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Buzz Lightyear’s Most Iconic Toy Story Moments

Buzz Lightyear’s Most Iconic Toy Story Moments

It’s hard to think about Toy Story without thinking of Buzz Lightyear. Not only is Star Command’s favorite toy space ranger the deuteragonist of the entire franchise (playing a major role in all four movies alongside the lead and his eventual best bud, Woody), but Buzz is also a merchandising juggernaut whose real-world replica has outsold every other toy ever offered by the Disney Store, according to the BBC, with Amy Pearson, marketing director for Disney Store Europe declaring, “It’s not just for kids. It’s for everybody.”

There are so many things about Buzz that are memorable, such as his amazing action sequences, his famous catchphrase (“To infinity and beyond!”), and, of course, his bond with Woody, which grows and evolves in every movie. With Disney exploring Buzz in a whole new way in its “Lightyear” movie, it seems high time to revisit the toy which made the man (in our universe, anyway) and look back at some of Buzz’s most iconic “Toy Story” moments.

Buzz's debut

Buzz is introduced in “Toy Story” by virtually crash landing on the scene, as an overexcited Andy practically thrusts Buzz’s rocketship (which doubles as toy packaging) on his bed, unintentionally knocking his favorite toy Woody to the floor. When Woody climbs back up, he’s stunned to find a larger-than-life, grinning astronaut toy standing before him. Buzz, completely oblivious to the fact that he’s not actually Buzz Lightyear, mistakes Andy’s room for an alien planet. While clearly out of touch with reality, Buzz still wins most of Andy’s toys over with his impressive, modern features, wowing them further when he manages to emulate flight by bouncing off a beach ball and then getting temporarily stuck on a toy plane hanging from Andy’s ceiling. The only unimpressed toy is Woody, who accurately calls Buzz’s flying “falling with style,” then tells himself that the space ranger’s novelty will eventually wear off. 

The great thing about Buzz’s debut scene is that it tells you everything you need to know about him. Even the first shot where he appears, where he’s standing confidently on Andy’s bed in the foreground while Woody’s peeking up at him from the bed’s edge in the background, visually establishes his rivalry with Woody for the first two-thirds of the movie. The scene also establishes the challenge he must overcome: accepting that he’s a toy. 

Buzz meets the Squeeze Toy Aliens

Convinced he must reach Star Command to reveal crucial information about a weapon made by Emperor Zurg, Buzz starts looking for a spaceship. Woody uses Buzz’s search as an excuse to lead him to the alien-themed Pizza Planet so they can reunite with Andy. Just as Woody spots their young owner, however, Buzz notices the “Space Crane,” a toy dispenser crane game shaped like a rocket ship. Thinking it’s a real ship, Buzz hops in and finds a large group of alien squeeze toys who worship the toy dispenser’s crane — or, as they call it, “The Claw.”

The scene is probably the closest Buzz gets to his “natural” element in the first movie, as the toy aliens he meets are not just space-themed, but don’t seem to entirely get that they’re toys, either. It also has Buzz (along with Woody) directly encounter their true movie antagonist, Andy’s toy abusing neighbor Sid, who uses the Claw to claim Buzz, Woody and one of the “aliens” as his prizes. It’s worth noting also that the Squeeze Toy Aliens are pretty iconic “Toy Story” characters in their own right, and viewers have Buzz to thank for making them a part of the franchise.

Buzz's toy commercial and failed flight

After narrowly avoiding the jaws of Sid’s dog Scud, Buzz walks in on Sid’s dad sleeping on a chair with the TV on. Hearing the television call his name, Buzz first believes he’s receiving a transmission from Star Command before realizing he’s watching a commercial advertising Buzz Lightyear toys. Buzz is stunned as the commercial goes through all the toy’s features (which, of course, he also has) and includes a subtitle at the bottom stating, “Not a flying toy.” Buzz then notices that the compartment door of his arm’s “life support” says “Made in Taiwan,” — and he finally begins realizing Woody was right about him all along. Initially dejected, Buzz tries proving Woody wrong one more time by jumping off a stair rail, trying to reach Sid’s window so he can fly out of it, only to fail miserably as gravity tugs him down.

