John Lasseter’s last movie for Pixar was Toy Story 2, the last three having been handled by other Pixar protégés. Now that they’ve had their chance to shine, it’s Lasseter’s turn again with a project that’s been his personal dream, Cars.
John Lasseter on Pixar's Cars
“At Pixar, the movies are director driven,” Lasseter said. “What I mean by that is that really the stories that the directors choose, they write and they come from their own heart. We’re the only studio that’s like that. All the other studios are executive-driven. The movies are picked by executives in development and directors are assigned to them, so in the case of me, I pick stuff I like, you know? It’s like toys, bugs, more toys and now cars. Cars was great. When I was making Bug’s Life I came up with the idea of doing something with cars. I grew up in Los Angeles. As you know, it’s car culture capitol. Cars are so important to everybody there, and my dad was a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership, so I’ve always loved cars. I was the exact right age when Hot Wheels came out in 1968. I’ve always loved Hot Wheels. I also thought at Pixar, we always choose the subject matter of our films that really lend itself to our medium of 3-D computer animation. I love matching the technology with the imagery in a way, and I thought that you’ve seen a lot of animated cars through the history of animation, but I thought we could really bring them alive with the chrome bumpers, the metal flake paint, the rubber tires, the glass, in a way that no one has seen it before. Just kind of feel like you can reach out and touch it. I thought this could be really something, something really special.”
The world of Cars creates another dilemma. Are there humans who drive them, as there were kids playing with the toys and divers kidnapping fish? “It was really just a choice of looking at cars being alive, and then we thought, ‘Well, we can either choose to tell a story with humans in it or do it without.’ We thought that doing it without might be a bit more of a challenge, but we kind of thought that it could be more fun that way, and so we chose to develop the story as a world where cars are alive and there’s no humans. We had a lot of fun thinking what humans need and what cars need and try to find the parallels, and the obvious one is a restaurant to a human is like a gas station to a car, so it became one and the same. We tried to give it the feeling of both. Tire store to a car is like a men’s shoe store, right? I don’t know if you noticed that when Luigi had McQueen try on the tires that there’s a patch of asphalt in front of the mirror so you can see how good the tire looks on the asphalt. We have fun that way in really thinking through this world, so every movie is different in what we do. We don’t have these global thoughts of stuff, but that’s why we thought with this movie it would be fun to do it without humans.”
Cars’ theme of slowing down to appreciate life was born out of a personal experience Lasseter had during the height of Pixar’s rise to Hollywood domination. “I was working non-stop through the ‘90s making Toy Story, Bugs Life and Toy Story 2. Each movie took about four years to make and I was starting one overlapping as I was finishing another. During this time, I also had four of my five sons, and by the end of Toy Story 2 where we started to go into this period of me being this creative executive working with these other guys, my wife Nancy, bless her heart, was so supportive, and she kind of thought she was getting her husband back after this. ‘Oh, you’re not going to be directing now’ and she just started seeing that no, my career is starting to do that. And she thought, ‘Be careful, John, one day you’re going to wake up and your boys will have gone off to college and you would have missed it.’ And she was right. So I decided to take the summer of 2000, after Toy Story 2 was completed, off. We bought a used motor home, piled all five boys, Nancy and I in it, and we went right out to the Pacific Coast, put our feet in the Pacific Ocean and we turned East. We had two months with no plan to get to the Atlantic, put our feet in the Atlantic and turn around and come back. And everybody thought we were nuts. ‘You’re going to be at each other’s throats.”’ But actually what happened is that we got so close as a family, and we loved it, and for the first time in my life, I started kind of thinking of just the day I was living, right then and there. I wasn’t even thinking what the next day was going to be, because honestly, we got on the road. ‘Where do you want to go? We’ll go this way’ and we just went. And I got back from that journey and I had changed. I said, because I knew I was doing a movie about cars as a character but I didn’t really know the story, finally I said, ‘That’s what I want the story to be about, what I just learned’ that the main character learns ‘the journey in life is a reward, about living kind of each day. You can have your career, you can have all this stuff, but it’s about having family and friends around you to just share in your ups and downs of your life.”
Cars will be released to theatres on June 9th.
For the trailers, posters, promotional images, movie stills, Super Bowl spot, clips, synopsis and additional movie info, go to the Cars Movie Page.
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