'Lightyear' and 5 More Disney Movies That Tell the Origin Stories of Your Favorite Characters

Can't wait for Lightyear to land? Check out these other Disney movies (both animated and live-action) that tell the origin stories of your favorite fictional characters

Disney Origins movies
Photo: Everett; Pixar; Disney

Let's take it back to the beginning... and beyond!

Between live-action adaptations like Mulan (2020) and animated reimaginings like Tangled (2011), Disney has been putting fresh spins on their classic fairytales for decades. They also go back to the well of beloved stories for equally-popular sequels (including the three Toy Story movies that have been created since the 1995 original).

And of course, they've gotten creative by imagining the origin stories of some of the familiar characters — which is happening again in Pixar's upcoming Toy Story prequel, Lightyear, which is set to take Buzz Lightyear lovers to infinity and way beyond his first appearance in Toy Story films. It's scheduled to premiere June 17, 2022.

In the first trailer, which was released on Oct. 27, Buzz (voiced by Chris Evans) is shown preparing to become an astronaut, undergoing a heart-pounding liftoff and even delivering half of his iconic catchphrase along with another character: "To infinity, and ... " (the trailer cuts off before you can hear how it ends).

Lightyear Trailer
Lightyear (2022). Pixar

The announcement of the film generated excitement among fans, as well as some confusion about the story it will tell. To clarify, Lightyear portrays the origin story the character Buzz was based on, not the one of the actual toy in the film.

As director Angus MacLane explained to Entertainment Weekly, "Set in the world of Toy Story' is kind of weird. Another way to get at it, it's a straightforward sci-fi action film about the Buzz Lightyear character," he said. "In the Toy Story universe, it would be like a movie that maybe Andy would have seen, that would have made him want a Buzz Lightyear figure."

This isn't the first time Disney has told the origin story of a beloved movie character. Keeping scrolling for other movies, like Lightyear, that take you back to the beginnings of your favorite fictional characters!

Toy Story 4.


Starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, the 2021 film follows the life of Cruella de Vil prior to the events that occur in Disney's 101 Dalmatians (in which viewers were first introduced to the villain).

The movie is a true origin story because it doesn't retell the story of the 101 Dalmatians; rather, it's set several decades ahead of the animated film (and its live-action remake, starring Glenn Close). It follows Stone's Estella through her early years, from her formative Dalmatian-hating incident to the twists and turns that lead her to become the villain we all know.

Laurie Sparham/Disney

Though the film serves as a prequel, Cruella is getting a sequel of its own after a successful box office performance. A Disney spokesperson told PEOPLE, "The film has been incredibly well received by audiences around the world, with a 97% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes in addition to A's in every demographic from CinemaScore on opening weekend, ranking it among the most popular of our live-action reimaginings. We look forward to a long run as audiences continue to enjoy this fantastic film."

Where to watch: Disney+


Disney's 2014 alternative telling of Sleeping Beauty explores the origin story of its primary villain Maleficent – a much different take on the 1959 animated classic. Maleficent is a live-action movie that focuses on the charismatic sorceress, as opposed to the animated titular character, Princess Aurora.

MALEFICENT, Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, 2014. ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/courtesy
Angelina Jolie. Everett

Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie, is given emotional context in the film, which explains her sourness toward humans. Identified as the protagonist in Sleeping Beauty, the audience might come to recognize that they are more sympathetic towards Maleficent's feelings in the movie that acts as a prequel to the original (given that the only man she's ever loved has betrayed her and stolen her wings).

After the success of the film, Jolie reprised her role in the sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which picks up several years after the 2014 original left off. (Fun fact: Jolie's daughter Vivienne, then 4, had a brief role as a young Princess Aurora, because she was the only child actor not scared of Jolie in costume!)

Where to watch: Disney+

Finding Dory


Although not a prequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory tells Dory's story, and opens with the baby blue tang (who suffers from short-term memory loss) playing in a tank with her parents. The scene then cuts to Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) lost in the middle of the ocean asking other fish if they could help her find her family – where she eventually bumps into Nemo and his dad.

The film then fast forwards a year after the original film, and follows the fish on her quest to find her parents after she remembers that they lived at the Jewel of Morro Bay, California. Through quick flashbacks of past memories, Dory and her friends embark on a journey that brings her to the Marine Life Institute – where she discovers she was born.

Where to watch: Disney+

Monsters University


Unlike Finding Dory, Monsters University is a prequel, which sets the stage for the 2001 movie, Monsters Inc. and tells the origin story of its main characters: James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal).

In the movie, best friends Mike and James (better known as Sulley) first meet at Monsters University, although the audience comes to learn that they didn't always start out as friends. Ever since Mike was a kid, he had always dreamed of becoming a Scarer (the reason for his enrollment into the university). A rivalry is formed when he meets Sulley, a natural-born Scarer, but both get kicked out of the program after failing their initial exams. Determined to get back to Scaring, the two learn to work together, eventually becoming the best friends that we know and love.

Where to watch: Disney+

Frozen II

Frozen 2
Evan Rachel Wood in Frozen 2. Disney

Frozen II may not be a prequel to Frozen because it's set three years after Elsa's (voiced by Idina Menzel) coronation, but it gives background to what happened to the parents of Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa, who we learn have passed away in the first film.

In an attempt to follow a mysterious voice she hears in the night, Elsa unintentionally disturbs spiritual elements and forces everyone in the Kingdom of Arendelle to evacuate. In order for her to set things right, she's informed by the leader of the trolls that she has to discover the truth of her past. A mystical formation of ice sculptures explains the history of the father and their mother, Queen Iduna, who was a Northuldran who saved an Arendellian.

Elsa and Anna are joined by Olaf on an expedition that follows a route to Ahtohallan, a mythical river that contains all explanations of the past. As they make their way through the Enchanted Forest, Elsa learns the origin of her magical powers. She uncovers that the mysterious voice that she heard in the beginning of her travels is a memory of young Iduna's call.

Where to watch: Disney+

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