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Review: Cars 3 Pays Homage to the Past and Looks to the Future

Brian Fee, Cars 3, Review

Posted by Simoa • June 15, 2017

The Cars trilogy is quite unique among franchise films. The first film in 2006 chronicled Lightning McQueen’s growth from arrogant rookie to humble racer with a deeper understanding of the road. Five years later, Cars 2 shifted gears and protagonists entirely. This time Mater was thrust into the spotlight, the unlikely hero of an international spy adventure. Now Cars 3, from director Brian Fee, has centered #95 again. It echoes the first film in a beautiful, wholly distinct way.

Lightning McQueen (voiced dependably as always by Owen Wilson) is older now – a fact no one refuses to let him forget. A new generation of racers have arrived on the scene, and with their advanced training technology, begin to phase out the veterans. It’s a rapid process as these young cars replace all the older ones, baffling Lightning as he watches all his friends retire. Constantly asked if he’s considering retirement himself, his defiant refusal leads him to declare, “I decide when I’m done.” No one is pushing Lightning McQueen out of the sport he loves, not even ultra-fast Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer).

Storm dominated the previews and trailers for this film. He’s less of a rival and more of a threat to Lightning. It’s as if McQueen can’t even compete with this brazen hotshot. If you compared the Lightning of the first Cars with Jackson Storm, you would find that they’re both incredibly cocky, but Jackson is more insufferable and unlikable by far. Lightning and his rival Chick Hicks (who makes an appearance in this film, voiced by Bob Peterson this time), both traded insults and boasted of their skills in Cars. Jackson Storm cuts a little deeper. For him, it’s not only about winning – it’s about pushing these older cars off the road and reminding them at every turn that they don’t belong anymore.

This is what our beloved #95 is up against. Can he master the new technology? Will he make a grand comeback? Is he finished or is he only just beginning?

A devastating crash is the turning point, forcing Lightning to retreat in seclusion to Radiator Springs and reflect on his options. He decides that retirement is still out of the question, and with some much needed encouragement from Sally (Bonnie Hunt), sets out to begin training. Lightning gets a brand new, state of the art training center, complete with the very same racing simulator that all the rookies train with. His new sponsor (say goodbye to Rusteze!) is the shrewd Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who is later revealed to be more concerned with building the McQueen brand.

His new trainer is bubbly and irrepressible Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonso), as sunny as her bright yellow paint.

Cruz is an experienced technician and trainer, eager to work with her idol, whom she dubs her senior project. (Lightning is old and never hears the end of it). Her senior project proves to be a little too impatient to use the new equipment – which results in damage to the simulator. What’s more, Sterling doubts whether Lightning can race at all. He’s prepared to just market the McQueen legacy but Lightning sets an ultimatum. He’ll train with Cruz – the old fashioned way – for the Florida 500. Whatever the outcome of that race, he still decides when he’s done.

Cars 3 is really not your typical comeback story. From the previews, it looked as if Lightning would need to adapt in order to keep up with this new crop of rookies. This is a story about learning to evolve and it offers a grounded, realistic approach to dreams, quite a mature outlook for a film series that’s been derided as mere kids stuff.

The futuristic tech, as enticing as it looks, takes a backseat to the traditional. Lightning and Cruz actually race outside as opposed to the simulator, driving on dirt and sand. This film isn’t anti-technology, but it does caution against relying on it too much. As we once learned from The Incredibles, “there’s no school like the old school.”

The old school figures prominently in Cars 3, with its frequent flashbacks to Lightning’s late mentor, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman). Hearing Doc again, seeing him briefly, is one of the most emotionally fulfilling aspects of this latest installment. His spirit is truly alive in this film and his role lends added meaning to the story, as he inspires Lightning on his journey. Hud as he’s called (perhaps a reference to Newman’s 1963 film, Hud?), was once the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, the greatest ever. McQueen discovers that he’s at the same point in his career as Doc was following his career ending crash. Doc never retired of his own free will; he was forced out and told to make room for the younger cars. Lightning is determined to avoid that fate. And avoid it he does.

There is a moment in Cars 3, one so glorious, that it caused the audience at my screening to erupt into cheers and applause. I never would have thought it possible, that any film in this series could elicit such a response. For many of us fans, Pixar films are still excellent, including the less critically acclaimed. Once considered the best in American feature animation, the studio is now underestimated, because of its sequels, because Cars 2 is their unforgivable misstep, according to many. This trilogy has drawn tepid responses at best and flat out antagonistic ones at worst. But Cars 3 more than justifies its existence, and not only because of that pivotal scene.

Do not underestimate Pixar.

