Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Pixar Edition. Cars 2

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: Cars 2

Year: 2011

Budget: $200 million

Box office: $562.1 million

Plot: Finn McMissile, a British spy, infiltrates the world’s largest untapped oil reserves owned by a group of lemon cars. After being discovered, he flees and fakes his death.

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Lightning McQueen, now a four-time Piston Cup champion, returns to Radiator Springs. However, Italian formula race car, Francesco Bernoulli, challenges McQueen to the newly created World Grand Prix, led by its creator, Sir Miles Axlerod. McQueen and his best friend Mater — along with Luigi, Guido, Fillmore, and Sarge — depart for Tokyo for the first race of the Grand Prix.

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Meanwhile, the lemons, who are led by weapons designer Professor Zündapp and an unknown mastermind, are secretly plotting to secure their oil profits by using an electromagnetic pulse emitter disguised as a camera. They plan to use the emitter to trigger and destabilize the use of Allinol, an environmentally friendly fuel that was created by Axlerod and is required for racers to use in the Grand Prix.

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McMissile and his partner Holley Shiftwell attempt to meet with American spy car Rod “Torque” Redline at a World Grand Prix promotional event in Tokyo, to receive information about the mastermind. Redline is captured and killed by Zündapp’s henchmen, but not before passing his information to Mater, who is then mistaken to be the American contact of Holley and Finn.

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At the first race, three cars are ignited by the camera. McQueen places second in the race after Bernoulli, due to Mater accidentally giving him bad racing advice shortly after evading Zündapp’s henchmen with help from Holley and Finn. Mater is soon abducted by Finn and boards his plane, where he helps to identify some of the information he was given.

After traveling to Paris to collect more information from Finn’s old friend Tomber, they travel to Porto Corsa, Italy, where the next race is being held. During the race, Mater infiltrates the criminals’ meeting, just as the camera is used on a few more cars, causing a multi-car pileup that allows McQueen to finish first.

Due to increased fears over Allinol’s safety, Axlerod lifts the requirement to use it for the final race. However, when McQueen decides to continue using it, the criminals plot to kill McQueen in the next race in London. This spooks Mater, causing him to blow his cover and allow him, Finn, and Holley to be captured.

Mater is taken to and tied up inside the clock tower of the Big Bentley. Mater learns that the camera did not function on McQueen, but the criminals tell him they planted a bomb in his pits as a backup plan, spurring him to break free and escape. Finn and Holley escape soon after, but realize that the bomb is on Mater’s air filter. Mater has already arrived at the pits when they tell him this, so he flees down the race course while McQueen chases after him.

Finn apprehends Professor Zündapp at the finish line. The other lemons arrive and outnumber Finn, Holley, Mater, and McQueen, but they are soon rescued by the arrival of the other Radiator Springs residents. Mater then uses evidence he has seen to reveal that Axlerod is the mastermind of the plot who placed the bomb on Mater. Mater forces Axlerod to deactivate the bomb, and he and the other lemons are arrested.

Mater receives an honorary knighthood from the Queen, while Sarge reveals that he changed McQueen’s fuel from Allinol to gasoline, explaining why the camera did not work on him. Finn and Holley ask if Mater can join them on another mission, but he declines, and then participates with the World Grand Prix competitors in a race at Radiator Springs.

Background: John Lasseter, the director of the film, said that he was convinced of the sequel’s story while traveling around the world promoting the first film.

“I kept looking out thinking, ‘What would Mater do in this situation, you know?’ I could imagine him driving around on the wrong side of the road in the UK, going around in big, giant traveling circles in Paris, on the autobahn in Germany, dealing with the motor scooters in Italy, trying to figure out road signs in Japan.”

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In March 2011, Jake Mandeville-Anthony, a U.K. screenwriter, sued Disney and Pixar alleging copyright infringement and breach of implied contract. In On July 27, 2011, the lawsuit was dismissed by a district court judge who, in her ruling, wrote that the “Defendants have sufficiently shown that the Parties’ respective works are not substantially similar in their protectable elements as a matter of law”.