It’s Buzz’s most heartbreaking moment in the first “Toy Story,” as his sense of identity is utterly shattered. Everything about the scene, from Randy Newman’s “I Will Go Sailing No More” to the orchestral music playing while Buzz falls in slow motion, is perfect. Yet the one image that really hits home is Buzz sprawled on the floor while his left arm, which popped out from the fall, lies beside him. The fact that Buzz isn’t bleeding — not to mention the screw sticking out of his severed plastic shoulder — breaks any hope Buzz had of being a real person to pieces.

Buzz flies for real

Sid decides to strap Woody to “the Big One,” a particularly large firework rocket, but changes his mind when he concludes Buzz would be a much more fitting choice. Thanks to Woody’s clever thinking and help from Sid’s toys, Buzz is spared that fate, yet he and Woody are too late to catch up with Andy, who’s just moved out from his old house with his sister Molly and his mother. 

They catch up with Andy’s moving truck, but Buzz stays behind to subdue the ferocious canine when Scud tries stopping them. Woody sends RC to get Buzz, but Andy’s other toys, thinking he’s trying to sacrifice the toy car, throw Woody off the truck. Buzz and RC catch up to him, but the race car toy’s batteries start running low, complicating their race back to Andy. That is, until Woody lights the Big One, still duct-taped to Buzz’s back, blasting the three forward. While RC makes it to the truck, Woody and Buzz take off into the sky, separating from the rocket moments before it explodes. Rather than plummet, Buzz stunningly flies, taking himself and Woody to the sky roof of Andy’s car and landing them safely next to their owner.

Buzz’s flight is his crowning “Toy Story” moment. It cheats physics a bit, but it’s worth it for the emotional payoff, rewarding Buzz for overcoming his differences with Woody and realizing that being a toy isn’t so bad.

Buzz's video game

The intro to “Toy Story 2” starts with a jaw-dropping sequence of Buzz not just flying for real, but rocketing to a new planet to confront Emperor Zurg and his minions. Buzz seems to have finally become the space ranger hero he once believed himself to be, but his adventure’s cut tragically short when Zurg incinerates the upper half of his body. Just when it looks like Toy Story saga has lost Buzz for good, however, viewers learn that they’ve actually been watching a Buzz Lightyear video game played by Andy’s toy dinosaur Rex, while the real Buzz (well, the real Buzz toy) encourages him.

It’s an amazing way to begin a sequel, and really gives viewers a taste of just what exactly Buzz used to think his life was like before learning he was a toy. The scene also has some great sound effect callbacks to other sci-fi classics, such as the TIE Fighter laser effect from the Star Wars franchise and Richard Strauss’ “Sunrise,” used in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” It’s not the first time Buzz has referenced Star Wars either, as he’s heard uttering the famous Wilhelm scream in the first movie when Woody knocks him out Andy’s window. It also subtly alludes to Buzz’s much bigger Star Wars reference later in the movie.

Buzz meets himself

While Buzz and several of Andy’s other toys try to find Woody in Al’s Toy Barn during “Toy Story 2,” Buzz finds an entire aisle full of Buzz Lightyear toys, including one with a new utility belt. When he goes to meet Utility Belt Buzz, however, he quickly discovers that this Buzz is as certain of being the real Buzz Lightyear as Andy’s Buzz was in the original “Toy Story.” Utility Belt Buzz then accuses Buzz of not complying with Space Rangers directives and, as you can imagine, fisticuffs ensue. The fight ends when Utility Belt Buzz traps Andy’s Buzz in a copy of his original toy packaging; Utility Belt Buzz is then picked up by Andy’s other toys, who mistake him for their Buzz.

