Comparing and Contrasting Buzz Lightyear and Buzz Aldrin

by Jerry Woodfill




Click here for Buzz Lightyear Background from 1995 Movie Trailer for Toy Story One
Click here to view trailer for popular Disney cartoon series Buzz Lightyear of Star Command

There is a 24 minute video comparing Buzz Lightyear and Buzz Aldrin for a comparison/contrast paper. The lecture is contained in two YouTube videos. After watching them, the class is instructed to compose a paragraph discussing how they Buzz Lightyear and Buzz Aldrin are alike and differenct. Watch the first YouTube video by clicking here. Watch the second YouTube video by clicking here.

Being second is never easy.  Never mind that a thousand lost to your efforts.  You weren’t the first.  So it was with the 2nd man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, the runner-up until…along came another Buzz, the Disney Toy Story astronaut Buzz Lightyear, named, not by accident, after the second man on the Moon.  The other Buzz, Aldrin, is now as well-known as Neil Armstrong by virtue of Buzz Lightyear’s popularity.  Both have eclipsed Armstrong’s fame.  They are now number one in the hearts and minds of “kid-dom” throughout planet Earth and beyond.        

For the comparison/contrast assignment, an essay dealing with the Buzz pair, five brief video clips depict the uniqueness of each Buzz.   The first is a digital cloning of Buzz Aldrin into Buzz Lightyear.  Watch it to note differences in body shapes, relative size of various astronaut features and functions.  The second movie is a Buzz Lightyear “bogus” training film directed by Buzz Aldrin.  Take notes while watching Lightyear’s training compared to what Aldrin experienced.

A third video depicts Buzz Lightyear's recent 15 month tour on the International Space Station. Disney World held a parade for both Buzz Aldrin and Buzz Lightyear celebrating Lightyear's triumph return. (Click here to watch the parade.)   The fourth video is most revealing, a handicap spaceman Buzz Lightyear need not deal with while exploring the Moon, the planets, and, perhaps, the stars.   The brief program deals with the technical facets of NASA’s waste management facilities.  

After watching the first three videos,  study the pictures of Aldrin and Lightyear to find likenesses and differences between the spacemen.  Note the spacesuit trousers. (See the sketch below of the “lower torso assembly – NASA’s name for pants.)  Lightyear’s pants look like Willy Wonka’s togs – fine for Wonka and Lightyear if Wonka remains earthbound and Lightyear is a Moon-man.  Unfortunately, such would be fatal for the Moon-walker Aldrin.  There is no air on the Moon.  The suit has to be sealed tightly from the vacuum of space.  Such pants would spoil an astronaut’s day! 

Now Lightyear’s has another  design flaw.  He’s supposed to be an astronaut, not an aeronaut.  Tell me what good are his wings without an atmosphere.  There’s no air in space or on the Moon.  If Aldrin wanted to sail around his Apollo  spacecraft  on what NASA calls an EVA (Extra-Vehicular-Activity), he’d use some kind of “jet-pack.”  Newton’s laws set forth the principle of “action-reaction.”  Without jets, there’s no action, so Lightyear simply stays in place for eternity.  Even Disney’s movie “The Rocketier” mounted a jet on the hero’s back for propulsion. Now if Lightyear were to leap off Aldrin’s Eagle’s lander porch expecting his “wings” to make a soft landing on lunar firmament, he’d drop like the hammer in the attached Apollo 15 video. (The fifth video clip)  He would fall like the feather falls on the Moon, just as fast as the hammer,  demonstrating there is no lunar atmosphere. There is one way that Buzz Lightyear is similar to Buzz Aldrin. Both are courageous pugilistic fighters when unjustly confronted. Watch the composite video of their respective fighting techniques.

An added help for comparing Lightyear and Aldrin is the sketch below of Aldrin’s spacesuit. 



The above picture is altogether revealing for comparing and contrasting Buzz Lightyear and Buzz Aldrin. Obviously, Lightyear needs no food/water dispenser or urination/defecation tube or B.M. flap.  But what about Aldrin’s and Lightyear’s limbs, i.e., legs and arms?  Both beings are said to be articulated which means they consist of segments held together by joints. For Buzz Aldrin, the segments are body bones. While Buzz Lightyear's segments are plastic parts similar to human legs, arms, hands, etc.

