When John Lasseter, the chief creative officer at Pixar came up with the concept for Cars, it was a tribute to the road and to that bygone era. He wanted his animators to capture the old road and what it was like in its heyday. He took them all out on the road for a ride down Route 66 from LA to Chicago and hired Michael Wallis, who has written most of the definitive books on the history and culture of Route 66 (he even voiced the Sheriff in Radiator Springs in the movie) as their tour guide. Lasseter did this so as to infuse his animators and writers with the feel and culture of the road -- and it paid off.
My admiration for Lasseter because of that was high. Just like me, he "got it". He understands what it is about the road that makes it so appealing. He's not only a brilliant writer and creator, but he's a fellow roadie! In my mind, Cars, although not the highest grossing Pixar movie, is by far the best written. However, where Cars really succeeded was in the merchandising. It is generated the most marketing product sales of any Disney movie, even more than Toy Story. And this is where I think the problem arose.
You see, rather than the lure of the road and the story, the lure of a quick buck has prompted Lasseter and Pixar to create "Cars 2". I've never really been a fan of "2" movies, or "3" or "4" and so on. For the most part, they tend to fall flat and are cheap knockoffs -- remember Speed 2? Speed was a great original thriller -- and the notion that the same cast and concept would repeat itself in a part 2 movie only in a slightly different setting is ludicrous. When I first heard of "Cars 2" I knew right then and there it wasn't going to work, and I'd likely be mad they made it.
My friends all teased me -- "we are gonna drag you to see Cars 2", because they knew how I felt about Cars and how I was already grousing about the upcoming Cars 2. So off we went to a 1030pm show on Friday. Knowing the appeal of small rug-rats to this movie, I figured a 1030pm show would be safe. I was wrong. The theater was a nursery school. What parent in their right mind takes a kid to a 1030pm movie?! At the risk of sounding like my parents, "When I was a kid...." my folks would NEVER have even considered that, unless it was a drive in where the kids could be contained. But the parenting skills of modern families will have to be a topic for another post. However, I was right about my predictions for the movie.
However, it lacks the "spirit" of the original Cars that Lasseter worked so hard to create. It merely takes the two main characters, Mater and McQueen and drops them into a James Bond action flick. It takes a wonderful heartfelt look at a piece of America that is lost -- a movie with some heart and soul and romance and puts it into a formula movie. It's more a movie about the marketing of the characters than it is a continuing homage to the love of the open road. The movie has no soul -- no spirit. You don't even come to love the characters, both new and old that populate this movie like you did with the characters in the original.
Further, it focuses mostly on Mater, i.e. Larry the Cable Guy, and seems to be designed as a movie to make fun of his southern simple redneck ways and mannerisms. We all know that Mater and McQueen were the two most marketable characters from Cars, and thus a marketing movie was born.
To say I'm disappointed wouldn't be a fair description. It's more accurate to say I'm sad that the folks at Disney/Pixar, and in particular, my hero John Lasseter, chose to succumb to the temptation of the marketing dollar rather than stay true what drove them to create Cars in the first place. I applaud profit and creating wealth -- I'm a true blooded capitalist in that respect, but I also respect artistic integrity. In this effort, I'm sad that the artistic integrity -- the creative soul -- the homage to the road was lost.