Music: Cars 2 is the fourth Pixar film to be scored by Michael Giacchino after The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Up. It also marks the first time that Giacchino has worked with John Lasseter as a director, as Lasseter had been executive producer on Giacchino’s previous three Pixar films and that Lasseter has not worked with Randy Newman.

Songs include:

  • “You Might Think” (Cover of The Cars) performer by Weezer
  • “Collision of Worlds” sung by Brad Paisley and Robbie Williams
  • “Mon Cœur Fait Vroum (My Heart Goes Vroom)” sung by Bénabar
  • “Nobody’s Fool” by Brad Paisley
  • “Polyrhythm” Perfume

Voice Cast: Larry the Cable Guy, Owen Wilson, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Quaroni, Paul Dooley, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, Jenifer Lewis, Michael Wallis, Katherine Helmond, Darrell Waltrip, Richard Kind, and Edie McClurg all reprise their roles from the first film. Jeff Garlin, who appeared in other Pixar films, plays Otis. Eddie Izzard, who appeared in The Wild appears as Sir Miles Axelrod. 1 Although Red appears in the film, he has no speaking lines as his voice actor Joe Ranft passed away before the film. Paul Newman, who voiced Doc Hudson, also passed away. They decided that the character also passed away.

Michael Caine as Finn McMissile. 2 He started out in films like Zulu, The Ipcress File, Alfie, 3 The Italian Job, Battle of Britain, Get Carter, The Last Valley, Sleuth, 4 The Man Who Would Be King, A Bridge Too Far, Educating Rita, Hannah and Her Sisters, 5 The Muppet Christmas Carol, Little Voice, The Cider House Rules, 6 Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar, Children of Men and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Emily Mortimer as Holley Shiftwell. 7 In 2003, she won an Independent Spirit Award for her performance in Lovely and Amazing. She is also known for playing roles in Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl, Chaos Theory, Harry Brown, Shutter Island, Hugo, and the HBO series The Newsroom. She will appear as the adult Jane Banks in Mary Poppins Returns.

John Turturro as Francesco Bernoulli. 8He us known for his roles in the films Do the Right Thing, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Quiz Show, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Transformers film series, He won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series playing Ambrose Monk on Monk. Lloyd Sherr as Fillmore 9 /Tony Trihull. He is known for voice-over work in various video games, such as Cronos in God of War II, bounty-hunter Calo Nord in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Diego in Gothic 3 and EverQuest II. On television, he performed the roles of Vathek in W.I.T.C.H., Jibolba in the Nickelodeon series Tak and the Power of Juju, Everett in Barnyard and Back at the Barnyard, Father in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the Narrator in Random! Cartoons.

Thomas Kretschmann as Professor Zündapp. 10 He appeared in Stalingrad, The Pianist, Downfall, Valkyrie, and Baron Wolfgang von Strucker in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Bruce Campbell as Rod “Torque” Redline. 11 He is best known for portraying Ash Williams in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. He has appeared in many films such as Crimewave, Maniac Cop, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, The Hudsucker Proxy, Congo, McHale’s Navy, Escape From L.A., The Majestic, Sky High, and Bubba Ho-Tep. On television, he appeared in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Jack of all Trades, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Sam Axe on Burn Notice.

Joe Mantegna as Grem 12 He won a Tony award for his portrayal of Richard Roma in David Mamet’s play Glengarry Glen Ross. He appeared in Three Amigos, The Godfather Part III, Forget Paris, and Up Close and Personal. Since 2007, he has starred in the series Criminal Minds. He voices the recurring role of mob boss Fat Tony on the series The Simpsons. Peter Jacobson as Acer. 13 He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Dr. Chris Taub on House. He also starred on science fiction drama Colony. Other projects include Good Night, and Good Luck, Scrubs, CSI: Miami, The Lost Room, The Starter Wife, Transformers, and The Midnight Meat Train.

Jason Isaacs as Siddeley14/Leland Turbo. 15 He is best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series, Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot, and criminal Michael Caffee in the Showtime series Brotherhood. He currently plays Captain Gabriel Lorca, the commanding officer of the USS Discovery in Star Trek: Discovery and provides the voice of The Inquisitor, Sentinel, in Star Wars Rebels. Stanley Townsend as Vladimir Trunkov/Ivan/Victor Hugo. He has an extensive stage resume and appeared in the films In the Name of the Father and Florence Foster Jenkins. On television, he has appeared on Sherlock, Call the Midwife, Ripper Street, 24: Live Another Day, Galavant, and The Hollow Crown.