In order to more fully understand how the segments and joints work for each Buzz, a brief lesson in robotics is useful.  There are three terms essential to astronautic and aeronautic work.  They are pitch, roll, and yaw.  Bending your neck forward and backward pitches your head while moving your scull toward either shoulder is a yaw maneuver.  Roll is simply rotating your head to the right or left. 

With this in mind, examine Aldrin and Buzz Lightyear’s joints.  It’s the joints which allow what NASA calls “Degrees of Freedom.”  The acronym is “DOF” short for “Degree of Freedom.” So your shoulder joint has a structure allowing: (Watch this! The narrator moves shoulder to demonstrate the three degrees of freedom.)  (1) pitch, (2) roll, and (3) yaw or three degrees of freedom.  What is the DOF for Buzz Lightyear’s shoulder?  Let’s try Lightyear’s left shoulder.   Unlike Aldrin, Buzz Lightyear has only a  Two-DOF shoulder.  In fact, our astronauts have shoulders which differ DOF-wise.  Nevertheless, Buzz Lightyear exhibits certain un-human movements.  Can you do this?  (Rotate Buzz Lightyear about his waist 360 degrees.)  If you can, you’re a candidate for:


1)    “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”

2)    “The Guinness Book”

3)    A Hollywood horror film

4)    A carnival side show attraction


But Aldrin’s 3-DOF shoulders are essential in ways Lightyear’s are not.  Lightyear’s left shoulder configuration DOF-wise does permit him to scratch his “behind” with only his left hand.  Watch!  Considering that his right arm and hand conceals a bionic fiery laser, an inadvertent firing during a “rear-end” scratching would be worst than any fleeing felon receiving a Taser shot to the buttocks.   Likewise any post B.M. clean-up with the right hand would be perilous, except that  Lightyear, unlike Aldrin, has no digestive system.

Having worked 44 years in the space program for NASA,  I’ve got added problems with Buzz Lightyear’s suit design as an extraterrestrial astronaut garment.   His helmet is not a good one for Aldrin’s use.  Should Aldrin flip open the visor in this fashion: (Demonstrate) UGH!  His last meal would “blow-lunch” from anus and bowels up through the esophagus, traversing the entire alimentary canal, expectorating into the lunar vacuum along with an evacuation of his lungs more powerful than any miracle Oreck “soot-sucker” vacuum cleaner “as seen on TV.”  But “aha” Lightyear would be fine with an open visor.   He has no lungs, stomach,  bowels or anal orifice.

Aldrin’s suit has a device worn on the back named “the life support system.”  It’s simply an air-pack like a SCUBA diver’s oxygen tank.  Lightyear has a pack on his back too, but not for maintaining life.  Buzz Lightyear was never alive.  He’s like a NASA robot.  His backpack contains deployable wings.  But this is an advantage over Buzz Aldrin.  Because he’s not alive, he doesn’t get “space-sickness’, a nauseating debilitating condition akin to “car-sickness” and “sea-sickness,”  nor is he subject to colds or the flu which plagued the Apollo 7 astronauts and Astronaut Fred Haise in the movie “Apollo 13.”  Likewise, he doesn’t face injury.  Any of his body parts could be amputated, an arm, leg, even his head, and he’ll still function.  This is a major difference between Buzz Lightyear and Buzz Aldrin.  When astronauts are weightless in space, they float requiring no legs for walking.  But walking on the Moon is a different story. Although  easier than walking on Earth with the Moon’s gravity one-sixth Earth’s, legs are required.

Now another indelicate issue arises.  Lightyear’s got some kind of tight-fitting, bull fighter’s toreador’s tights for togs.  Actually, his torso seems to be wearing some kind of plastic-molded-diaper with a green elastic stretch band to keep the diaper from falling to the lunar surface.  It looks a bit disgusting as far as astronaut-ware.  No respectable spaceman would be seen in such attire.  These male-ballet-britches would be painfully confining for an astronaut.  The males in the class will agree comparing Lightyear’s briefs with Aldrin’s long-john-like boxers worn under the lower torso pants.   Lightyear has the body of a carnival “contortionist.”  Watch this: (Bend Buzz Lightyear’s members into unnatural orientations.)  The most agile astronaut would certainly incur a painful rupture of muscles. 

