When the newest Disney/Pixar film Cars 2 made its debut in theaters over the summer, its critical reception wasn’t quite what Pixar Animation Studios was used to. Having consistently produced critically acclaimed films since the debut of Toy Story in 1995, Cars 2 was the first film that did not receive an overwhelmingly positive reception, having earned only a 38% rating on rottentomatoes.com. In an article recently published by the New York Times, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios John Lasseter has now opened up about the film’s critical reaction, and continues to defend Cars 2.
Lasseter, who described the pressure of directing a big-budget sequel as “like being a trapeze artist with a death wish,” responded to claims that Cars 2 had been forced on Pixar by Disney in an attempt to increase merchandise sales, saying:
“I don’t know what to say about that. Well, I guess I do. It’s not true. It’s people who don’t know the facts, rushing to judge. I recognize my place in the Walt Disney Company, but my job, my focus, my deepest desire is to entertain people by making great movies, and we did that with ‘Cars 2.’ ”
Lasseter also continues to defend Pixar’s emphasis on story and desire to challenge themselves creatively:
“This is not an executive-led studio. We are honest with each other and we push each other. No amount of great animation is going to save a bad story. That’s why we go so far to make it right. When a lot of money is at stake, as there is with these films, there is the tendency to try something you know you can land. We simply don’t do that.”
While Cars 2 did recieve a mixed critical reception, some critics also responded positively; Justin Chang of Variety commented that the film is “The rare sequel that not only improves on but retroactively justifies its predecessor.” The film also grossed $551 million worldwide, 20% more than the original Cars film in 2006. Lasseter originally got the idea for Cars 2 while overseas during the promotional tour for the first Cars film, and as a lover of car culture since he was a teenager, Lasseter’s passion for the Cars universe is clearly apparent. When asked about his response to the film’s negative reviews, Lasseter comments:
“I typically don’t read the reviews. I make movies for that little boy who loves the characters so much that he wants to pack his clothes in a Lightning McQueen suitcase. I reached deep into myself and saw what this film was about, and I think it’s clear that audiences have responded. It’s is a very, very special film to me.”
Cars 2 will be released on DVD and Blu-ray November 1.