside, ROBB seems to feel Star Trek’s producers missed an opportunity to send a message about unity at a time when we could all use it.

Will Superman be returning in 4K someday?

Will Superman be returning in 4K someday?

Long-time PGS Member, Kenny Kraly Jr., writes in to the LET’S GET PHYSICAL MEDIA show to ask for their predictions on the possibility of getting more Superman movies out on 4k Blu-Ray.

On the topic of “Gatekeeping” …

On the topic of “Gatekeeping” …

Imagination Connoisseur, Jason Miller, writes a letter of support for ROBSERVATIONS host, Robert Meyer Burnett, who has recently proclaimed himself the Gatekeeper of Geekdom. Jason shares his experience defending RMB’s joke (made on Twitter) and arrives at an inescapable conclusion that everyone should probably take to heart.

How to accept Star Trek now so you don’t go insane!

How to accept Star Trek now so you don’t go insane!

Imagination Connoisseur, Adam Talley, writes in to explain how he now views the Star Trek franchise – a way that acknowledges the “good old days” so many OG fans pine for and the new innovations we’re seeing in stores, online, and in theaters.

Why is Obi-Wan the most boring thing about the Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming series on Disney+?

Why is Obi-Wan the most boring thing about the Obi-Wan Kenobi streaming series on Disney+?

ROADTRIPPIN’ co-hosts Robert Meyer Burnett and Mike Bawden discuss the broader implications of a question posed by an Imagination Connoisseur who asks why Obi-Wan Kenobi is such a boring character in his own series. In fact, one could ask why so many Star Wars series seem to be “running in place” and not really going anywhere with characters who don’t seem to be doing all that much. Is there a larger force at work here that no one seems to acknowledge? And where have we heard THAT before?

Sign up to have the PGS come straight to your Inbox every day!

Click on the button below to be taken to an email subscription page where you can register for your choice of email alerts, newsletters and offers from the Post-Geek Singularity.

Join the Post-Geek Singularity Community on Discord to talk about this post and other subjects of interest to Imagination Connoisseurs from throughout the galaxy.

Meet your fellow Imagination Connoisseurs on any of our social media channels dedicated to interesting, engaging discussions of genre entertainment. Just click on the icon above to join!