Cars 2 - Director John Lasseter
Director John Lasseter © 2011 Disney/Pixar, Photo by Deborah Coleman

Two-time Academy Award winning director, John Lasseter, creatively oversees all films and associated projects from Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.  He made is feature directorial debut in 1995 with Toy Story, for which he received a Special Achievement Oscar, and went on to helm A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2 and Cars.

Cars 2 marks Lasseter’s highly anticipated return to the director’s chair. In it racecar Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and his pal, the incomparable tow truck, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy), head overseas to compete in the World Grand Prix which will determine the fastest car, but Mater unintentionally gets mixed up with espionage, putting himself, Lightning and their friends in danger.

What prompted you to make a sequel to Cars?

Cars 2 - Poster
Teaser Poster © 2011 Walt Disney

At Pixar, we will only do a sequel if we have a great story idea and we always strive to be different than the original. If you look at the three Toy Story movies, they’re completely different in theme from one another, but they all take place in Andy’s room and around the world of toys.

What’s so different about this movie is that the world of Cars 2 is as big as the world that you and I live in.

This movie is vastly different than Cars in nearly every way, yet it’s still a part of the world of Cars.

What made it so much fun were the settings all over the world, the glitz, the glamour, the cool hipness of the European cities and Japan, the whole spy genre, the type of racing that they do, the type of race cars that are there.

How did you come up with the story for Cars 2?

Cars 2 - Owen Wilson
Director John Lasseter at the long lead press day © 2011 Disney/Pixar

It was sparked by the idea of taking Lightning McQueen and Mater overseas. As I was traveling around the world doing publicity for Cars, I had cars as characters on the brain.

I was constantly laughing to myself when I was in all these different countries, imagining what Mater would do in these different and foreign situations, in Paris maneuvering around the giant roundabouts, driving on the wrong side of the road in London, being lost in Tokyo with no street signs in English.

This experience served as one of the inspirations for Cars 2.

How does the friendship between Lightning McQueen and Mater evolve in Cars 2?

They have this deep friendship and it’s the emotional core of this movie. This special friendship gets tested in a very different and interesting way. It’s about how the strength of a friendship can be tested.

What may be solid in one place can appear much different in another. [If you] put a friendship to the test under a different set of circumstances and in a different setting – how true and deep is this friendship, really?

Why did you decide to do Cars 2 in 3D?

Cars 2 - Owen Wilson
Director John Lasseter © 2011 Disney/Pixar

I love 3D probably more than any other director. I took my wedding pictures in 3D! Our short film Knick Knack that we made in 1989 was made in 3D before there were any 3D theatres out there. And I always felt our medium of computer animation is perfectly matched to it.

Cars 2 it really made with 3D in mind. And 3D for a Pixar film is not about all the coming-at-you stuff, it’s just about making the world that much more believable and immersive, like a window into that world. You get invested in it.

How do you personally relate to the characters in Cars 2?

There’s a little bit of me in the Cars characters like Lightning McQueen. The first story was really about me discovering that the journey in life is the reward. Working, working, working, and meanwhile, I have five sons, so I learned to slow down and enjoy living every day to the fullest.

On this movie, I relate to Mater. During the research trip for Cars 2, I went to the Italian Grand Prix in Milan. I dressed as I usually do (in a Hawaiian shirt), but it’s Milan, the home of Armani. It’s like modern art and I waked in and I felt like Mater.

What’s your favorite car of all time?

Cars 2 - Emily Mortimer and Director John Lasseter
Emily Mortimer, who voices Holley Shiftwell, and Director John Lasseter © 2011 Disney/Pixar

Well, I was born in 1957 and we were a Chevy family, so I would say my favorite car, I don’t have one yet; I’m hoping one day to get one, is a 1957 Corvette. I think it’s great. I do own, I think, the most beautiful car ever designed, which is a 1952 Jaguar XK120, which is gorgeous.

How do you feel about Pixar’s 25-year milestone this year?

Well, I just can’t believe it’s been 25 years and we’ve completed our 12th movie. It’s kind of neat – Cars came out on the 20th anniversary, and Cars 2 is coming out on the 25th.

I’m very, very proud of Pixar, very proud of all our films and all the characters. What means the most to me are the people, all the families, all the moviegoers that we’ve entertained. That is why we do what we do, pure and simple. It’s about making the highest-quality films.

Not just animated films, but films that truly, deeply entertain audiences of all ages, of all genders, of all nationalities. That’s what we set out to do.

We just make the kind of movies we like to watch.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.