Early Buzz: Pixar’s Cars 2

You’ve probably noticed the influx of Pixar postings every-time the Emmeryville animation studio produces a new film — yup, I love Pixar. But the one film in the entire Pixar catalog that I don’t love (not to say that I don’t like it, it’s just a few steps below the rest) is Cars. To me, it almost feels like one of the movies Dreamworks Animation had produced at that point of time. And if it weren’t for the heart of the Route 66 storyline, I probably would’ve enjoyed it a lot less.

The film wasn’t considered a huge box office success, grossing $461,981,604 worldwide — less than Pixar films of previous years like Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo (which in comparison made $867.8 million worldwide). But the merchandising for the film has brought in billions in sales, which is why Disney green lit a sequel and began construction on a huge CarsLand expansion of the Disney California Adventure theme park.

Last year we heard mumblings that Cars 2 was having massive story problems. John Lasseter, director of Toy Story 1 & 2, A Bug’s Life, Cars, and now the chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, had been brought back to Pixar to help fix the issues. The film’s release date had been pushed back a couple times and Disney has since confirmed that Lasseter will be the credited co-director of Cars 2. But don’t let that information scare you. Any employee of Pixar will be the first to tell you that every movie they’ve made has been a disaster at one point, that the key to their success is reworking and reworking a project until it becomes something great. In fact, this is what happened with Ratatouille and Toy Story 2, both of which are incredible films.

But now someone claims to have screened an early cut of the film, and has posted a review online. What did they think? Find out after the jump.

I must first give you a disclaimer: the film is obviously not finished, and in computer animation, that can mean a lot. The audience was told that the movie was “steeped in post-production” with “about 70% of the movie was incomplete.” This means that while there were a few completely animated scenes, “the majority of the animation consisted of animated storyboards, flat animation and completed scenes with incomplete dialogue.” Pixar has seven months before the movie will hit theaters, and while that is a considerable amount of time, it doesn’t allow for major revisions in a computer animated film (in WALL-E they rushed to almost completely reanimate the entire sequence in the trash compactor, and made a few other tweeks). But you can usually get a good sense of where the story is and isn’t working.

Here are some excerpts from the review on CC2K:

“The movie is about on par with the original 2006 film Cars, which I must admit is probably my least favorite PIXAR film, but loses itself by shying away from the small-town nostalgia that made the original great.” … “In terms of what I enjoyed, much like the original Cars, the side characters are a delight. In this case there needed to be a lot more of Finn and Holley, the two British spies.” … Another high point is the jokes, something that is actually an upgrade from the original. The original film didn’t really seem like a comedy; here the movie is all about making people laugh. The script is surprisingly adult and it’ll be interesting to see how many of the jokes will stay in … The sets are also beautiful in this, even for flat drawings! The movie goes to several different places throughout including Japan, Italy and Rome and all are animated to perfection. The Japanese section had the most completed animation and the attention to detail is PIXAR quality (i.e. spectacular). It’ll be wonderful to see again once the movie is complete to see how Italy looks.”

“As much as I wanted to like the movie though I found myself tuning out quite a bit. The problem is our star. If you don’t enjoy Larry the Cable Guy or you didn’t like Mater in the original Cars you’ll be bored every time he’s on screen, which is the whole movie! The other characters save the film but Mater’s bumbling idiot wasn’t funny in the original and here he’s playing the typical dumb American mistaken for a secret agent that’s been done better.” … “There’s no focus on McQueen, despite it being his race that gets Mater into the film’s plot, and everyone else including Sally are relegated to making cameo appearances. The bigger plot and bigger locations keep the cast out of Radiator Springs for 95% of the movie and there’s no nostalgia or charm in the cold world of Europe. Cars 2 plays like an animated Austin Powers or any other sequel that gets a bigger budget and thinks everything should be “more!” Cars 2 is good, but it never feels PIXAR good. At times the movie plays like a sequel made to capitalize on the merchandise sales and goodwill of the original. The side characters are highly entertaining but this should be retitled “Mater” as there’s no connection to the original characters.”

You can read the whole review on CC2K. Here’s the official plot description from Disney:

Star racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and the incomparable tow truck Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) take their friendship to exciting new places in “Cars 2” when they head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. But the road to the championship is filled with plenty of potholes, detours and hilarious surprises when Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage.  Torn between assisting Lightning McQueen in the high-profile race and towing the line in a top-secret spy mission, Mater’s action-packed journey leads him on an explosive chase through the streets of Japan and Europe, trailed by his friends and watched by the whole world. Adding to the fast-paced fun is a colorful new all-car cast that includes secret agents, menacing villains and international racing competitors.

Cars 2 comes to theaters June 24th, 2011

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