Thursday, May 20, 2010

"I create feelings in others that they themselves don't understand. "

Film: "Cars"

Release Date: 9 June 2006Director: John Lasseter, Joe Ranft

"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.

All Images Copyright Disney/ Pixar. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Nice review! Cars is one of my favorite Pixar films (possibly my second fave Pixar) and I, too, never understood the negative criticism it seems to get compared to their other films. It's funny, charming, and has a lot of heart.

    I like the poignant exploration of the idea of the effect the interstate has had on roadside culture and small towns.

    Equally poignant is the development of Lightning into the car he becomes in the final race; an unpredictable ending I didn't see coming and that I find very moving.

    Keep up the great work on the blog!

  2. I never understood the hatred this film gets either. Granted, I could see some flaws being a bother, like the highly stereotypical characters, the simple story that gets drawn out and such, but the film was still great, especially when compared to the films that came out that same year (Happy Feet, The Ant Bully, DOOGAL).

    I hear people remark that the story is what kills it. Yeah I know the story isn't that original, but it definitely has heart.

    Again, I don't see why people think its so bad...

  3. @ David S., I agree, the ending caught me off guard as well. I was amazed that Lightning did what he did at the end for The King and I'd say the lessons from that simple act are so amazing and important for all the learn.

    I'd tend to agree that he had to spend the time he did and learn the things he did in Radiator Springs to have gotten to the point he'd make the sacrifice he does ta the end.

    @ Celluloid Memories, yes, 2006 was a bad year in my mind for animated films. "Cars" was and is in my mind the finest film to come from that year. I know "Happy Feet" won a lot of the awards, but I never liked it and thought it was over rated.

  4. Oh as an FYI, it's me pap64 from the Ultimate Disney forums! I post under my blog's name.

  5. Oh yes, forgot about the rest of the comment.

    I personally loved Happy Feet (it was my second favorite animated film of the year, following Cars). But yeah, I agree that it got very overrated, especially since the film didn't know if it wanted to be an underdog story that celebrated Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire or a movie about the environment. It got very preachy and that tends to annoy people.

    Definitely the worst movie is a tie between Everyone's Hero and Doogal... GOOD...GOD! THOSE FILMS WERE TERRIBLE!!! >.<

    I am sure that if you sat down a Cars hater and had him watch the movie, then have him watch Everyone's Hero he would stop hating Cars in a minute! Haha :p .

  6. Yes, I know who you are. Thanks for following my blog! I hope to have more up soon, I just hit a busy spell the last few days, but a review for "Up" will be, well, up soon as will the start of the Disney films, which means "Snow White."

    I wondered about starting off with the Pixar films first, but I'm kind of happy I did, it has been fun!