Pixar’s epic science fiction adventure Lightyear is full of robot fights and rocket ships — and also really weird futuristic food. Early on in the film, Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear eats a pre-made meal made of solid blocks of color-coordinated food chunks that come in a TV dinner-style tray, with an activation system a little like a high-tech version of a military MRE. But the most memorable meals in Lightyear are the strange sandwiches.
While scavenging for a key spaceship component, Buzz and some allies take a break to eat snacks from a nearby vending machine. When he unwraps the sandwich, however, Buzz is shocked to discover that instead of the typical bread-meat-bread configuration (or the puffy meat brick he was eating earlier in the movie), he’s looking at two slimy pieces of meat, with a piece of bread and some vegetables between them. He expresses confusion and his companions laugh, boggled by the idea that he thinks a sandwich should feature two slices of bread with everything else between them. When he asks about the gross residue the meat leaves on their fingers, they tell him that’s actually the best part of a sandwich. Clearly, a lot has changed since Buzz last interacted with human society.
Director Angus MacLane says the sandwich schtick started because of a conversation he had with Lightyear writer Matt Aldrich that didn’t even really have much to do with the movie.
“He was describing the top five sandwiches,” recounts MacLane. “We were just talking about food. He could describe each sandwich. And then we were also trying to figure out how different is this world, a world that Buzz doesn’t recognize … Like what if there was like a total meat sandwich and we flipped it? That scene came together basically through that conversation.”
The scene is less about the gross sandwiches and more about how removed Buzz is from humanity. As he stubbornly continues on the futile missions that have dominated his life, the world he keeps leaving behind changes without him, moving on and leaving him stuck in a fixed point in time.