Disney and Pixar have really revved up the publicity for this week’s release of Cars 2!  Did you see what I did back there, by the way?  That was a hilarious car pun.  Listen, I’m just trying to appeal to the Cars crowd here.  It seemed to work for those studios, at least.  Do you have any idea how popular this franchise is?!  $2 Billion dollars a year in merchandise and licensing!  I’m just trying to follow the formula here.  Anyway, director John Lasseter (pictured above) gathered with the film’s stars, Michael Caine, Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Emily Mortimer, and Eddie Izzard, to discuss the new film with members of the press.  Check out some highlights of what was said, after the jump…

 

As we’ve learned from the Toy Story 2 and especially in Toy Story 3, Pixar is extremely ambitious with their sequels.  For Cars 2, Lasseter decided to take the cast of characters from the first film out of the sleepy town of Radiator Springs, and introduce them to the rest of the world.  As if that weren’t enough, the gang also gets caught up in a case of international espionage.  So it seems that this isn’t going to be a homespun yarn about enjoying a peaceful, quiet life, but will be an all out action/spy flick.

John Lasseter on the spy genre of Cars 2:

Lasseter: The spy movie came from Cars, [we had] a scene where Lightning and Sally were having a first date and it was set in a drive in movie theater, and we had a movie playing on the screen.  And I love spy movies, my favorite TV show growing up was The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and my sons and I all love the Bourne movies…So we came up with this movie within a movie, and we had this character named Finn McMissile.  That scene got cut, but I never forgot about it…Because in our world the spy and the cool spy car could be one and the same, and how cool would that be?

Lasseter on taking these characters around the world:

Lasseter: As I was traveling around the world after Cars doing publicity for it, I had cars characters on the brain, and as I went to places like Tokyo, London, Germany, Paris, Italy, I kept looking out the window and thinking how fun it would be to take our characters to these places.  Because each of these places has their own automotive heritage and highways and types of driving…I also got turned on to the different types of racing, and [after] my first formula 1 race, I thought ‘Wow, this is cool.’  I just felt like a little kid, and I always trust that little boy in me for the stuff I find really fun.

These new story elements added a unique challenge of making everything in this newly expanded world more exciting and exotic.  Lasseter went on to explain where they drew inspiration for some of the chase sequences:

Lasseter: The film’s pace has to do with the genre of the film, because I love spy movies and I think the Bourne movies upped the ante on how fast paced they can be.  We set out not to make a parody of a spy movie, we set out to make a spy movie that just has cars as characters.  So we studied the history of car chases, and really studied how they shoot them and cut them, and the energy.  And you don’t get anything for free in animation, you really have to craft that.

Lasseter: We studied Ronin, the Robert DeNiro movie, we watched the Bourne Identity where he’s got the mini in Paris.  We did an interesting study of the Ronin chases, because most of those chases cut in on the driver, but we don’t have that opportunity in a movie where the cars are the characters.  So we did an experiment where we took those chases and we cut out all the shots of the drivers, and kept only the cars, and we learned a lot from that.

This film marks Lasseter’s return to directing (on top of his duties as chief creative officer of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios).  This was exciting news to the film’s star, Owen Wilson, who had this to say:

Wilson: The first voice session I went into a couple years back, all of a sudden he was there.  I think he sort of decided at the last minute that he was going to be able, with his new duties at Disney, to direct this.  So I was excited to work with him… [Working with John] It struck me how democratic it felt there…He’s not the big boss.  It felt very collaborative, and he’s always excited like this is first movie.

Wilson on the differences between the two films:

Wilson: I thought it sounded like a completely new movie, and that it was now going to be this international racing, and I was excited to see how Pixar would show these cities, and this world, and it just seemed like a bigger canvas that the animators were going to get to paint on.   The other one felt more heartfelt, and this felt more like a funny, bigger story.

