SEATTLE — In "Lightyear," Buzz is marooned on a distant planet. But the inspiration for his origin story hits close to home.
"I'm glad if I can elevate the Pacific Northwest anymore, because gosh darnit, don't we know we need even more people moving there,” joked director Angus MacLane.
He grew up in Portland and created specific Easter eggs throughout the movie in honor of his hometown.
"There's a rich history of putting street names into popular culture. People are more familiar with 'The Simpsons,' but Beverly Cleary certainly did that,” MacLane said. "There wasn't a lot not yet claimed, so I figured bridges were a good way to go."
Most of the new characters are named after recognizable Portland bridges. Alisha and Izzie Hawthorne, Commander Burnside, Mo (for the Morrison Bridge) and Darby Steel (Steel Bridge.)
"Basically most of the people who work on the base, their last names are also bridges. And then in the cases of the security guards, if you look carefully, they have numbers and those numbers correspond with the years the bridges were erected,” MacLane said. "It's very specific."
He also based an emotional storyline on his own travels home to the Northwest.
"I would notice how the city would change in small ways that no one in Portland would seem to notice,” he said. "So much of our experience is not so much the place but the people that we experienced it with, and how the memories about that are really the memories about people. So I just took the whole thing and put that in the movie. (Buzz’s) mission takes four minutes, but when he gets back, four years have gone by."
MacLane said directing Chris Evans was “really easy,” but the actor’s work in Marvel films is not what won him the role as Lightyear.
"It was ‘Snowpiercer’ that really convinced me he was the right choice for the role,” MacLane said. "He has an easy charm to him that kind of hides a lot of tremendous acting craft."
“Lightyear” is the first Pixar film MacClane has directed independently, but he’s been with the company for every film since “Toy Story.”
"It's not a quick road, but the only way to do what you want to do is to keep doing what you love,” he said. “That's what's so fortunate about this situation, is that I got to do what I love.”
“Lightyear” is rated PG.