It’s a scene that really emphasizes Buzz’s growth from the first movie, as he comes face-to-face with what is essentially a past version of himself. Even Utility Belt Buzz’s intro emulates the way “Toy Story” introduces the original Buzz, mimicking the exact staging and camera movement used when Woody finds Andy’s Buzz for the first time. Utility Belt Buzz stuffing Buzz in his old packaging is also fairly symbolic: it’s as if he’s trying to negate Buzz’s character growth by literally putting him right back where he started. 

Buzz and Woody's role reversal

When Andy’s Buzz finally catches up to his friends, he quickly proves he’s their Buzz Lightyear by opening Utility Belt Buzz’s space helmet, echoing Buzz’s popular gasping-for-air gag from the first movie. After convincing his imposter to back down, Andy’s Buzz tries persuading Woody to go back to Andy’s house. Yet Woody has convinced himself that he wants to go with Jessie and Stinky Pete to be held on display in Japan. Buzz counters by telling his friend, “Woody, you’re not a collector’s item, you’re a child’s plaything. You are a toy!” Mirroring, to an extent, what Woody would tell him in the first “Toy Story” movie. Woody’s not immediately won over, thinking that staying with Andy will lead to him eventually being discarded. Yet after watching his TV self perform Randy Newman’s “You Got A Friend In Me” (the Toy Story franchise’s overall theme), Buzz’s words finally sink in, and Woody agrees to go back to his original owner.

It’s an important moment in “Toy Story 2 “for both the film’s leads. For Buzz, it’s a major role reversal from the first film, as now he is acting as the voice of reason — although Woody’s perspective isn’t entirely irrational, either. Furthermore, Utility Belt Buzz is again used to highlight how much Andy’s Buzz’s has changed, as he uses some of the same tricks Woody used on him in the first “Toy Story” to calm his deluded counterpart down.

Utility Belt Buzz fights Zurg

As Al prepares to take Woody to Japan, both Buzz Lightyears and Andy’s other toys race through Al’s air vents to find a way to catch up to their cowboy friend. Yet their trip gets delayed by a toy foam ball blaster of Emperor Zurg, who’s been tailing Andy’s Buzz since leaving Al’s Toy Barn. Thankfully, Utility Belt Buzz, still convinced he’s the real Buzz Lightyear (just as Zurg is convinced he’s the real Zurg), distracts the toy space emperor while Andy’s Buzz guides his friends to Al and Woody. Held at gunpoint (or rather, foam ball gunpoint), Utility Belt Buzz then shockingly learns that Zurg is his father — right before Rex accidentally knocks Zurg off the top of an elevator.

For viewers who always wanted to see toy Buzz actually have one of his fantasized adventures, this “Toy Story 2” scene is a real treat, complete with the most overt Star Wars reference yet, as Zurg and Utility Belt Buzz faithfully recreate the “I am your father” scene from “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s also full of great gags, from Zurg thinking he can actually kill Utility Belt Buzz with his foam ball gun to that same Buzz sadly calling out, “Father…” after Rex sends Zurg falling down the elevator shaft. The scene’s conclusion, in which Utility Belt Buzz decides to stay behind to bond with his “dad” through a game of catch, is also hilarious.

Buzz chooses donation

In “Toy Story 3,” Andy, now a teenager, is getting ready to go off to college and has to empty out his room. While Andy’s original plan is to put all his toys away in the attic except Woody, they nearly get thrown out instead, but thankfully escape that fate and hitch a ride with the toys Molly gives away to Sunnyside Daycare. While Woody tags along and tries convincing the others to come back with him, Andy’s toys are too enamored by the daycare (and more specifically, the idea that they’ll never be discarded) to go with him. Woody then tries appealing to Buzz, who tells him, “Our mission with Andy is complete, Woody.” The space ranger offers his best friend a goodbye handshake, but Woody doesn’t take it, instead angrily taking off.

