Keke Palmer praises the 'effortless' representation in 'Lightyear' (exclusive)

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Watch: Keke Palmer discusses representation in Lightyear

Keke Palmer said it was important for new Pixar animation Lightyear — in IMAX and UK cinemas from 17 June — to put forward the message that people of colour and the LGBT+ community have 'always been a part of the story'.

In the new space swashbuckler framed as being Andy from Toy Story's favourite movie, the star plays Izzy Hawthorne — a close ally of Chris Evans's take on Buzz.

Palmer told Yahoo the movie's representation was very significant for her, especially as the 'film within the Toy Story films' would have been made back in the 1990s.

Read more: Why is Tim Allen not in Lightyear?

She said: "I love that. It also pushes towards the reality that these kinds of people have always been a part of the storyline. A lot of times, it has not been showcased on films and television and things like that.

Buzz Lightyear teams up with Izzy Hawthorne to fight off a robot invasion in Lightyear. (Disney/Pixar)
Buzz Lightyear teams up with Izzy Hawthorne to fight off a robot invasion in Lightyear. (Disney/Pixar)

"The fact that this is the movie that Andy watched, it just shows that these were people that were always part of the story and so let's make sure that we showcase that. It's effortless and it just is. It's not something you have to explain."

Palmer's character is the granddaughter of Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) — Buzz's commanding officer on a mission which leaves them stranded on a hostile alien planet.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13:  Keke Palmer attends the UK Premiere of Disney Pixars'
Keke Palmer attends the UK Premiere of Disney Pixar's Lightyear. (Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures UK)

In his attempts to find a way back to Earth, Buzz experiences time dilation and arrives back on the planet years later, aging just moments while Alisha and his colleagues experience the passage of time as normal.

Read more: A look inside the making of Lightyear

Via the brief snippets of time he spends on the planet between missions, Buzz sees Alisha marry her female partner and have children and grandchildren.

A kiss between Alisha and her partner has led to Lightyear being banned in more than a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia, with a China release also unlikely.

Keke Palmer voices Izzy Hawthorne in Lightyear. (Disney/Pixar)
Keke Palmer voices Izzy Hawthorne in Lightyear. (Disney/Pixar)

Director Angus MacLane added: "I think we're really proud of the character being LGBTQIA+, but we wanted to make sure it was something substantial and not a window dressing aspect of the character.

"Narratively it was important to us because we wanted to show that Buzz was not interested in pursuing a relationship with [Alisha] other than the platonic relationship that they have, so that when we meet Izzy it isn't a second chance at a relationship he never got to.

Read more: Onward introduces Pixar first LGBT+ character

"There's a very clear thing when he's talking in the hallway to them, you don't get any tension that he's interested in Alisha at all.

"It was a thing where it helped us narratively and also it was a great representation that felt substantial. Those things were both important to us."

Orange is the New Black actor Uzo Aduba voices Buzz's commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne in Lightyear. (Disney/Pixar)
Orange is the New Black actor Uzo Aduba voices Buzz's commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne in Lightyear. (Disney/Pixar)

For Palmer, it was huge to take on a role within the Toy Story universe, having had a relationship with the films since her childhood.

"When you have a nostalgic and near-and-dear character like Buzz, you want to make sure that if you're going to reinvent the IP, you want to be a part of it the right way," she said.

Read more: Mind-blowing Disney and Pixar in-jokes

Palmer added: "Obviously with Disney and Pixar, I think they always get it right. There is still an element, while maintaining that nostalgia, of something new and something fresh.

"Especially with me getting to play a completely new character like Izzy and this being the movie that Andy watched that made him love the Buzz Lightyear character. It's like we get to go back in time."

Lightyear is described as being the film that turned Toy Story's Andy into a space obsessive. (Disney/Pixar)
Lightyear is described as being the film that turned Toy Story's Andy into a space obsessive. (Disney/Pixar)

Lightyear has a glittering cast of famous faces in its roster of voices, with Evans and Palmer joined by Taika Waititi, Bill Hader, Peter Sohn, James Brolin and Isiah Whitlock Jr.

There's also a cameo appearance for real-life British astronaut Tim Peake as the voice of "Tim from Mission Control".

Read more: Billy Crystal admits turning down Toy Story is career regret

Critical reviews for the movie have been strong, with aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes currently showing an 81% approval rating and the critical consensus reading that the film is a "gorgeously animated adventure".

Lightyear is released in IMAX and UK cinemas from 17 June.

Watch: Trailer for Lightyear

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