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Buzz Lightyear Takes Off on NASA Educational Mission


Richard Tedesco


May 30, 2008

Buzz Lightyear will finally realize his mission to go into outer space – for real.

Buzz may not be destined for infinity and beyond. But a 12-inch toy replica of the animated astronaut-wannabe character from Pixar’s “Toy Story” will ride into space on the Space Shuttle Discovery on May 31 to launch a NASA educational program.

“In the movie, Buzz always thought he was a real space ranger, until he jumps off the stairs and falls on the floor,” said Disney spokesman Duncan Wardle. “Now he’ll really achieve his dream.”

The toy astronaut will also he heralding the opening of Toy Store Mania at DisneyWorld, where he’s being recommisioned exclusively for Disney in his original comic action-figure persona by Thinkway Toys. No word yet on the retail price to take Buzz home, but his comeback – along with the rest of the eclectic Toy Store ‘toon cast – will probably be a boon to Disney merchandising revenues.

“Disney gets to create buzz and awareness around the attractions at Disney World and Disneyland,” said Wardle. “NASA gets to educate kids in a fun way.”

Apart from being a merchandising hot spot, Toy Store Mania is an interactive park attraction, featuring a 3D ride in four passenger cars, which stop at certain points to let the passengers take potshots at balloons and other targets with spring-loaded toy guns.

The other side of the promotional payoff is in the real space experiments Buzz will be involved in, demonstrating the effects of zero and micro-gravity. That demonstration, to be conducted by an U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut aboard the orbiting Space Station will be beamed to a video screen at the opening of Toy Store Mania on June 17.

NASA’s educational program features four “missions” young aspiring astronauts can conduct online at, with Buzz Lightyear giving them guidance. On launch day, the initial mission is to load objects into the spaceship to achieve a certain proper weight. The final mission requires student astronauts to use physics and aerodynamics to retrieve a satellite from space with the Shuttle’s mechanical arm.

That “Toys in Space” micro-site will also offer the Space Ranger Education Series for classroom use, aiming to push students to study science, technology and mathematics – STEM subjects, an acronym spawned by NASA.

Disney has a teaser video about Buzz’s “mission” that can be seen on, YouTube and a host of other viral video Web sites. It’s also preparing a “Buzz in Training” video, featuring former astronaut moon walker Buzz Aldrin briefing his animated namesake.

The media giant is also planting buzz about the toy astronaut’s new mission by sending copies of the 12-inch articulated Buzz figures with press kits to 500 radio and TV stations nationally.

The second coming of Buzz as posing action figure in the retail realm will be followed by his return from the Space Station sometime in the fall, by Disney’s calculations. A ticker tape parade in Disney World is planned. And Buzz will likely boost Disney merchandising revenues for the holiday season.

No future missions are on the drawing board for Buzz, but Disney isn’t ruling anything out. “For us,” said Wardle, “it takes the Disney brand to infinity and beyond.”




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