Michel Michelis as Tomber. 16 He is a French singer, musican and actor, appearing in La Vie de Bohème. Sig Hansen as Crabby the Boat. 17 The captain of the fishing vessel Northwestern, featured in each season of the documentary television series Deadliest Catch.

Franco Nero as Uncle Topolino. 18 He is best known for his breakthrough role as the title character in Sergio Corbucci’s Spaghetti Western film Django, a role that he reprised in Nello Rossati’s Django Strikes Again. Other roles include The Bible: In the Beginning…, Camelot, The Day of the Owl, The Mercenary, Battle of Neretva, Tristana, Compañeros, Confessions of a Police Captain, Keoma, Hitch-Hike, Force 10 from Navarone, Enter the Ninja, Die Hard 2, Letters to Juliet, and John Wick: Chapter 2. Vanessa Redgrave as Mama Topolino 19 /The Queen. 20 21 She won the 1984 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival for The Aspern Papers, and the 2003 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the revival of Long Day’s Journey into Night. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the title role in the film Julia. Her other roles include Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, Isadora, Mary, Queen of Scots, The Bostonians, Howards End, A Man for All Seasons, Blowup, Camelot, The Devils, Murder on the Orient Express, Prick Up Your Ears, Mission: Impossible, Atonement, Coriolanus, and The Butler.

The film also featured a number of celebrities from the world of sports in cameo roles such as Jeff Gordon, 22 Brent Musburger, 23 Colin Cowherd, Lewis Hamilton, and David Hobbs. 24

Where in the World is John Ratzenberger? John returns as Mack

Pizza Planet Truck: As a guest on the Tire Talk television show, and as a spectator near the end of the film

A 113: Mater’ license plate

Critical Reception: Reviews were mixed to say the least.

  • Reviewing the film for The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern wrote, “This frenzied sequel seldom gets beyond mediocrity.”
  • Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman said, ” Cars 2 is a movie so stuffed with “fun” that it went right off the rails. What on earth was the gifted director-mogul John Lasseter thinking – that he wanted kids to come out of this movie was [sic] more ADD?”
  • Leonard Maltin claimed that he had “such high regard for Pixar and its creative team led by John Lasseter” he said he found the plot “confusing” and felt that Tow Mater’s voice annoying saying that he’d “rather listen to chalk on a blackboard than spend nearly two hours with Tow Mater.”
  • Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the movie 3½ stars out of four, and said that “the sequel is a tire-burning burst of action and fun with a beating heart under its hood.” He also praised its “fluid script” and called it a “winner”.
  • Roger Ebert was the most effusive of the more positive reviews, writing, “At a time when some ‘grown-up’ action films are relentlessly shallow and stupid, here is a movie with such complexity that even the cars sometimes have to pause and explain it to themselves.”

Legacy: Cars 2 marks the first Pixar film not to be nominated for an Oscar. It is also the first Pixar film not nominated for Best Animated Feature since its introduction in 2001.

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Video Games: A video game based on the movie was developed by Avalanche Software and published by Disney Interactive Studios for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC and Nintendo DS on June 21, 2011.The PlayStation 3 version of the game was reported to be compatible with stereoscopic 3D gameplay. A Nintendo 3DS version was released on November 1, 2011, and a PSP version was released on November 8, 2011.

My take: Remember how I gave a stauch defense of the first movie? I will not be doing so here. The elements that made the first movie special are not present here and will not be seen until the third film, which I feel is a much more worthy successor to the original.

The good: I liked the spy stuff, it reminded me of the James Bond movies I grew up watching. I also liked the usual puns and visual jokes throughout the film. And the film looks spectacular, with an insane amount of detail.

The bad: Mater. Too much Mater. Sometimes supporting characters are best as supporting characters.

The ugly: The feeling this is a bit of a cash grab. I mean, you can’t blame a company for wanting to make money. As far as I am concerned this is just another episode of Mater’s Tall Tales, and not canon.

Next Week: We head back to the Hundred Acre Wood