Lightyear: Tim Peake on starring in Lightyear and becoming an astronaut

Space travel isn’t just for sci-fi. We spoke to real-life astronaut Tim Peake about starring in Lightyear and how YOU can become an astronaut…

In 1995, a boy called Andy got a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday. It was from his favourite movie. This is that movie…

Lightyear is the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear — the hero who inspired the toy — and follows the legendary Space Ranger on an intergalactic adventure alongside Sox, a robotic cat and Buzz’s personal companion.

The filmmakers behind the movie took paint-staking efforts to make sure the movie felt authentic – from visiting NASA and looking into the science of space flight… to actually having a real-life astronaut lend his voice to the movie! We spoke to none other than British astronaut Tim Peake about Lightyear and how youngsters with a dream to be among the stars can actually achieve their goals…

What can audiences expect from Lightyear?

Well you can expect everything you would expect from Pixar and Disney! It’s really fun and entertaining. It’s laugh-out-loud in places and the attention to detail is brilliant. The cinematography is wonderfull that immersive experience of feeling like you’re going on this mission with Buzz and the team is wonderful.

You’re going on an emotional journey as well. There are some really interesting themes that are tackled, both from a scientific point of view but also the whole point about determination, of perseverance and resilience. Buzz goes on a journey to really become a team player as opposed to the bit of a solo character that he is at the beginning of the movie. So there’s some really powerful messages that are very good. You come away with a really warm feeling about the whole movie. It’s brilliant.

Buzz goes on a real journey in Lightyear.

What role do you play in the movie?

A very small role! But I do get to give Buzz the countdown. So when he goes on his first test pilot mission, I get to launch him off into space…

Well, that’s an important role! What was that like? Have you ever had a movie cameo before?

No, this was the first time which is brilliant and what an experience to be involved in! It was wonderful.

I did do the audio recording for my autobiography so I had a little bit of experience of that, but this is completely different because it’s a movie. We got to go to Shepperton Studios. We watched a bit of [the movie] so you could see the characters evolve, you got a feel for the pace of the movie and the setting for where my bit would come in. Then I got behind the microphone and Angus MacLane the director called in from LA and we started doing the recording process. So it was a lot of fun!

What is it like for you to watch space or sci-fi films? Do you end up noticing things that are wrong?

Well, I don’t try to be too critical because I do think the movies are the movies. You go for escapism, you go for entertainment, and if I was going to criticise every movie, I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much!

I mean I can’t help noticing when things are right and things are wrong but it doesn’t bother me. I take every movie for what it’s got to offer in terms of the story and the entertainment value.

Some movies have done really well in the scientific concepts and some haven’t but where they might not have done so well in the science they’ve done really well in the cinematography.

Tim Peake tries not to look for when movie’s get scientific concepts wrong as he wouldn’t enjoy them as much!

Is there anything in Lightyear that you noticed was accurate with its scientific concepts?

Oh, yeah, very much so. One is actually described in the movie where Lightyear is trying to get to hyperspeed, the speed of light, and actually, every time he comes back, the people he’s left behind have aged. So it’s really important that the movie addresses that and explains it. There’s [also] a great scene in there where, very quickly, in the space of about 15 seconds, Einstein’s theory of special relativity is explained to schoolchildren. Now that’s pretty impressive. I’m not sure many people can pull that off, but it works.

Then there’s the whole feeling of being in space. When Izzy [Keke Palmer] steps out of the space station and needs to float across the void of space, you’re there with her. You really feel the danger. You feel the exposure and the isolation. It’s brilliant.

I watched that last night in the IMAX and it’s spectacular. The entire screen goes to space. You feel like you’re falling forward out of your seat and pitching into the darkness!

The Lightyear filmmakers visited NASA to do research for the film.

After watching Lightyear, some young people may be inspired to become an astronaut – what is your advice to them?

Well, firstly it’s brilliant if they are thinking that. I think it’s great to have aspirations and it’s great to aim high and to really go for what you want to do in life. But it’s also important to think about what you want to do before you become an astronaut. Because I’m quite honest and say, ‘Look, nobody has ever been selected from school or college or university to be an astronaut’. You’re always selected from your career. We take people who might be school teachers or doctors, or scientists or engineers or test pilots and then you come and join the astronaut corps.

So work out what it is you want to do first, and be as good as you can be. Because if you’re at the top of your field, then you’ve got the most chance of becoming an astronaut.

Lightyear is out now on Disney+