July 27, 2011

Action-Packed Tale of Espionage in "Cars 2"

International espionage. Global racing. Friendship. Each theme was to play a role in Disney/Pixar's new animated adventure “Cars 2,” and co-director Brad Lewis, screenwriter Ben Queen and the Pixar story team, were charged with finding just the right mix for the story.

In the film, star racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and his best friend, the incomparable tow truck Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy), jump-start a new adventure to exotic new lands stretching across the globe.

The duo are joined by a hometown pit crew from Radiator Springs when they head overseas to support Lightning as he competes in the first-ever World Grand Prix, a race created to determine the world’s fastest car. But the road to the finish line is filled with plenty of potholes, detours and bombshells when Mater is mistakenly ensnared in an intriguing escapade of his own: international espionage.

Mater finds himself torn between assisting Lightning McQueen in the high-profile race and “towing” the line in a top-secret mission orchestrated by master British spy Finn McMissile (voice of Michael Caine) and the stunning rookie field spy Holley Shiftwell (voice of Emily Mortimer). Mater’s action-packed journey leads him on an explosive chase through the streets of Japan, Italy, France and England, trailed by his friends and watched by the whole world. The fast-paced fun includes a colorful new cast of cars, boats, trains and airplanes — complete with menacing villains and international racing competitors.

“This is not a parody of a spy movie,” says co-director John Lasseter. “This is a spy movie, but with cars as characters. It’s a different genre that gives us an opportunity to play with so many gadgets. The little boy in me came out in this movie more than any other movie. Let’s have fun with this world. Let’s have fun with these gadgets.”

Says Queen, “When you see that opening sequence with Finn McMissile, it’s played totally straight and serious, with real jeopardy in the scene. And then the very next scene is in Radiator Springs, and it plays as comedy. What works beautifully is that the juxtaposition of those two things immediately sets up the tone of the movie. It’s a spy thriller, but with emotion and comedic undertones. For the rest of the movie, we thrust you into this mile-a-minute story and genre.”

For Queen, who had coincidentally written and produced a television series for Fox called “Drive” about an illegal cross-country road race with characters that were externalized by their cars, “Cars 2” was his first writing assignment for animation. “The first ‘Cars’ movie solidified the friendship between Mater and Lightning, which was something that audiences really related to,” says Queen. “What we wanted to do was take that out of Radiator Springs and put it into an environment where they were both fish out of water. It’s a real test of the strength of this relationship.”

“We came to the conclusion that their friendship is really the crux of the movie,” says story supervisor Nathan Stanton. “We figured it’s about four or five years after the first movie, so Lightning and Mater’s bond is firmly established. Here you have this very well-known, famous racecar, whose best friend is sheltered and naive to the world outside of his small town. While they’re best friends in the safety net of Radiator Springs, that friendship hasn’t truly been tested yet. We loved the idea of exploring what happens when there’s a fracture of their friendship.”

Lewis recalls, “I think from the very beginning, people were excited about the movie. But they were wondering, ‘Can you really pull all that off? Can you have a large-scale international-spy and conspiracy movie that’s also a racing movie? We bit off a huge story, and the fantastic thing is that everyone at Pixar poured their heart and soul into making it. And I think the result is one of the most beautiful films that’s ever been made.”

Opening across the Philippines August 24 in IMAX 3D, Digital 3D and regular format, “Cars 2” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.

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