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What Inspired Pixar's Galyn Susman And Angus McLane While Making Lightyear

"Lightyear" is a fascinating entry when it comes to nailing down the film's placement as somewhat of a generational genre movie. Given that "Lightyear" was Andy's favorite movie from "Toy Story," the film technically has a place in the late '80s and early '90s — but the film's creators also wanted the movie to stand alone. While there are certainly fun Easter eggs to quintessential films and pop culture experiences during this time throughout the film, they're fairly subtle. After all, the movie takes place on another planet, allowing the movie to come up with its own spin on the classics.

Looper was invited to an early press day for "Lightyear," where producer Galyn Susman and screenwriter/director Angus McLane went through their biggest sci-fi and movie inspirations for "Lightyear." The Pixar duo also revealed how they balanced those subtle nods without allowing them to take over the vibe of the movie.

A nod to the sci-fi classics

On some of the story inspirations, aesthetics, and nods to other movies, Susman said, "We're both big sci-fi fans. I'm a huge sci-fi fan, and when you watch movies constantly, you can't help but have them influence you." MacLane just might be the bigger sci-fi geek between the two of them, as she added, "Angus would probably be better at answering [about] a specific element, but we were certainly influenced by all the design aesthetics of these films and certain scenes that evoke an emotion that sticks with you. It's as much how you remember it as how it actually was in the film. Angus, was there a specific thing for you?"

No one wants carbon copies of projects that have come before, but MacLane made sure to get a few homages in. "There are very few specific things. For legal reasons, you're not like, 'Let's make this exact thing,' but legally, there are some completely legally cleared and very obvious referential stuff to my favorite movie, 'Aliens' from James Cameron from 1986," he said. "There's a bunch of that in the movie that will be for the deep nerds. In general ... I always had this saying of, 'I don't want to remind the audience of a better movie.' When you make the film and if you have a reference or you have some thing that reminds people, 'Oh yeah' [...]. If you have something that's so obvious like that, it can pull them out of the movie."

Building momentum

MacLane was very particular about the vibe of the movie. He noted, "My goal was not parody or satire, but rather the feeling of that. I wanted the audience to have a feeling at the end of it like, 'Oh, I've gone on this fun space adventure.'" Especially given the time period "Lightyear" takes place in, he wanted to bring the exciting zest back that's often missing in modern movies.

"For all of the genre films that are made today, one of the things that often is sidelined is the sense of momentum that we've felt from some of the earlier films. Momentum and [a fun ride], even though that word has negative connotations, is really what my goal was," MacLane explained. "For sci-fi fans, even saying, 'Oh, the, AI is like HAL from '2001,” that was never meant to be like, 'Oh, that's like HAL.' It was more like I wanted a simple robot." In the end, the perfectly blended combo of homages, recapturing the magic of older films, and genre staples work perfectly for fans looking for those elements without taking anything away from those who want a fun and engaging movie with a lot of heart.

"Lightyear" premieres exclusively in theaters on June 17.