Again, Buzz and Woody are at odds over an issue, and it’s hard to pick a side. While Woody is right that Andy’s toys weren’t meant to be thrown out or donated, Buzz’s view that Andy no longer feels he needs his toys also rings true. While Woody chooses to resist, Buzz picks acceptance, which can either be seen as a sign of deepening maturity or a shocking case of Buzz actually giving up on something. It’s also a reluctant passing of the torch scene, of sorts, as Buzz temporarily becomes the leader of Andy’s group of toys now that they’re separating from Woody.

Spanish Buzz saves Jessie

When Buzz discovers Lotso, the head toy of Sunnyside in “Toy Story 3,” he is far from the kind teddy bear he pretends to be. Lotso has the space ranger restored to his original factory settings, and convinces Buzz that Andy’s other toys are agents of Emperor Zurg. Thanks to Barbie, Buzz’s friends (including Woody, who’s returned to save them) manage to reset the space ranger, but accidentally change his default language to Castilian Spanish. As a result, Buzz is no longer an unwitting villain, but adapts the mannerisms of a Spanish Flamenco dancer exaggerated to the nth degree, charming Jessie (who Buzz has a crush on) with his new debonair nature. 

This finally reaches a head when Andy’s toys are dumped into a garbage truck, thanks to Lotso’s conniving ways. Jessie gets lost among the trash, however, prompting “Spanish Buzz” to race to her rescue in a hyper-dramatic and comedic fashion, complete with Flamenco music and close-ups of Jessie’s enchanted face and Buzz’s suave grin. Though played for laughs, the scene is an important character moment for Buzz and Jessie, setting up their eventual relationship. 

Buzz takes Jessie's hand

Andy’s toys and their unwilling companion, Lotso, eventually end up in a landfill’s conveyor belt in “Toy Story 3.” Though they narrowly escape the belt’s garbage shredders, an even worse fate awaits them in the form of an incinerator. Woody and Buzz help Lotso reach the conveyor belt’s emergency stop button, but the duplicitous bear betrays them, despite having been saved from the shredders by the two toys earlier. As they inch ever closer to incinerator fire, Jessie turns to Buzz, who’s gotten the gang out of many jams before, yet Buzz, unable to conjure a plan, takes her by the hand, admitting defeat. Jessie, though heartbroken, understands and grabs one of Bullseye’s hooves, prompting all of Andy’s toys to take one another’s hands in support as they fearfully approach what seems like a fiery fate below.

It’s by far Buzz’s most crushing moment in the entire franchise, as it’s the first time the usually optimistic and resourceful hero has ever fully lost hope. Simultaneously, it conveys just how much he cares about his friends, as he holds their hands, so they don’t feel like they have to face the incinerator alone. The scene culminates in a beautiful callback to the previous “Toy Story” movies, as the three Squeeze Toy Aliens Mr. Potato Head saves in “Toy Story 2” rescue the gang with a giant version of “The Claw.” As the rescued toys get their bearings, Buzz and Jessie realize they’re still holding hands. Neither of them seems to really mind.

Buzz and Jessie's end credits dance

When the toys finally return to Andy’s home and Woody gets ready to head off to college with his owner, he expresses concern for Jessie, given her fears about being kept in tight spaces. Jessie tells Woody not to worry, as Buzz’s Spanish mode will keep her plenty entertained. 

Later, during the end credits scene for “Toy Story 3,” Jessie and Bullseye have a little fun with Buzz by playing a Spanish language version of Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” by the Gipsy Kings on a toy radio. Though no longer in Spanish mode, Buzz’s body still reacts to the music; despite the toy space ranger’s confusion, Buzz eagerly lets the music take him over when a clearly “Twitterpated” (to borrow a term from another Disney movie) Jessie tells him, “Just go with it, Buzz.” The two then engage in an impressive round of Flamenco dancing while the music continues playing. It’s a great culmination of Buzz and Jessie’s attraction toward each other, which has been building since the end of “Toy Story 2.”

