Release Date: 9 June 2006Director: John Lasseter, Joe Ranft
History: "Cars" was some more Pixar "firsts" and some "returns" for Pixar. It was the first Pixar film to use real life locations in it's story (Route 66) and the first Pixar film to have a large collection of main stream musicians behind the music for the film (very much so more then "Toy Story 2"). But it was the return of John Lasseter to the director's chair (the last time he has donned that chair to date) and Randy Newman scoring the music (his last go at it before this summer's "Toy Story 3"). It was also didn't receive the critical praise that seemed to get better and better for each Pixar film up to that point, nor did it earn the big bucks at the box office the same past Pixar films did.
But it wasn't all gloom and doom for "Cars." It won the first ever Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film as well as the Best Animated Feature Annie Awards. It also made up for any box office it may have lost for what by 2006 was expected for a Pixar film to make with posibly the biggest merchandise campaign for any Pixar film. "Cars" also kicked off the new normal for Pixar releases in the Summer as opposed to the Holiday Movie Season as well as since "Cars" came out in 2006, Pixar has released a film every year with two planed in 2012. "Cars" is also the first Pixar film announced to have a sequel after "Toy Story."
According to what is now Pixar lore, "Cars" was the brain child of Lasseter after taking a much needed family summer vacation back in 2000 that took him, his wife and five sons cross country. It also was further based upon his childhood growing up in Southern California when he first developed not just a love for all things animated, but also all things automotive as well as his dad's work as a parts manager at a So Cal Chevrolet dealership.
"Cars" was also a number of farewells for some talented individuals. Long time Pixar story man Joe Ranft passed away tragically after of all ironies a car crash during production of the film. In fact the film is dedicated to him at the end. It was also the last non-documentary film for legendary actor Paul Newman, which also turned out to be his highest grossing film at the box office. It was also the second-to-last film and certainly last major film for legendary comedian George Carlin.
My Reaction: Why "Cars" sometimes get slammed, I may never know. At the time of it's release it got some of the lowest critical reviews of any Pixar film and many see it as the end of Pixar's string of hits. And yet, even if that is true, it just goes to show how amazing Pixar truly is as most other Hollywood Studios would most likely take Pixar's failures over their own successes any day. And yet, in hind sight, it may be the biggest Pixar film since "Toy Story" when it comes to characters and audience acceptance. What it may have lacked in story (which still again would be just about any other studios major hit) it more then made up for in characters. The characters of Lightning and Mater especially seems to have really taken off with many people the World over.
While I was not so much a fan of the flashy moments connected to Lightning vivid imagination and the sometimes over-the-top racing scenes, I fully appreciate their necessity to balance out the lush, cozy, simple moments in Radiator Springs. Those were defiantly my favorite moments in the film. Pixar did in my mind, a great job of showing us the beauty of the natural world and the wonders found in simplistic settings. McQueen's transformation from a punk rookie hot-shot out to show the world how cool he is to the more mature, thoughtful racing star he is by films end really wowed me. I also loved the loving nods his name comes from with Lightning (think "Buzz" from "Toy Story" which also gave him his number "95" which was the year "Toy Story" came out) McQueen (for legendary actor and racing buff, Steve McQueen). The last connection is especially cool for me on a personal level as I have an uncle who got to know the real McQueen from his time racing in Las Vegas, NV.
Watching it again and so close to the Pixar film before, I actually started to see what I think is the distinctive styles of John Lasseter from Pete Doctor, Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird. Not that the other directors don't strive for this, but Lasseter seems to have it down better when it comes to the balance between character and story. I have noticed that Lasseter's films seem to be my more favorite Pixar films thus far with maybe Pete Doctor's after that (wait for my review of "Up" later.
What Lasseter wanted to do with "Cars" I think he achieved. It truly is the mother of all love notes to the automotive world. It does a great job of paying homage and giving winks and nods to every part of that world while still giving us a wide world of fun characters to get to know (and showing us why we would want to know them, much less spend time with them in the first place) as well as a well told tale to enjoy.
My Wife's Reaction: She really seemed to like Mater and it felt tome like she laughed more at the jokes in this film then maybe all the other Pixar films we have watched so far.
My Final Grade: (A-) I really enjoyed this film and unlike (sadly hate to admit this) the last two Pixar films, never once got board with this one. It was smart, cute and clever all at the same time. Unlike the "Monster's Inc." sequel planned in 2012 (that I worry about, go see my thought on my review for that film), I was very much ok with the sequel planned for this one next year in 2011. So long as they don't do a bad job with it, it could be a very enjoyable visiting Radiator Springs again. The original was wonderful, it begged it's audience to come visit again.
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