'Lightyear' Introduces Sox the Cat as the R2-D2 to Buzz's Luke Skywalker

Meet the breakout character of the summer: Sox!

Danielle Turchiano


Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

When Buzz Lightyear burst into Andy's room in Toy Story, Woody felt threatened by the shiny new action figure who was stealing so much attention. Now, the Space Ranger on whom the toy is based may experience something similar, as his robot cat Sox (voiced by Peter Sohn) steals the spotlight left and right in Buzz's origin story Lightyear.

Sox is a gift to Buzz (Chris Evans) from Alisha (Uzo Aduba) after one of his missions returns him home much later than he expected. Sox is intended to be emotional support while he re-acclimates, but Buzz actually ends up tasking him with something very scientific and important for future missions, and because Sox is a robot, he has the capacity to do it. He later joins Buzz and his new team as they attempt to defeat Zurg (James Brolin).

"I liked the idea of someone like Buzz, who's this very autonomous, austere kind of guy, [being] given an emotional support cat to acclimate...but [also] to address problems that he may otherwise overlook," says Evans. "I think that's a nice metaphor for whether it's therapy or just the fact that we all need those emotional support moments — we all need to talk about our problems and vent to something in some way — and I just like that juxtaposition of someone who's so independent needing someone like Sox, the same way we all do."

Evans has "a real-life Sox" who is actually a dog named Dodger, but the filmmakers behind Lightyear say they never considered giving Buzz an emotional support canine companion instead of a feline. For one thing, they've already had dog characters within this universe, so they wanted to take the opportunity to do something different, director Angus MacLane tells Metacritic. For another, "as we all know, dogs are actually warm. friendly, and helpful. So it's less ironic," adds producer Galyn Susman.

This cat is "loyal like a dog," notes Sohn. Alisha programmed him to be a partner to Buzz, and he takes that very seriously. 

Sohn, who also calls himself "a dog guy," says it was fun to "jump into the idea of, 'Whatever you want, Buzz; I'll bring you your snacks, I'll fetch your newspaper.'" Since they were recording their dialogue during the COVID-19. pandemic, everyone was in separate rooms, speaking into microphones individually and in a somewhat isolated way. Most of his work was actually with MacLane and a few other members of the production team, rather than actually acting opposite Evans.

"Angus would act out what Buzz would need, and it was really riffing off of that," he explains.

When it came to creating the look of Sox, MacLane wanted to lean into the fact that this origin story for the character of Buzz was a movie created in the 1980s in the world of Toy Story. (The toy Andy received in 1995 came later, in success of the film franchising into a child's cartoon.) Because of this, Sox had to be "the kind of clunky, animatronic fascination that was sweeping the nation then," MacLane says.

"Disneyland had a lot of these, and it was never clear to me if they thought kids were supposed to think they were alive, but they have their own goofy charm for their limitation. And that's what Sox was: a completely limited, cat character that we was good natured and was always there for Buzz," he continues. 

"There's a clarity and a simplicity" to Sox and his animation that MacLane is particularly proud of, and he acknowledges the interest in the character could extend into a short film detailing a day in his life as he waits for Buzz to come back from a mission.

While that film is an example of an idea for how to keep the character's life going outside this film, it is not officially in the works yet. Other outside-the-film elements MacLane did consider when working on Lightyear, though, was the potential for merchandising around Sox.

"If Buzz is from a toy, you should be aligned with the rhythms of a toy line. There's a reason why toy lines have certain characters," he explains. "The reason why there's a cat isn't because it's a merchandising opportunity, but rather, the reason why it is a merchandising opportunity is because we want that kind of character in a movie like this. So, the snake is eating its tail a little bit there, but it's not driven through commercial interests from the company. I'm such a toy fan [I knew] we needed a character like that: We need our R2-D2 to Luke Skywalker."