Pixar’s Lightyear is giving a background story to the Toy Story universe’s Buzz Lightyear character, but the movie has recast Tim Allen with Chris Evans. Since Toy Story first premiered in 1995, actor Tim Allen has voiced the animated Buzz Lightyear toy character in every sequel, with the most recent franchise installment being Toy Story 4 in 2019. Lightyear, which is expected to premiere in 2022, depicts the in-universe Buzz Lightyear blockbuster movie character that inspired Tim Allen’s toy version, with Knives Out’s Chris Evans voicing the young Space Ranger.
Some fans have been quick to theorize that Buzz Lightyear was recast due to Tim Allen’s recent politics and controversies, citing his notable sympathy for Donald Trump, cancellation of his conservative Fox show Last Man Standing, and 2013 mishap over racial slurs. Others supported this speculation by mentioning how Disney subsidiary LucasFilm fired The Mandalorian actress Gina Carano in 2021 following a string of controversial posts on social media, which she interpreted as being terminated based on her politically conservative views. Allen has certainly been no stranger to controversy throughout his career, which Disney typically attempts to distance itself from with its actors, but this isn’t the reason why the original Toy Story voice actor isn’t returning.
Lightyear director Angus MacLane shut down casting speculation about Tim Allen being passed over by saying Chris Evans was his one and only choice for the role. Considering Lightyear is a spin-off Toy Story movie and not technically a prequel or direct continuation of the franchise, MacLane had the opportunity to craft Buzz Lightyear in a completely different manner. The director explained that his casting choice for voicing Buzz was based on if he believed the actor could actually portray him in a live-action movie and felt Chris Evans has the star power and expertise to bring Buzz to life in either setting. He felt that if he was making a sci-fi movie about the Space Ranger on whom Buzz is based, the clearest casting choice is Evans, so Lightyear with Tim Allen wasn’t even an option.
Politics had nothing to do with Buzz Lightyear being recast; it was really based on the Toy Story franchise moving in a different direction. Tim Allen was still extremely popular in the mid-1990s when Toy Story was first released – he was on the highly watched show Home Improvement as well as playing Santa Claus in Disney’s own The Santa Clause movies. Since then, Tim Allen’s relationship with Pixar’s audience base has changed and may not be the best choice to bring to life the inspirational Buzz Lightyear figure instead of the actual toy. Pixar’s Lightyear is following the journey of the fictional film character that inspired Tim Allen’s Buzz Lightyear toy, so they’re technically not even the same character. In this manner, it’s really not necessary to bring Allen back to voice a different Buzz, so it makes sense that Pixar recruited an actor who connects more to the current audience.
With Lightyear, Pixar is expanding on the Toy Story universe in a meta manner by showing the movie Andy would have gone to see before first falling in love with Buzz as a character and wanting his toy/action figure for his birthday. Who better for Pixar to choose to bring this Buzz to life than Chris Evans, who spent a decade playing Captain America and already has toys and action figures of himself in the real world. It also doesn’t hurt that Chris Evans’ popularity is fairly universal, with little controversy to stain his reputation or possibly cause dissension with viewers. Not hearing Tim Allen’s voice for Buzz Lightyear will be heartbreaking to life-long fans for nostalgic reasons. Still, Lightyear recasting Buzz with Chris Evans is the right way to move forward with the franchise by giving a different Buzz a different persona that kids today recognize.