One could call Pixar’s seemingly unending winning streak
an embarrassment of riches. With a string of number one box office hits and
Academy Award wins, not to mention all the critical huzzahs and audience love,
it’s not entirely unforgivable that the studio would take a chance to rest on
their laurels for a bit with their latest animated release Cars
2 (in theaters now).
Ask any Pixar fan to name their favorite Pixar movie and chances are you
won’t hear Cars mentioned
much. It is also one of only two Pixars to not win the Oscar for Best Animated
Feature since the category’s creation in 2001 (ironically, the other isMonsters,
Inc., which will also get a sequel next year). So why a second Cars instead
of a sequel to one of Pixar’s bigger, more beloved hits like Finding
Nemo or The
The answer: it’s all in the merchandise. Cars has
done remarkably well selling toys, mostly Matchbox-style miniature recreations
of its cast of characters. Like Star
Wars action figures, no Cars car
goes without a toy, no matter how little screen time it gets. And what better
way to create more toys than to create more characters for a whole new movie?
Plus, there’s the all-new Cars-themed
land at Disney’s California Adventure opening next summer.
Watch or read any interview with Pixar head honcho John Lasseter and it won’t
take long for him to say that the key to their success is story. “It all starts
with the story”, he has said, which isn’t entirely the case when it comes to the
seemingly “made to market” Cars 2.
As it were, the story begins back in Radiator Springs, but we’re not there
for long as ace racer Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) quickly sets out
on a global grand prix, with his ever-loyal best friend Tow Mater (Larry the
Cable Guy) in tow.Cars 2 is
really all about Mater, as he finds himself in the middle of an international
spy caper when British super agent Finn McMissle (Michael Cain) and his plucky
assistant Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) mistake him for their American
The globetrotting adventure takes us from Japan to Italy (home of McQueen’s
main rival Francesco Bernoulli, voiced by John Turturro) to England, which
offers plenty of opportunities for all sorts of site-specific new cars (thus new
toys). There’s even a few boats, trains and planes (in anticipation for the next Cars spin-off, Planes,
due in 2013) thrown in for good measure. Fans of Bonnie Hunt’s Sally will be
disappointed to find out that she has been relegated to a relatively minor role.
And it appears that Doc Hudson (voiced by the late Paul Newman in the original Cars,
his final feature film role) has gone on to the great garage in the sky.