Bonnie
I always think this movie missed out on an opportunity to actually follow up its premise and create an actual world of cars.

Imagine what kind of world you could get if you got a few dozen artists to sit down and really ponder and figure out what a world built by cars would look like. And I don't mean pointless crud like "Wouldn't it be cute if they slept in garages?", I mean a serious look into what cars could realistically make with their limitations. What they'd consider actually necessary (no farms, Pixar). How they'd actually go about doing crud instead of trying so hard to parallel the real world. 

Instead they just sort of went "If cars made the world, it would have more puns, and those little trails planes make would look like tire treads because we think we're being cute". 

There was real potential for the thing to be a creativity marvel. You could probably even figure out a plot that's actually tied into them being cars and isn't constantly compared to Doc Hollywood using the world as a springboard! [smile_zpsf797a80b]

I'll always think they kind of took the lazy route.



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HCK
Although Cars is my favorite Pixar film, I can agree that it and it's sequels are the most flawed and unimaginative movies made by Pixar, so please pardon my hypocrisy. The bottom line is that Cars was a movie that could have been told no differently if the characters were humans.

We're two movies and several shorts into this franchise, yet audiences everywhere still don't understand the fundamentals or infrastructure of how the Cars world works. Even little questions like "How are they born?" or "Why do they need to eat if they run on gasoline?" have no answers. Pixar's desire to make the Cars world "cutesy" makes the world seem more like it's from a children's Saturday morning cartoon than a Pixar film. 

The brilliance of other Pixar films like Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, and others is that their plots are so imaginative and unique that they really can't be told in any other environment or circumstance. Aside from a few small creative aspects (like the lemon mafia), Cars is bereft of the kind of uniqueness expected from Pixar. 

You're probably wondering that if I think such things about Cars and its sequel, then why do I like those movies so much? In essence, I'm a sucker for cuteness and automobiles. And as an animation fanatic, I found a lot of charm in these films.

But if I were in charge of Cars, I would made it a lot more realistic and grounded. It should have attempted to answer the questions everybody has been asking since 2006. To show the world from a unique standpoint, I think it would be neat to intertwine the plot with a sort of Cars world hierarchy, with the ultra-luxurious vehicles at the top, and construction and commercial vehicles at the bottom. The main characters would find themselves having to cross the country. As they travel, the audience would be able to see the ins and outs of how the Cars world works as they pass through, such as farm vehicles harvesting food (the cars' gas tanks would be separate from their stomaches) or construction vehicles building the cities for the cars, among others.
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Gray Catbird
I think that the world of Cars has a fundamental characteristic which makes it by design necessarily less grounded than Pixar's other films, namely that there are no humans whatsoever.

When anthropomorphizing, there's always a balance to be struck between human and non-human for it to be both believable and interesting. In all other Pixar films (except to some extent, A Bug's Life), the fact that there are humans enables the non-human world we're exploring to remain pretty grounded (e.g. Toys are built by humans). In the Cars world, because there are no humans, cars have to do everything humans do; they have to be the ones repairing cars, painting them, filming them, sponsoring them, shooting bullets at them...

HCK wrote:
But if I were in charge of Cars, I would made it a lot more realistic and grounded. It should have attempted to answer the questions everybody has been asking since 2006. To show the world from a unique standpoint, I think it would be neat to intertwine the plot with a sort of Cars world hierarchy, with the ultra-luxurious vehicles at the top, and construction and commercial vehicles at the bottom. The main characters would find themselves having to cross the country.

That's a really fascinating idea! I had never thought about it that way.
With the way the world of Cars is currently built, questions about their origins, their history, or even their social order (what are the consequences of having a predetermined form and function...) are a no go, and it's one of its biggest vulnerabilities. Maybe if the world had been built based on these questions, it would have been more appealing to a wider audience, or have a better story? A bit like Zootopia? It took the concept of animals living together at face value, actually made it central to its plot and setting, and ended up being one of the best movies of the year for me. Who knows, maybe the primitive concept of Cars of focusing on a small hybrid car would have been more interesting?...

Thinking about this makes me realize that, especially story-wise, the world of Cars has a tendency to car-ify human situations ("car-ification" being literally the term used during the development of Cars 2) rather than "humanize" non-human, car situations. The car aspect is more of a theme, a flavor... Especially in Cars 2, or more so, the Cars Toons. I mean, that's literally the premise of the Toons. And yeah, that's not what other Pixar films do in general.

