Fans Are Loving Inside Out 2, But It’s Bringing A Lot Of Lightyear Apologists Out Of The Woodwork

 Buzz Lightyear in Lightyear.
Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Inside Out 2 is a massive hit for Pixar, and it's come at an important time for the studio, which recently saw layoffs following years of films that were either kept from theaters entirely or had difficulty finding an audience while they were there. While one can argue that all the movies shuttled directly to Disney+ could have had successful theatrical runs, and Elemental eventually found an audience internationally, there’s little silver lining around the Toy Story spinoff Lightyear, though that hasn’t stopped its fans.

Lightyear is the lowest-grossing Pixar movie to date, short of Onward, which saw its theatrical run shortened due to theaters closing. That doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have fans, and in the shadow of Inside Out 2’s incredible success, they’re singing the praises of the film. Critic Matt Zoller Seitz is one of those who thinks Lightyear had something worth recognizing even though the film didn’t stick the landing. On X (fomerly known as Twitter) he said…

Lightyear was a noble attempt to make something fresh from existing IP. Its only sin was not taking the concept all the way to serious SF rather than copping out & becoming SF-flavored action. The montage where he keeps redoing the mission as everyone around him ages is haunting.

The original post has gotten a lot of response, much of it from others who agree with Zoller Seitz to one degree or another, either that Lightyear was a better movie than it gets credit for being, or that it at least is a project with some redeeming qualities. Many think that the fact that Lightyear had some surprisingly hard sci-fi elements in a movie ostensibly for kids was one of its strengths. As one response put it…

I think LIGHTYEAR is great gateway sci-fi. It was unfairly victimized by Disney's odd marketing hooks. Timing also didn't help matters as it was Pixar's return to theaters in a recovery year after 3 of the studio's originals went to Disney+ for free. In short? LIGHTYEAR innocent.

It’s an interesting idea that maybe any Pixar movie released in Lightyear’s slot was going to bomb. The previous three Pixar movies had been released straight to Disney+, and without even the Premiere Access additional price tag that several live-action movies were given. There was a perception, right or wrong, that Pixar was seen as lesser content, and there was a fear that perhaps audiences had decided that all Pixar movies no longer needed to be seen in theaters.

There seems to be a strong consensus among fans that Lightyear has a phenomenal opening act, which unfortunately doesn’t hold up for the other two-thirds of the story. Still, not all comments believe that the shift from potentially serious sci-fi to “kids' movie” is a flaw…

Watch it again—a little serious SF stuff, and there are some other psychological insights. It‘s still for kids, like all Disney animation. And it’s light but it’s not empty. It tries to say a little bit about experience changing the self, about mistakes, about human connection.

You can certainly count me in the “Lightyear is good actually” camp. It may not be Pixar’s best movie, but considering just what the track record of that studio is, some of its “worst” films are still better than most movies ever made.