Karl Cohen shares with us a piece about Pixar’s upcoming film Cars that he wrote for the April ASIFA-SF newsletter:


Reuters’ reported a Canadian theater owner said, “I thought it was a great movie” and that he believed the film would have the same broad appeal as Pixar’s biggest hit Finding Nemo. Another executive described “the film’s race-car-themed story line and folksy soundtrack, featuring songs by Sheryl Crow and Brad Paisley, as the perfect antidote to (gay cowboy movie) Brokeback Mountain for more conservative red-state audiences.” Film Daily wrote, “Pixar’s Cars surprises industry audience at ShoWest. Animated effort is company’s most sentimental, old-fashioned work to date, agree delegates.” At Jim Hill Media on the Internet, their reviewer wrote, “This is such a multi-layered film that ultimately I can only make one recommendation on the film: If you can only see one film this summer, go see Cars. If you can see two films, go see Cars twice… As one exhibitor sitting next to me said: ‘Not only might this be the biggest film of the summer, but this is the best CARtoon ever.’ I have to agree.” At World of KJ.COM the writer summed up his feelings, “The best way to describe Cars would be to call it a wonderful film. It’s heart warming and terribly innocent, which I believe is the real seller. All those annoying characters from the trailer, including the hillbilly actually provide memorable moments throughout the film and the voice acting is top notch. Without going into much detail, the 2 most noticeable traits about the film are the depth into which the characters are explored and how wonderfully the entire story is played out. There are only a couple of cheesy moments that I found in the film but outside of that, the film is definitely Pixar’s best.”


A friend from the East Coast who attended ShoWest wrote me, “Cars is stunning to look at and reaches new heights on a technological level, but by the very fact that it is about cars rather than toys, cute furry creatures or pretty fish it also isn’t as emotionally involving as previous Pixar films. Part of the fault is with the opening of the film. We have just seen a wonderful Chuck Jones-like teaser for Ratatouie and the sentimental and funny One Man’s Band. Then on comes an incredibly loud, jarring and in some ways scary lengthy opening sequence at a car race. It is all noise, fast-hard racing metal vehicles zooming over and around us. The image of a huge racetrack stadium filled with cheering fans…all cars…is beautiful and brought smiles. But the sequence seemed to create a distance from many viewers as character development was yet to come.”

“When we do meet the heroes and villains they are engaging and we start to get into it. The trek across the Southwest features nature’s rugged beauty in contrast to man’s slick creations rushing along the interstate and ignoring the scenery. When our hero Lightning McQueen gets lost, is arrested for speeding and is rescued by the vehicles that inhabit the near-ghost town of Radiator Springs, we finally become involved. The invention here is magnificent and often very funny. This is what Pixar does best, developing characters that enchant and surprise us. The audience sympathizes with these motor vehicles more than McQueen because they are honest and genuine whereas Lightning is cocky. But he learns his lessons about friendship, family and the other things in life that matter besides just winning the big race. His punishment for speeding is to help repair the broken up street of the town forgotten by tourists when the interstate bypassed this one-time popular stop on Route 66. But this is where the film’s other problem occurs. Our visit to Radiator Springs is waaaay tooo looong. The audience was restless. I heard people whisper, ‘Just get the asphalt repaired already.’ This middle section needs to be tightened. The 3rd act, when the town comes back to life with dozens of wonderful neon signs lighting it up is magical and the highlight, before the final big race. I kept wondering how they could leave out a drive-in movie theater in this homage to automobiles, but I was finally rewarded and understood why its introduction was left to the final part of the film.”

“The film is full of visual delights and almost hidden ‘in jokes.’ The entire end credit sequences have surprises and mini film tributes to past Pixar features with a car theme added. Audiences will stay in their seats until the lights come up as something happens until the very last second of celluloid passes through the projector.”

“I spoke with numerous exhibitors who liked it a lot, but also stated repeatedly that it was too long and got really bogged down in Radiator Springs. Almost everyone said shorten that segment. The film will be improved by judicious editing.”

“In his live introduction, John Lasseter told how the film was inspired by his own family road trip. He was also proud of the film being ‘G’ rated. It is solidly in that category now that fart jokes are acceptable for general audiences. Still, several parents of young children were worried their kids might be scared by the violent audio-visual assault of the opening race.”

“Expect Cars to be a big hit. The core Pixar audience will be there along with every car fan in the world. But as it is now, there may be some mixed critical reaction and repeat business might not be as strong as past Pixar efforts. I also won’t be surprised if some environmentalists challenge the movie for not finding a way to offer a message about our over-dependence on cars and fuel. “


I suspect John has become (or always was) one of the good old boys who probably imagines himself a sports star while he sits in front of the TV drinking beer, watching NASCAR races, Superbowl, etc. Pixar even owns a NASCAR racing machine and I’ve seen photos of John sitting on the hood and in the driver’s seat. He also loves wearing Hawaiian shirts and jeans, he clowns around with his staff and he owns an enormous toy collection. I think he personifies Middle America and shares the wholesome values of Walt that were lost by the Disney executives that took charge after the great man’s death.

John is extremely bright, well educated, and has years of experience. He avoids explosive political issues in public and other things that might offend. He deals with stories with moral and educational values and he avoids the crass/gross humor found in cg films from other studios. I suspect Cars might be too conservative or traditional for some people (it isn’t cutting edge like The Incredibles), but it will probably be a smash hit throughout much of this country.

As for his future leadership, I suspect he will be the ideal head of Disney animation unless the front office pressures him into releasing films before they have been fully developed as scripts or if picture/story elements are not fully refined before the final deadline must be met at all costs. Disney has been making films for specific release dates instead of creating the best possible product. Hopefully John will not be forced into that kind of pressure. Disney may already be changing as last month they announced that their Thanksgiving 2006 release Meet The Robinsons, has been pulled and it is now scheduled to come out next March.