Having said that however, in my opinion the first Cars still did a pretty good job at building a world of talking cars, and I am satisfied with the result. It's the sequels I think went down by quite a few notches. After seeing all those cars dressed as humans, going as far as to wear hats (I hate that so much)... I kinda miss the old days where they lived in garages, were not implied to take anything but oil, and going on a date = going out on the road. Luigi sells tires, not noodles. Sheriff does not wear a cop hat. I keep a glimmer of hope that Cars 3 brings back a bit of that.
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Bonnie
Gray Catbird wrote:
I think that the world of Cars has a fundamental characteristic which makes it by design necessarily less grounded than Pixar's other films, namely that there are no humans whatsoever. When anthropomorphizing, there's always a balance to be struck between human and non-human for it to be both believable and interesting. In all other Pixar films (except to some extent, A Bug's Life), the fact that there are humans enables the non-human world we're exploring to remain pretty grounded (e.g. Toys are built by humans). In the Cars world, because there are no humans, cars have to do everything humans do; they have to be the ones repairing cars, painting them, filming them, sponsoring them, shooting bullets at them...



That's kind of the thing, though. They don't NEED to do most of that stuff. Even painting is purely a cosmetic thing that cards don't NEED anymore than a human needs makeup. They just do all of this stuff because we do. It's like if you made Ratatouille but with the plot of Brave; the rats don't need to be doing archery and partaking in Scottish politics, someone just made the asinine decision to choose a plot where they do. 

And I'd place the problem less on no humans more on cars just being a very bad thing to try and anthropomorphize. They have one purpose, and they're unable to do anything but that one purpose. Movies like Zootopia and Kung Fu Panda get along fine with no humans because it's really easy to believe the animals could create the buildings and objects on their own, take care of themselves on their own, etc. They have hands (and wings and tails and stuff). Even with something like Robots, which has the same "Where'd they come from if there are no humans?" question floating above it at least still makes sense because the robots are capable of doing stuff on their own. 


Personally, the way I'd handle it is I'd have the world and plot revolve around how limited they are and how they themselves don't really know where everything (themselves included) came from. Because I imagine the answer to "what could cars actually make with their limitations?" would be "Not much". Have the movie be a quest to find answers, or the story of the one car who keeps his hopes up in a dim world while everyone else is dour, or the car who's so sick of the monotony of being stuck doing nothing but driving that they risk serious, irreversible (because they realistically couldn't do anything) damage by leaving the road, or something.
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Andrew Wellman
I recently rewatched "Cars" for the first time in years. My recollection of the film was that it was a weak premise stretched especially thin by leisurely pacing. This time, however, watching it on Blu-ray, I enjoyed it a lot more. Part of it was watching it in context with other Lasseter films, but I also think that the bonus features on the blu-ray also make it much more explicit exactly what Lasseter was trying to do with this film.

First of all, while I'm prone to overanalysis myself, I don't think that Lasseter is interested in bringing inanimate object to life--whether they be toys, cars, lamps or unicycles--for the purpose of expressing any sort of allegory. Lasseter keeps it siimple: These cars have personalities, and that these personalities reflect the type of car that they are. As Woody screamed at Buzz, "YOU ARE A CHILD'S PLAYTHING!" Nothing more, nothing less.

What I now sense about "Cars" is that Lasseter intended for the location of Radiator Springs to be as important a character in the film as any of the vehicles (and again, the bonus features make this manifest.) To that extent, I think he succeeded admirably, and watching--and accepting--the film on that level made the film a much better experience. In fact, given the extent to which the computer animation medium allows the animators to create environments, it's suprising that there aren't more locations within the Pixar universe as detailed and as intricately designed as Radiator Springs; prior to "Cars", the most memorable location was probably the Monsters, Inc. door vault, or Syndrome's lair, but both of those locations were more memorable for their visual scope than for their atmosphere. "Cars" is definitely more leisurely paced during the Radiator Springs scenes, but this is entirely intentional; one constant factor in the scenes taking place away from Radiator Springs is how everything is always in motion--the cars are always driving and the clock is always ticking. The next time I watch "Cars", I need to pay attention to see whether there are even any clocks in Radiator Springs--I'm guessing not, as McQueen seems to be the sole character concerned about what day it is, let alone what time it is.

I have the "Cars 2" blu-ray and hope to watch it ASAP (basically the next time my wife and I can watch together.) I remember liking it more than I liked "Cars", and I wonder now if my feelings will change, as most of it does not take place in Radiator Springs. We shall see.

I will admit that I was taken aback to learn that Lasseter is not directing "Cars 3". (I've been actively avoiding spoilers, so I don't want to know any plot points.) Some have characterized the Cars franchise as a vanity project of Lasseter's, and I'm inclined to think that his particular sensibility would be critical to any sequel. At the same time, Lee Unkrich certainly exceeded all expectations for "Toy Story 3"; more to the point, even without having seen the film, it's not unreasonable to anticipate a built-in critical backlash to "Cars 3", regardless of who is directing.
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