Having dealt with tight-togs, we must consider reading/writing proficiency issues.  Listen to Lightyear’s limited vocabulary and sentence structure.  (Press Lightyear’s red audio button to play:  “Buzz Lightyear to the rescue audio.”) He is definitely needs reading instruction from a grammatical point of view.  “Buzz Lightyear to the rescue.”  This is a sentence fragment lacking a verb.  Buzz Lightyear gets an “F”.  Aldrin has written a dozen books.  His most recent is “Magnificent Desolation.” Neither word is in Lightyear’s limited dictionary of less than fifty words.  Lightyear  speaks but four sentences; two of which are fragments.  

Yet, there is a more basic flaw exhibited by Buzz Lightyear with regard to communicating on the lunar surface.  It’s an error often made in space movies.  Sound requires a transmitting medium, i.e., air, water, even a vibrating piece of solid material.  A vacuum, whether in space or on the Moon, just doesn’t “cut it.”  Lightyear needs a radio communicator like Aldrin used on Apollo 11 to talk to mission control.  Yes, Buzz Lightyear is no more a lunar astronaut than I’m a trapeze artist.   At best, he’s a skydiver, if he had a parachute.  Why, a parachute?  The answer is  because those short blunt wings provide insufficient lift to keep him aloft?  He’d sink like a corpse thrown into Galveston Bay with a fifty pound cinder block tied to its  ankles. 

Considering all Aldrin’s advantages might engender sympathy for Buzz Lightyear.  But there is an event in the history of human space exploration that instills pride in Buzz Lightyear and his kind, the dummynauts or manikins of space exploration.  Buzz Lightyear has a patriarch who was first in space.  Before Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and Astronaut John Glenn, there was the Soviet Dummynaut, Ivan Ivanovich, the space manikin.  Ivan was a forerunner of Buzz Lightyear.  Like Lightyear, he had no lungs, bowels, or life functions.  And like Lightyear, he had limbs and a torso.  In May of 1961 just weeks before Yuri Gagarin’s launch into Earth orbit,  Ivan Ivanovich became the first to orbit Earth in a Vostok capsule.  Ivan  proved that a living  human could be ejected and survive a parachute descent to Earth using the Soviet parachute ejection system.   For that reason, Buzz Lightyear stands proudly with his famous Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather  Ivan Ivanovich, the first dummynaut manikin in space.  Eat your heart out Buzz Aldrin!   Neither you nor Armstrong were first in space.  It was a member of Buzz Lightyear’s family, Ivan Ivanovich. 



The Proud Dummynauts, Manikins in Space: Ivan Ivanovich and Buzz Lightyear

Note: Helmet, Arm Orientation, Glove, Pants and Boot Similarities


I hope you’ve taken notes because comparing and contrasting Buzz Aldrin with Buzz Lightyear is an advanced study in aeronautics and astronautics.  Our Toy Story actor bids you well, “Buzz Lightyear to Infinity.”  (Play Lightyear’s audio.) And on behalf of Buzz Aldrin, I say to you,  as  Astronaut Scott Carpenter wished  John Glenn well, “Godspeed.” 



Comparing and Contrasting Buzz Lightyear and Buzz Aldrin Vocabulary Word List


1.      Torso:  The human body excluding the head and limbs; trunk                                   

2.      Aeronaut: A pilot or navigator of an air craft

3.      Extra-Vehicular-Activity (EVA) :  Activity or maneuvers performed by an astronaut outside a spacecraft in space

4.      Bionic: Comprising or made up of enhanced artificial body parts

5.      Extraterrestrial: Originating, located, or occurring outside Earth or its atmosphere

6.      Expectorating: Act of bringing up and spitting out through the mouth

7.      Deployable: Able to come into a position ready for use

8.      Indelicate: Improper, coarse, tasteless, vulgar

9.      Contortionist: A circus performer who displays his (her) muscles and joints in an unusual or unnatural way

10.  Grammatical: Referring to the logical and structural rules that govern the composition of sentences, phrases, and words in any given natural language

11.  Engender: Cause or call forth

12.  Manikin:  A life-sized doll, often with moving joints, used by artists, tailors, dressmakers

13.  Patriarch: A man who is the founder or oldest member of a group

14.  Infinity: Boundless, without end

15.  Godspeed: Wishing one a successful journey

16.  Articulated: Consisting of segments held together by joints

17.  Manikin: (also spelled mannequin) An anatomical model of the human body for use in teaching, display, or as a human substitute in testing

18.  Pugilistic: Of or relating to fist fighting or boxing as a pugilist (boxer)