Another stark difference between the two Cars films seems to be the significance of Larry the Cable Guy’s character, Tow Mater.  Here, Larry discusses his realization that his character was much more central to the film’s plot:

Larry the Cable Guy: I’ve been involved with cars now since 2003…and I don’t use a sound alike, because I’m really proud of Mater, and when my kids hear mater, I want them to know that’s me I want.  So every month, I do toys, games, video games– I’ve never really left the character.  So when I heard we were gonna do Cars 2, I said, ‘oh, okay, that’s cool, awesome.”  And I met with John [Lasseter], and he storyboarded it for me, and I was noticing there were a lot of scenes with mater, but it still had McQueen all through it.  So I didn’t really think too much about it, ‘til when we started filming it [sic], almost every line  I thought was really funny, and I’d say, ‘that’s a great line.’  But I just started noticing more…and I told john, and he said ‘Oh, well this is almost like Mater’s movie!’“

Larry the Cable Guy: Only then did I realize that Mater was really taking over that movie.  But I’m glad I didn’t [‘til then].  I didn’t want to think about it.  I just wanted to show up and do my job right, because if I knew I was gonna be the main guy I might do something different.

Mr. The Cable Guy went on to explain his acting method:

Larry the Cable Guy: I don’t get real technical with these things.  I’m Mater, Mater is me…How would I say this line?  That’s how I’ll say this line.  The hardest part for me with this movie was showing the different emotional ranges because Mater’s never done that.  He’s always just the guy that did the funny little quip, and everyone laughs and moves on.  This is a whole different range, especially towards the end, and I just put myself in those situations, and I think it turned out pretty good.

Veteran star Michael Caine joins the cast of vehicles as Finn McMissile, super spy extraordinaire.  Caine talked a bit about exactly why he was drawn to this film:

Michael Caine: I’ve got three grandchildren, and of course the reason I really wanted to do it was because I wanted them to see me.  They gave me a car with my voice, a little model car, and I brought a model car back to them, and they played with it, and they know it’s me.   So I’ve got this tremendous bond with my grandchildren because of this film.  If you think about it, the films that I make, little children can’t go and see them.  So it was a wonderful opportunity for me.”

The film also co-stars Emily Mortimer, who you likely remember as the Jack Donneghy’s hollow boned fiance from 30 Rock‘s second season.  Her character, a rookie spy, was originally a peripheral character, but Lasseter loved her performance so much that they continued to expand her role.

Here, Miss Mortimer discusses the growth of her character:

Emily Mortimer: I thought it was just going to be like a day long gig, at first, and they kept bringing me back for more and more.  It’s a really interesting way of working, because it’s so organic.  You’re collaborating from the very beginning on development on your character, and it changed a lot.  The first few sessions are where you put down the main body of the part, then you keep coming back and finessing it, and by the very end, I’d gone quite far away from how I’d started off.”

Emily Mortimer: I think John just likes hanging out, though…It was so easy being there with him, it was one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever done.  My husband thinks I’ve got a crush on him, and he’s probably right.  It’s what filmmaking should be…so conscientious, so infectiously enthusiastic about what they’re doing.  They’re passionate in a way that isn’t pretentious and annoying.  They love what they do, and they’re incredibly rigorous and collaborative.

Rounding out the cast is the ever charming Eddie Izzard. Izzard seemed thrilled to have been included, and in his characteristic stammering stream of consciousness, seemed to sum up exactly why this film is going to be a success:

Eddie Izzard It’s a fun big romp, and they’re all cars as well…It’s quite weird that they’re all cars.  I had toy trains when I was a kid, and toy story– well, they’re not really humans– but the fact that they’re cars [in this film] keeps throwing me…The second one is more about friendship, adventure, and cars that can shoot things into walls, and then fly…which is something I think we all want to be able to do.

So there you have it. Thoughts on the film from the folks who made it. Check back later in the week for ScreenCrave’s review of Pixar’s Cars 2!