A brand new “Cars” model rolls out today and Pixar, the animation studio that can seemingly do no wrong, says it was all about reinventing the franchise’s wheels.
“At Pixar when we do sequels we like to do something really different,” director John Lasseter, tells Popcorn Biz. Lasseter, who directed the first film and - after ascending to the position of Chief Creative Officer for both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios - made a point to find time in his hectic schedule to get in the driver's seat for the second, says from the start there'd be no retreading.
“I go to see the sequel of a movie I really love and they just rehash the same story all over again and it makes the original seem less original," explains Lasseter. "If we're going to do a sequel, it's to come up with a really great story that's different than the original. When I talk about that within the story, it's really getting to what is the emotional core of the story. And that is the main character's emotional change - what is it he learns in the story? That's where the heart of Pixar films is always found.”
“The first ‘Cars’ was really about Lightning McQueen learning that the journey in life is a reward. He learned to slow down, enjoy life and not let the modern fast-paced life take up all your time” says Lasseter. For the follow-up, he says, “we wanted to have a friendship story between Lightning McQueen and Mater. It's about how friendship can be tested when you take the friendship out of its home. Taking Mater out of Radiator Springs, he's just embarrassing to Lightning McQueen, and Mater learns that people are not laughing with him, they're laughing AT him.”
“That became the emotional core of how the two came together,” says Lasseter. “That was really important for us to get, because we were setting this into the spy movie genre and traveling around the world. And both of those elements that were inspiration to me in different ways.”
That character-driven story is layered into a series of races set in exotic locales around the globe, which provide a seamless entry point for the film’s spy element and the introduction of new characters Finn McMissile (voiced by Sir Michael Caine) and Holly Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer).
“I love spy movies and I think the Bourne movies upped the ante on how cool and fast-paced [films can be],” says Lasseter. “We set out not to make a parody of a spy movie – we set out to make a spy movie. It just has cars as characters. We studied deeply the whole history of car chases. We pulled them from every movie we could find one and all the cool ones and really studied how do they shoot them, how do they cut them. Once this movie started, I really wanted it to GO. I wanted just to not stop. I always joke that they should put seat belts in the theaters for this movie, because I really wanted it to be fast-paced.”
Lasseter says his ability to entertain children and grown-ups at the same time is due to the fact that he’s kept his feet – and his creative brain – in both camps. “I'm just a little kid,” he laughs. “I discovered that being in animation I don't have to grow up. But I always trust that little boy in me on the stuff I find really fun. I think one of the biggest challenges of this movie was trying to make it as good or better than the original, but 'different' was a super-big challenge. Every Pixar movie, the challenge is making a great story because that's what we put the most importance on.”