Keke Palmer and Uzo Aduba aren’t strangers to doing voice work for animation. However, there’s something different about it when you’re working on a Pixar movie. The duo co-star in the animation giant’s latest film, Lightyear. It’s the story of the real-life, heroic Buzz Lightyear that inspired the toy we first met in 1995’s Toy Story. Buzz is voiced by Chris Evans, Aduba is Alisha Hawthorne, his best friend and commanding officer and Palmer is her granddaughter, Izzy. Palmer and Aduba spoke with The Root about joining the Toy Story franchise and the extended timeline of making animated films.
Knowing how deep the emotional connection to the Toy Story films is, Palmer explained that for her, it was the culmination of a childhood “dream come true.”
“When I first heard about Lightyear I was just like, ‘Oh my God, this is so cool. I just want to be able to be a part of this,’” Palmer said. “This is something for a new generation, but it still hits on the same impactful notes from my childhood.”
“And it’s pretty cool to be a part of something that you know has the legs to tell a story that resonates with people over time,” Aduba added. “We can tell a lot of stories and some of them might be ephemeral, and then to be a part of something that constantly evolves, constantly gets you thinking. How it keeps getting richer and richer with everything that you have on it. That’s wonderfully exciting because that’s what I noticed themes within Toy Story have been, and I think Lightyear will continue that legacy.”
Even though they play grandmother and granddaughter, the two-year timeframe for making the movie meant they only got to see each other sporadically, so they didn’t have a chance to discuss their familial bond.
“In those two years, you know, she’s doing this job, I’m doing that job. Then we have that one session and I find out what Uzo’s been doing while I’m away and vice versa,” Palmer said.
While it’s gotten somewhat better in recent years, Disney still has a lot of work to do when it comes to Black female heroes in its animated movies. This makes smart, independent characters like Izzy and Alisha extra exciting for us to meet. Having them connected to one of the studio’s biggest franchises is even better.
Lightyear is in theaters on June 17.