Pixar’s Lightyear trailer teases the origins of the Evil Emperor Zurg, Buzz Lightyear’s rival and the sworn enemy of the Galactic Alliance. Referenced in Buzz Lightyears’s arrival to Andy’s room in 1995’s Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear’s mission was to “protect the galaxy from the threat of invasion from the Evil Emperor Zurg.” However, while Toy Story’s Buzz soon realized that he was simply a toy based on the sci-fi hero Buzz Lightyear, Lightyear will now show the story of the “real” Buzz in the new prequel film, and it looks as though the “real” Zurg will be featured as well.
In the previous Toy Story films, Zurg made his on-screen debut in Toy Story 2 in the film’s opening sequence that revealed the Buzz Lightyear video game, seeing Emperor Zurg destroying Buzz due to Rex losing the level. Zurg would later appear as a fellow toy seeking to destroy Buzz, being under the same disillusionment Buzz was once under, thinking he was the genuine scourge of the galaxy. However, Toy Story 2 saw Zurg fighting a second Buzz who still thought he was the real Space Ranger of Star Command (which came with the Star Wars parody scene where Zurg revealed that he’s Buzz’s father). Furthermore, Zurg was the primary arch-nemesis in the animated Buzz Lightyear of Star Command film and subsequent series which likewise featured the real Buzz’s sci-fi adventures as a space ranger, and the Evil Emperor also received a small cameo in Toy Story 3.
It makes sense that Zurg would be featured in Lightyear, given his prominence in the references to Buzz’s origins in past Toy Story films. While it’s uncertain whether or not Lightyear will be keeping Zurg as the father of Buzz Lightyear, it does look like Zurg will have a presence. The Lightyear trailer itself briefly features a shot of a glowing purple hanger as someone strides towards a ship, being flanked by robots on either side which appear to be Zurg-bots (bearing the letter “Z” on their armor). It’s also followed by another shot of what looks to be a high-tech sarcophagus opening with an ominously glowing red light, a possible tease that Zurg is within and will be unleashed upon the galaxy.
Beyond these teases to Zurg’s origins in Lightyear, alongside Buzz’s journey to become a Space Ranger in Star Command’s Universe Protection Unit, it just makes sense for the Evil Emperor to be featured in the upcoming prequel film. Introducing a new threat for Buzz to face feels risky and a hard sell, especially if Lightyear ends up being a standalone prequel. Additionally, many fans are likely carrying an expectation to see Buzz’s classic arch-foe as well.
The teases in the trailer strongly suggest that Zurg will be featured as the primary threat in Lightyear, and it should prove to be pretty exciting to see the two galactic rivals facing each other for real (as opposed to dodging plastic projectiles on top of an elevator as seen in Toy Story 2). If the “real story” of Buzz Lightyear’s evolution into a Space Ranger is going to be told in Lightyear, the Evil Emperor Zurg shouldn’t be far behind as the logical main villain.