Friday, June 10, 2016

What Worked The First Time: John Lasseter Talks 'Cars 3' Tone

With Pixar's latest hitting theaters nationwide in a week, we inevitably learned a thing or two about the Emeryville house's next...

At Finding Dory's world premiere last night, John Lasseter himself spilled some details on the next installment in Pixar's anthro autos franchise... On top of saying that Cars 3 will go back to the tone and feel of the first Cars, it will also focus heavily on... Doc Hudson.

"Lightning McQueen, he’s awesome. We’ve got some great new characters, some great racing in it. It’s a very emotional story. It’s a little bit more akin to Cars 1, where you get into a deep emotion with him. It’s really a special story. It’s very emotional and his relationship with Doc Hudson, and his memory of Doc Hudson."

If you've read my lengthy defense of Cars 2, you'll know that I had a few good-sized problems with what was otherwise - to me - a fun and silly little spy romp. Though maligned elsewhere, I'm one of the few who actually "likes" the film, and I unabashedly love the first Cars. I know that's not chic, but hey...

The one big problem I had with Cars 2? Doc Hudson's absence... The way it was handled, I felt was very halfhearted. Paul Newman, who voiced Doc Hudson in Cars, died nearly two years after the first film came out. Hudson was a big part of the first Cars and supplied much of its heart, and Pixar felt it would've been tasteless to recast him in the sequel. Having him be deceased, he gets a tiny tribute in the film's first act. What some may not know is that Doc Hudson's passing was actually going to be a major part of Cars 2...

A majority of Cars 2's production history remains a mystery, outside of a few key facts. Going by hearsay that I've heard over the years, Cars 2 was actually supposed to be about the World Grand Prix alone - no spy stuff or anything. It was supposed to be about Lightning possibly letting the world of fame scoop him up again, away from his friends and Radiator Springs. Somewhere along the way, he and Mater have an argument that ends their friendship. Apparently the Pixar brass didn't feel that this was strong enough (or according to one narrative, enough to fill a feature film), so they took a Mater-is-a-spy short that was in the works at the time and decided to mesh the two.

Now that could be a mere rumor, but what's true is that Doc Hudson's death was at one point a major part of the story. Story supervisor Nate Stanton told Collider back in 2011 that McQueen and Mater looked up to Hudson as a father figure, and that his death affected them on the trip - this was supposed to be the main emotional core of the story, but they couldn't make it fit. Honestly, I would've preferred if they tried, for it would've been much better than the few-seconds tribute he gets early on in the film, and could've perhaps added quite a lot to the blockbuster-y action. Really, given Cars 2's hectic production schedule and what it went through over the course of 3 years (much shorter than the amount of years Pixar films normally take to get from concept to big screens everywhere), I find it more and more shocking that they were even able to make a watchable film out of everything they had to juggle. (Earlier versions of the film had more races, too!)

That's really it, Cars 2 shouldn't have gone the spy route, or if it did, it should've abandoned Radiator Springs altogether and should've focused entirely on C.H.R.O.M.E. Maybe have a few characters from the first film cameo, but that's it. It's a Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome situation for me, two potentially good movies - in Max's case it's the theoretical Mad Max 3 that would've been made had producer Byron Kennedy not died, and a post-apocalyptic Lord of the Flies-esque movie that director George Miller briefly developed in the early 80s - smashed into one with middling results.

So thankfully, Cars 3 will return to what made Cars work: Racing, car culture, Americana, lost towns, the road... When that was revealed in the first look from the other week, I started to get excited about a film I was initially on the fence about. Now I'm really curious, because I think focusing on Doc Hudson would not only make up for how Cars 2 wrote him out, but also add a lot to this film. I like the idea of Lightning trying to keep up with the racing world, and him learning to stay in the game with the supercharged rookies of tomorrow. Given that Doc Hudson was a legendary racer that taught Lightning a thing or two, it makes even more sense that he'd play a big role in this story.

With all that, it seems like Cars 3 will not only correct Cars 2's mistakes, but will be another winner for Pixar come next summer. Well, a winner with crowds that don't have a problem with the first Cars to begin with. With what I've seen and read over the years, I think Pixar is aware of how Cars 2 was received and they don't want such a trip-up of that size to happen again. Cars 3 should be the true follow-up to the now ten-years-old automobile comedy.

What say you?


  1. So amazing lately. Also, Can you post your review on The Angry Birds Movie, and what is your prediction for the date of the teaser for Cars 3?

  2. I think that we wont get a Cars 3 teaser with Finding Dory :(