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Sox the Robot Cat From 'Lightyear' Is Based on Data From 'Star Trek'

Pixar director, animator and the voice behind Sox, Peter Sohn, opens up about working on some of the most iconic films in the past 20 years.

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Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
2 min read
Buzz Lightyear holding Sox the robot cat

Sox the cat is one of the best characters in the Pixar film Lightyear.

Pixar

My favorite Pixar movies include titles like Ratatouille, Wall-E, Finding Nemo and Up. One uniting force behind those films is the director, animator and storyboard artist Peter Sohn. He directed the film The Good Dinosaur and will direct the upcoming Pixar movie Elemental. If you didn't know anything else about Sohn, you might already be impressed. I know I was.
Turns out, Sohn has become a popular Pixar voice actor from playing characters like Emile in Ratatouille and Squishy in Monsters University. Sohn's latest role is as Sox the robot cat in the film Lightyear, which is an origin story for Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Chris Evans, who inspired the toy from the Toy Story films, played by Tim Allen.

In fact, Sohn's performance as Sox is definitely a scene stealer. And that's even more admirable considering that Sox shares the screen with characters voiced by Keke Palmer and Taika Waititi and that his main scene partner is Evans.

During an interview on CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, Sohn explained how Sox was based on two 90s icons: Hasbro's Teddy Ruxpin animatronic talking bear and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Lightyear's director Angus MacLane was inspired by '90s tech for the film's style.

"There was a military aspect to it [Sox] that I was talking to Angus about. And honestly, there are pieces of Data as an android because he worked as a part of the Federation [United Federation of Planets]," Sohn said. "There was this gentleness like, 'Yes, Captain' that was an ingredient to Sox. That was helpful when he was spouting out all of this technical information. But then there was a lighter side, a friendlier side that was more like, 'Buzz, do you want a snack cake?' that wasn't the protocol. Part of it was just being a friend."

Lightyear is now streaming on Disney Plus and available in 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD. You can listen to my full conversation with Sohn above. During the interview, he opens up about directing The Good Dinosaur, losing his father, the challenge of being a leader in a collaborative process and the fate of some of his Pixar characters. When I asked Sohn whether Emile's palette has improved post-Ratatouille, he said no.

Peter Sohn standing on a balcony

Sohn's next project is directing the upcoming Pixar film Elemental.

Deborah Coleman/Pixar

"He's been eating garbage his whole life. He does not have those tastes that Remy does. And so unfortunately, he won't be eating the same high-class stuff that his brother's cooking him," Sohn said. "But he'll enjoy the same meal out of a dumpster."

Subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about their work, career and current obsessions.

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