Home Travel consultant NASA Astronaut Helped Pixar Find the Space Guard’s New Look in ‘Lightyear’

NASA Astronaut Helped Pixar Find the Space Guard’s New Look in ‘Lightyear’

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June 17, 2022

– Tom Marshburn may not be the real Buzz Lightyear, but the space ranger – at least as he appears in the new ‘Lightyear’ movie – wouldn’t be the same without the NASA astronaut .

What began several years ago as an unrelated interaction with Pixar, the Disney-owned animation studio behind the “Toy Story” and now “Lightyear” franchises, led the 61-year-old doctor-turned-SpaceX pilot to become the leader’s guide. to the world of NASA and space exploration.

“I was recommended to talk to a crew that was doing a space movie. That’s all I knew,” Marshburn said in an interview with collectSPACE.

About five years ago, Marshburn made the trip to Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California, where he met director Angus MacLane and the core team behind what would become “Lightyear.”

“I talked to them about life in space and spacewalks and just answered all their questions about what it was like to be an astronaut and to live and work in space” , said Marshburn.

As it happens, it was just what the Pixar team needed to start transforming their instantly recognizable astronaut toy into the character that inspired him. “Lightyear,” now in theaters, is the big-budget fiction film that gave birth to the action figure that was then central to the early “Toy Story” movies.

In “Lightyear”, Buzz is not a toy, but a vulnerable human space explorer (voiced by Chris Evans).

“We had to incorporate some of the toy’s ingredients into the design,” production designer Tim Evatt said in a statement released by Disney. “But almost like we brought it to NASA and worked with experts who actually do space travel and add that authenticity of space to the mix.”

In fact, that’s more or less what they did. While training for his final flight to the International Space Station (ISS), Marshburn arranged for the Pixar team to visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“I was able to show them how astronauts train,” Marshburn said. “They met other astronauts, they met people who work here and saw the facilities: the neutral buoyancy laboratory where we practice spacewalks, the hangar where we have our T-38 jets with which we train and a lot of simulators.”

“It turned out to be a very busy, but very fun, day-and-a-half trip,” Marshburn said.

The visit helped shape Buzz Lightyear’s look in “Lightyear.” Combined with a virtual meeting with a spacesuit design consultant and reference materials from the Smithsonian, the visit provided sewing and simulation supervisor Fran Kalal with the information and inspiration needed to create not one, but several generations of Buzz Lightyear’s space suits.

Buzz’s first costume in the film, for example, evokes material from the early days of human space exploration, emphasizing function over form.

“The trunk is bulky and secure with a webbing harness,” Kalal said. “The oxygen hose is loose and unwieldy. The wrist communicator is attached to the suit. The suit has padded knees, elbows and shoulders to protect Buzz from jostles in the ship and to allow mobility.”

“The utility belt is bulky with large metal buckles. And the boots, gloves and neck rings all allow rotation but are heavy and a bit bulky,” she said.

With each mission, Buzz’s suits get sleeker, with better mobility and built-in tech.

“We tend to be a bit research-obsessed at Pixar,” said producer Galyn Susman, who was also on the Marshburn-led tour. “The goal is to take your key creations and expose them to the people, environments and experiences that will impact the design and language of the film.”

“We saw the original control center of the Apollo missions, as well as the one used today to track the ISS. We saw knobs, switches, knobs, dials and badges. We were guided through a replica of the US quarters of the ISS and the We saw vehicles, training aircraft and capsules,” Susman said.

Marshburn consulted Susman and MacLane once more, from an even more appropriate place for the subject: Earth orbit. He spoke to the two filmmakers after he launched to the International Space Station for a 176-day mission that ended early last month.

“Time dilation is real. Because the speed of light is the same no matter who is looking at it, who is observing it, time progresses slower for fast-moving people and objects compared to fast-moving objects. don’t move fast,” Marshburn said. Susman and MacLane, addressing a plot point of the film.

A clip from the space-to-ground call is included in the “making-of” documentary, “Beyond Infinity: Buzz and the Journey to Lightyear,” now streaming on Disney+.

About a month after returning to Earth, Marshburn became one of the first people to see the finished film at the world premiere of “Lightyear” in Hollywood. Although he was unable to single out a particular detail or scene that he directly influenced, he said the film managed to convey a sense of real-life space exploration.

“There’s a lot of reality in the look of the hardware used by the characters,” Marshburn told collectSPACE. “I also think the characters’ personalities are closer to the real thing than other portrayals of astronauts I’ve seen.”

“The respect the film has for science and technology, even though it’s a science fiction film – it’s fiction – I think it can appeal to a whole generation of young people and others who out of their fascination with wanting to see this movie entertainment, start asking what is real, what can I learn about it, and then learn about science, technology, engineering and math,” said Marshburn. “So it’s a wonderful way to open the door to this as an exciting field and that’s the real excitement for me to be a part of it.”