Buzz thinks his conscience is his voice box

In “Toy Story 4,” while on a road trip with Bonnie (who Andy gives his toys away to in “Toys Story 3”), Buzz approaches Woody to see how he’s doing trying to keep Bonnie’s newest toy, Forky, from throwing himself in the garbage. Buzz offers to keep an eye on Forky so Woody can rest, but the toy sheriff kindly refuses, stating, “That little voice inside me would never leave me alone if I gave up.” A statement Buzz takes literally until Woody explains to him he’s referring to his conscience: a concept Buzz has never heard of.

It’s a hilarious moment and somewhat surprising in a way, as you’d think Buzz, having once believed himself a human, would be familiar with the idea of a conscience. The humor is still gold, however, especially when Buzz mistakes his and Woody’s “inner voice” for the one that plays every time someone pulls Woody’s string or presses one of Buzz’s speech buttons: a misunderstanding that lasts for a good part of the movie. It’s also a fairly touching scene, as Buzz’s concern for Woody not only stems from the Forky issue but also from Bonnie showing increasing disinterest in Woody in earlier scenes. The compassion Buzz displays is especially heartwarming when one considers that he was the toy that caused his former owner, Andy, to briefly lose interest in Woody in the first “Toy Story.”

Buzz meets Ducky and Bunny

The Squeeze Toy Aliens aren’t the only memorable characters introduced in “Toy Story” through Buzz. While trying to figure out how to get down from the wall of prizes he’s been mistakenly attached to in “Toy Story 4,” Buzz draws the ire of Ducky and Bunny, two stuffed animals voiced by “Key & Peele’s” Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, respectively. Ducky and Bunny think Buzz is trying to squeeze the two out of their position as top amusement park prizes, and Ducky begins to kick Buzz’s head repeatedly until the space ranger’s “conscience” (aka voice box) inspires him to close his space helmet for protection. Ducky’s foot gets stuck in the helmet, and he swings his legs back and forth with enough force to eventually free all three toys from the wall. Buzz then escapes to find Woody, but Ducky and Bunny follow, deciding they’re not going to let their “rival” get away so easily.

The real highlight of the scene is the natural chemistry between Ducky and Bunny, which should come as no surprise to “Key & Peele” fans. The two toys’ relationship with Buzz is also very reminiscent of Buzz’s old rivalry with Woody, as Ducky and Bunny hate Buzz because they’re worried he’ll ruin their chances of getting a kid… that is, until Woody suggests they tag along so they can become new toys for Bonnie.

Buzz and Woody say goodbye

While “Toy Story 3” reveals that Bo Peep is no longer with the gang, “Toy Story 4” reunites Woody with his former love interest, who’s become a lost toy with no interest in a new owner. Though she tries convincing Woody to stay with her, Woody is initially still intent on returning to Bonnie with her runaway toy, Forky. Woody and Bo Peep thus sadly say goodbye, yet when Woody walks over to Buzz, fumbling for words, his best pal tells him, “She’ll be okay.” At first, Woody thinks Buzz is referring to Bo Peep, but Buzz clarifies he’s referring to Bonnie, essentially telling Woody to stay with Bo Peep if that’s what his conscience is truly telling him. Woody and Bo Peep embrace before Bonnie’s other toys approach: Woody then gives Jessie his sheriff badge before she and his other friends lovingly hug him. Once back in Bonnie’s family’s RV, the toys approach the rear window to look once more at Woody and Bo, who now stand atop a carnival tent, watching their friends leave.

While it’s a major scene for all the main characters, it might not have happened if Buzz hadn’t known just what to say to Woody. Buzz’s reached the point where he understands his friend, or more importantly, his friend’s needs, even better than Woody himself does, concluding — at least for now — the arc the two have been on since the Toy Story franchise began. 

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