The Magical World Of Disney #74: Cars

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Cars is a 2006 American computer-animated comedy-adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed and co-written by John Lasseter, it is Pixar’s final independently-produced motion picture before its purchase by Disney. Set in a world populated entirely by anthropomorphic cars and other vehicles, the film stars the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman (in his final non-documentary feature), Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Michael Wallis, George Carlin, Paul Dooley, Jenifer Lewis, Guido Quaroni, Michael Keaton, Katherine Helmond and John Ratzenberger. Race car drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mario Andretti, Michael Schumacher and car enthusiast Jay Leno (as “Jay Limo”) voice themselves.

Cars premiered on May 26, 2006 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina and was theatrically released on June 9, 2006 to mostly positive reviews from critics. It was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Animated Feature, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. The film was released on DVD on November 7, 2006 and on Blu-ray in 2007. The film was accompanied by the short One Man Band for its theatrical and home media releases. Merchandise based on the film (including scale models of several of the cars) broke records for retail sales of merchandise based on a Disney/Pixar film, bringing an estimated $10 billion for 5 years after the film’s release. The film was dedicated to Joe Ranft, who was killed in a car accident during the film’s production.

A sequel, titled Cars 2, was released on June 24, 2011, and a spin-off film titled Planes, produced by DisneyToon Studios, was released on August 9, 2013, which was followed by its own sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, released on July 18, 2014. A series of short animated films titled Cars Toons debuted in 2008 on Disney Channel and Disney XD. A third film in the franchise, Cars 3, is scheduled for release on June 16, 2017.

Cars was that first little misfire from Pixar creatively, a lot of people saw Cars as essentially being inferior to some of the excellent work that they had put out before this and while this movie certainly isn’t god-awful, it did feel like a little disappointment.

Mainly in the story department, the script for this felt way too predictable, most notably Doc Hollywood but also felt very cliché-riddled as a film itself goes. That’s where a lot of the movie really does stumble is in the story department. There’s also too many jokes on the level of Sharktale where they are just trying to throw in puns and pass them off as jokes.

On top of that, the characters are also pretty clichéd too, you’ve got the cocky hero who needs to learn his lesson, his sidekick buddy, his mentor with a troubled past, his love interest, his enemy, and a cast of colorful side characters.

To their credit though, the voice actors are perfectly casted for these roles, Owen Wilson works as Lightning McQueen, Larry The Cable Guy surprisingly gets some good chuckles as Mater, something that never usually happens with him, Paul Newman is really good as Doc Hudson, Bonnie Hunt works well as Sally, Michael Keaton has a fun villain role as Chick Hicks, Richard Petty shows up as The King, you’ve also got Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Jenifer Lewis, and Paul Dooley working as the rest of the cast.

The animation is really good here, the landscapes and how they capture the spirit of the old Route 66 is pretty impressive to look at. That opening race was nicely animated too as well as the final race too, even the way The King gets banged up towards the end was pretty nicely done from an animation standpoint.

Speaking of that, as much as the story is very predictable and clichéd, it still manages to find those heartfelt moments that aren’t forced or too overly clichéd enough to still manage to get an impact from you, the viewing audience.

Even the music is not too bad, the score by Randy Newman is still very good and as much as I hate country music, I did like the Rascal Flatts’ cover of Life Is A Highway.

Overall, Cars is a competently made movie, it’s got nice animation, a good voice cast and solid music but its’ story and jokes need to be written better. Pixar’s first real movie misfire but not a terrible one by any means…when we get to Cars 2 on the other hand…

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