A blog about movies and filmmaking.

The Rationalization of Pixar’s CARS, Without Ever Seeing It

In Animation, filmmaking on March 8, 2011 at 8:59 am

I don’t know if this has been talked about before – and knowing the internet, it probably has – but what with the sequel coming soon (though honestly that’s just a coincidental tie-in and not the reason for this article at all), the idea struck me the other day why and how the movie CARS, created by PIXAR, deserves to exist. And better still, how a world populated solely with vehicles, works.

Mainly that was my big issue with the Owen Wilson, Paul Newman movie from 2006, was the whole premise was stupid. Sure, Pixar’s made movies about inanimate objects or creatures talking many times before. But at least those items – be they fish, toys, and bugs – have some of the requisite pieces to communicate. Like mouths, and something like hands to actually create a world with buildings and gas stations. Cars don’t. So, I’ve never seen the movie. Honestly, I have no desire to ever really visit it, or it’s upcoming sequel.

But the other day, driving down a back-road, a vehicle passed me that brought it all home on how CARS in-fact makes sense and while not inciting my desire to see it, I’m at least no longer upset that it exists. That vehicle?

A Napa Auto Parts Truck.

Why does this singular vehicle represent the change of opinion on a movie? Well, it first struck me how it’s funny that Napa still uses trucks that have hard hats on top of their cabs. Sort of anthropomorphizing the truck, by making it look like it’s off to work no matter where it goes. It also adds a charm to the otherwise monotonous vehicle, there’s something fun about seeing a large, fiberglass hat on top of a car.

But then my mind wandered back to my own childhood – sort of like the evil film critic in RATATOUILLE – when I did indeed have a Napa truck toy. My own personal truck with a cap on it’s cab. It was always silly, plus it was totally the wrong size to play with any of my other cars. Then it hit me. CARS works, because it is essentially the play world that we as children created with our Hot Wheels, or their lesser (but much cheaper) brethern Matchbox Cars. When we were little and played with these cars, chasing down the Ferraris or 57 Chevy’s with our police cars, or commandeered dune buggies; there were never people to place in these vehicles.

Sure we pretended that there were. I remember swerving a car under the dangling fabric near a couch cushion, to only use two of my fingers to represent a man running away from the car and possibly hijacking another. But, in the end, there were only ever cars. These cars had the personalities, story-lines took place solely with cars presenting the action. We even staged intricate car crashes once those toys came out with the damaged doors built in that flipped over when impacted – or after a certain time, just became the default setting because whatever latch had wore down.

All this happened within the instant that it took for me to recognize that Napa parts truck and for it to pass me on that lonesome back-road. Where for that one moment, the only two figures that mattered were that Chevy S-10 and the Ford Taurus, I was driving.

Somehow that created a peace within me, and made me feel that Pixar’s track-record still stands fully intact. It brought back the nostalgia of my long-ago childhood and the joy I had playing with my brother and friends. Even made me remember that I had that stinking, old Napa Auto Parts truck toy and how I’d spend hours trying to pry that annoying hat off the top. Things that Pixar does so well.

I’ll still probably never watch CARS, but at least now I can understand how it can exist.


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