Lightyear sees the return of purple big bad Zurg, who you probably remember best from his brief role in Toy Story 2. In that film, Buzz learned a haunting secret: his arch-nemesis is actually his father. Cue a big “noooo!” In Lightyear, though, Zurg’s a bit different… **Spoilers for Lightyear ahead!**
So, Zurg is quite literally Buzz Snr. in the new Pixar movie. As the Space Ranger discovers, the man inside the terrifying robot suit is none other than an older version of himself. Old Buzz is intent on reversing his earlier mistakes by going back in time via hyperspace travel and stopping the crew from ever getting stranded on T’Kani Prime. Of course, that would erase Alisha Hawthorne’s granddaughter Izzy and the rest of Buzz’s new friends from existence – and, as the young version of the Space Ranger points out, everyone but him built a new life on the distant planet. Old Buzz doesn’t want to hear it, though, and the two Space Rangers end up battling it out.
But why does Lightyear switch up Zurg so dramatically? We asked director Angus MacLane about the change.
“Well, we tried the dad thing, and it didn’t work because we didn’t have enough screen time to set up why that was interesting,” MacLane tells us. “And the emotion of that – it ultimately came down to, who do we want Buzz to be in a fight with Zurg in the suit? Who would we be satisfied with? Is he fighting with his dad? I’m not super satisfied with that. Is it actually Alisha? Eh, I don’t want that.”
As MacLane explains, Zurg turning out to be Old Buzz was a choice that better served the story. “So having him fight himself felt the most thematically interesting, because there’s a toxic masculinity aspect of being unwilling to ask for help, and to be focused only on solving the problem yourself, that we felt that he had become a villain in the beginning and had he not met Izzy and the others in the second act, this is who he would become. So we would be able to communicate to the audience ‘Oh, I see, this is who he was,’ and it shows his growth as a character over the second act by meeting Old Buzz. That was really the thinking behind it. As long as Old Buzz did a few things that were obviously malicious, we would accept who we wanted to win in that case.”
Ultimately, Young Buzz comes out on top – but judging by that final post-credits scene, we wouldn’t count Zurg out just yet…
Lightyear is in theaters now. For much more on the movie, check out our interviews with the cast and filmmakers and astronaut Tim Peake, as well as producer Galyn Susman on reinventing Buzz’s iconic catchphrase.
Fill out your watchlist with our guide to the best movies on Disney Plus – and you can catch-up on the Toy Story movies on Disney Plus, too (and read up on how Lightyear and Toy Story are connected).