BUZZ LIGHTYEAROriginal Medium: Theatrical animation
Produced by: Disney/Pixar
First Appeared: 1995
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"To infinity — and beyond!" is the battle cry of Buzz Lightyear, an absurd line that he shares with nobody else in all toondom — or, for that matter, beyond. But he shares his status as a character from a Disney animated feature, spun off to become a star in his own
right, with dozens of others, from Dopey (Snow White) to Sebastian the Crab (The Little Mermaid)
and, of course, beyond.
Buzz was first seen in Toy Story, released November 22, 1995, in which he started out as a toy who didn't know he was a toy. He thought he really was the space ranger (no relation) of the Universe Protection Unit, that his promotional material said he was; and the fictional Buzz Lightyear TV show, which the toy had supposedly been merchandised from, was real. He was devastated when he learned the truth, but soon found a new direction for his pseudo-life, as a stalwart, immensely capable superhero among toys. His voice was done by Tim Allen, mostly a face actor, who has a recurring role as Santa Claus in a series of live-action Disney movies.
Along with Disney, Toy Story was co-produced by Pixar, a rising star in the radically different field of computer-generated animation. Pixar went on to other successes, including Cars, The Incredibles and, not incidentally, Toy Story 2 (1999). Buzz's first use as a separate character, in which readers were able to see him actually play the role that was part of his metastory in the original movie, was in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. This one, done in a more traditional animated style, was released straight to video on August 8, 2000.
It was there that his story was filled in. Buzz's main mission was to save the universe from being taken over by the Evil Emperor Zurg, sworn enemy of the Galactic Alliance. Zurg was assisted by, among his other minions, the traitorous former Star Command agent, Warp Darkmatter; and Buzz by his partner, and the closest thing he had to a girlfriend, Princess Mira Nova. There was a framing sequence that took place in the Toy Story world, with the actual story depicted as a video within the video.
The video led straight to an an animated TV series just like Buzz had had in the original movie. Starting October 2, 2000, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command was broadcast on weekdays, as well as on Sunday, with another set of episodes incorporated into Disney's One Saturday Morning show, which also included Recess, Doug, Pepper Ann and more. Merchandising accelerated, leading to action figures, video games, etc.
Buzz's voice underwent a transition in the Star Command video. In the framing sequence he was, as always, Tim Allen. But in the action part he was voiced by Patrick Warburton, also the voice of Mr. Barkin in Kim Possible, and whose live-action roles include The Tick. Warburton continued the role in the TV show. Emperor Zurg was voiced by Wayne Knight (also heard in Grim & Evil, Dilbert and Disney's version of Hercules), and Warp Darkmatter by Diedrich Bader (Jason in Gargoyles, Zeta Zee in Batman Beyond). Princess Mira was Nicole Sullivan, whose career includes a lot of face acting, as well as guest roles in Family Guy, American Dad, Lilo & Stitch and more. Others heard on the show include Frank Welker (Jabberjaw), Rob Paulsen (Pinky) and Dan Castellaneta (Earthworm Jim).
Buzz's 65 episodes are still seen regularly on The Disney Channel. In addition, the two Toy Story movies remain popular, and a third is planned for 2007.