The Truth Behind “Lightyear”‘s Box Office Weekend Flop

20 Jun

Lightyear, a movie made by Walt Disney Studios and Pixar, was supposed to be the highlight of the summer for the distribution studio. By analysts, it was projected to score $70-$85 million at the box office opening weekend, especially with a rating score by critics of 80% (before release). However, the Pixar movie that was supposed to launch the Toy Story franchise (a franchise that already had four other successful movies) into a new direction has only made $51 million so far on box office opening weekend. While this isn’t a bad figure, for a beloved franchise surrounding Toy Story lore, this is pretty low and shocking for many. What went wrong?

If we’re being truthful, Lightyear didn’t exactly land on the right “foot” leading up to its release. To start, many believed the movie was heavily underpromoted, with Disney/Pixar even waiting until only a few days before release to promote the film as canon in the Toy Story franchise.

Even as they began to explain that this movie is somehow a live-action movie that Andy is inspired to get a toy based on, long-time fans know that this was not the first piece of media that was created based on Buzz Lightyear; let’s not forget Buzz Lightyear Of Star Command, the animated series, was every 90’s kid’s first introduction to the universe of Buzz Lightyear. It had many fans, including myself, wondering why the developers did not capitalize on the nostalgia of that cartoon, using it as the base for Lightyear (2022). I’m sure many fans of Toy Story lore, including myself, would have been even more eager to go and see the movie if they had reawakened our childhood memories with more beloved and familiar characters that tied in that universe with this theatrical film. However, based on what the creators have stated as their inspiration, it seems as if they were either unaware or purposefully ignoring the fact that there was a Buzz Lightyear universe before this movie was conceptualized. As a result, there were many missed opportunities.

Another one of the missed opportunities that left many fans miffed was the absence of Tim Allen’s voice playing the Star Commander Buzz Lightyear. Tim Allen has been known to lend his voice to Buzz Lightyear in all of the Toy Story movies so far, and so to many fans of the franchise it felt like a snub to Tim Allen’s legacy.

Even the explanation given by Galyn Susman, the producer of Lightyear, was not enough to convince fans, and it left many wondering for whom this movie was made for. After all, if you’re going to use nostalgia as a vehicle for a movie, you have to give the nostalgic-heads something to look forward to. Tim Allen’s voice saying the catch-phrase “To Infinity and Beyond” is one of the most iconic phrases associated with Buzz. Evidently, they believed that the name alone would be enough to get others interested, but somehow did not anticipate that with that name “Lightyear” comes a huge responsibility (to die-hard Toy Story fans). Fans are usually always skeptical of spin-offs, sequels, and prequels, especially if there is nothing else to tie in the original beloved series other than its name. The best thing to do is give them something to be less critical about.

Evidently, the movie also did not win the hearts of the younger crowd over summer break as anticipated, either. It certainly had lackluster promotion on social media (the main source of information for Gen Z and Gen Alpha) as if the company was relying on “word-of-mouth” to carry this movie forward. To add salt to the wound, while the movie trailer does have the typical promotional material used for most movies directed towards kids (a small dose of slap-stick humor, dramatic fight scenes, etc), the characters themselves are not showcased with much personality, leaving it up to the robotic cat to carry the fun in this movie’s promotion.

Of course, we cannot ignore the backlash surrounding Lightyear‘s “inclusion initiative” to feature LGBTQ+ characters openly without editing. When the bill known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill was in progress to become law in Florida, the location of Disney’s biggest park Disney World, many felt that Disney was too passive or cowardly when it came to speaking out against it. They even accused the company of not caring enough about their employees’ desire for LGBTQ+ characters because Disney would hardly ever allow these characters to feature openly on-screen. As a result of this backlash, it seems Disney has decided for the first time to feature two characters of the same gender as a couple with a kiss to confirm it.

Naturally, this did not go over well with many conservative movie-goers (who make up the majority of the world). In fact, Disney’s Lightyear was the worst-rated film of any Pixar film partially due to “review bombing” (the act of giving a low rating to a movie to purposefully encourage its failure) that ensued long before the movie was even set to be released. Whether or not this happened as a result of early screenings or simply because many were not happy to see an LGBTQ+ couple in a “children’s movie” is debatable. However, the movie has been banned in 14 countries (mostly in the Middle East and in some South Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia). While these issues may not have primarily hurt the movie’s projected financial returns for this weekend, it certainly did not help. It has even caused users on IMDB to give the movie a “severe sex/nudity” warning because of the same-gender kiss.

However, if we are being very honest here, the film has the highest numbers for an opening weekend for an animated film since the Covid-19 Pandemic swept the nation, beating out Encanto‘s record of being the highest box office numbers opening weekend in theaters post-pandemic.

Many factors could have been at play when considering why both movies have not been met with the same returns as movies in the past. To start, during the release of Encanto, there was more skepticism after the Pandemic when thinking of returning to a movie theater to see a movie. With Disney’s new Disney+ streaming service providing their top movies gift-wrapped and automatically accessible for viewers, many have decided to simply wait for the movie to hit the streaming service. This actually made Encanto one of the most viewed movies on the streaming service. I’d wager that this could become the situation for Lightyear in the months to come. It’s possible the streaming service has taken away Disney’s theatrical box office value. We could also keep in mind that with inflation and the rising prices of gas, many are opting out of going to a movie theater just to see a side story of the original.

However, it is still perplexing how movies like Top Gun: Maverick and Jurassic World: Dominion are able to dominate box office sells even with anticipation that they will be accessible through a streaming service eventually. Could it be that the timing of the two movies was better? With Top Gun: Maverick being released right in time for Memorial Day and Jurassic World: Dominion just before Father’s day, this gave many moviegoers more options as to which movies to watch for a Father’s Day weekend; it’s evident that many fathers would prefer those two movies over an animated film about a space ranger.

Lightyear is still a newly released film. It is left to be seen if over the next few weeks it will beat other box office champions like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (grossing $190 million overall) and Sing 2 (grossing $162 million) in the family-friendly category. Hopefully, Lightyear can gain enough “buzz” from satisfied movie-goers to get people interested.

What factors do you think influenced Lightyear‘s Box Office stagger? Leave me a comment below to express your opinion about Lightyear.

Sincerely, guest blogger,



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