Four-wheeled jinks around the world

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2011, 12:00am


No one does animation quite like Pixar. Since the original Toy Story was released more than 15 years ago, the studio has consistently pumped out monster hits that have garnered praise among critics and a loyal fan base. They don't do too shabbily at the box office either.

So it must come as a surprise that aside from Toy Story only one other Pixar animation has been given the sequel treatment.

'I grew up loving cars and the Southern California car culture,' says director John Lasseter, who is chief creative officer at Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. 'My dad was a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership, so Cars was very personal to me - the characters, the small town, their love and support for each other and their way of life.'

Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) has been invited to the first-ever World Grand Prix. It's a three-race circuit with stops in Tokyo, Italy and London. The winner is crowned world's fastest car.

Lightning's best friend is a tow truck called Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) He tags along to lend a hand. Yet his boorish antics make him stick out like a sore thumb. '[They] would be thrown into these great dramatic situations in which Lightning might be comfortable with the lights and the international attention, but it would be brand new to Mater,' Lasseter explains.

Meanwhile, mad scientist type Professor Zundapp (Thomas Kretschmann) launches a hostile takeover of the oil market. A case of mistaken identity lands Mater in the middle of the plot to stop Professor Zundapp, as he's recruited by British spies Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer). Mater is torn by the dilemma: should he save the world or help his best bud win the Grand Prix?

The filmmakers have spared no effort to stay true to different car cultures explored in the film. Character modelling manager Jay Ward, a former mechanic and vintage-car collector, was in charge.

'When you go to Japan, you don't see an American Toyota Camry because they don't drive them over there,' Ward says. 'They drive the Toyota Majestic. These are the kinds of details we really wanted to pay attention to so that the cars could help tell the story of where we are.'

Cars 2 has 145 unique characters and an additional 781 variations of them. That's a total of 926 - surely a record even by Pixar standards.

Cars 2 opens on Thursday