And do not underestimate Cars 3! A recent IndieWire feature on animator Jude Brownbill highlighted the film’s theme of female empowerment. Cruz isn’t merely there to guide Lightning to victory. She’s got a story as well, a sobering one that wakes McQueen up to how much he’s taken for granted. Making Cruz such a central character further solidifies Pixar’s commitment to bringing well rounded female characters to the screen.

Cars 3 boasts gorgeous animation and art work as well. Some might think it’s not one of Pixar’s most visually inventive films, but glossy paint jobs that gleam, rigging character models of cars so they’re just as expressive as human characters, is really no small feat. Even the designs are impressive, with little touches of human characteristics. When looking at McQueen and Storm side by side, their contrast is quite stark; the rookie is youthful and sleek, much more angular in appearance.

We’re treated to lovely scenery too, a dazzling array of color palettes, bright and warm hues, sparkling water surfaces, and thrilling action set pieces that set the heart racing.

Brian Fee delivered on his promise of making this film return to its roots. It showcases a reverence for the culture of racing and cars that was so keenly, vividly realized in the original film. Randy Newman’s score is another throwback, transporting us to this weird, wonderful universe. The complaints that the world of Cars lacks logic strike me as very odd. Character is what counts, and the filmmakers have always imbued these anthropomorphic cars with abundant appeal and personality.

Cars 3 is an unexpected film, just brimming with heart and passion. As I said, it’s really not a typical comeback story. It’s something much more inspiring.

See it in theaters this Friday!

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Review: Lou is Compassion, Lost and Found

Cars 3, Dave Mullins, Lou, Review, Short Film, Shorts

Posted by Simoa • June 15, 2017

A lost and found box on the school playground looks very ordinary on the outside, but it’s teeming with life and magic within.

Like most of Pixar’s canon, Lou personifies an inanimate object, or in this case, a handful of lifeless, every day objects. All the lost toys and clothes are assembled into a playground guardian, who is otherwise invisible beneath. Lou is one day challenged by a bully who swipes the belongings of the other children. What begins as a funny battle between Lou and J.J. (the bully), evolves into a tender, moving story about compassion. Bullies hurt others because they’ve been hurt themselves. But rather than simply excuse J.J.’s behavior, Lou offers him the opportunity to give and receive compassion.

A wordless short, Lou is one of the studio’s most innovative creations. As Dave Mullins revealed at the press junket last week, the character was animated entirely by hand, with “no computer shortcuts or simulations.” The animation here is truly impressive, as Lou morphs into a variety of clever shapes and disguises.

You can catch a glimpse of Lou’s immense charm in the exclusive clip below.

See Lou with Cars 3 this Friday!

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Get connected to the newest Coco trailer!

Coco, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • June 7, 2017

“No living person has ever visited their world. Until now.”

This is the story of young Miguel, who journeys to the land of the dead in Lee Unkrich’s Coco. The newest trailer for the film debuted today, and in Pixar’s usual custom, packs a lot of story and detail in less than two minutes. Although new information hasn’t been revealed and some earlier footage is recycled, we are treated to a glimpse of Miguel’s family and a possible connection to his singing idol, Ernesto De La Cruz.

The gags in the trailer are fairly typical, but Pixar usually saves the juiciest and funniest moments for later ones. So we can expect tons of new character appearances (like Miguel’s guide in the spirit world, Hector) closer to the release date. As always, the world of Coco looks to be one of Pixar’s most ambitious and immersive yet! The sets created for the land of the dead are simply breathtaking.

We’ll be eagerly awaiting more photos, posters, and trailers as Coco‘s November 22nd release date draws near.

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Cars 3 interview with story team

Bob Peterson, Cars 3, Interview

Posted by Simoa • June 1, 2017

Do you spend a lot of time pondering the logistics of the Cars universe? While the filmmakers at Pixar have never addressed most of the burning questions surrounding these films, the writing team for the latest installment, Cars 3, did! The full interview can be found on Slash Film, along with plenty more excellent content on the film and its development.

These interviews are always great fun to read, allowing glimpses into Pixar’s story process and giving fans the opportunity to gain insight into each stage of production. They always prove to be illuminating, and we’re grateful whenever the directors, animators, and writers share behind the scenes facts. And hearing from our favorite Pixarians just sweetens the deal!

The Cars 3 writing team includes everyone’s favorite versatile Pixar voice, Bob Peterson, story supervisor Scott Morse, Mike Rich (credits include Finding Forrester, The Rookie, and Secretariat), and Keil Murray.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

Slash Film: So was it always a Lightning McQueen comeback story where he has to find himself as the world changes around him?

Kiel: I think comeback came with [Mike].

Mike: Yeah, it did come with me. It was always McQueen searching for himself, because he’s confronted with that first moment where he’s going “Oh my gosh, I can’t do this forever. I don’t want to retire. I do want to come back. I want to stay competitive.” But he just didn’t know how to get to the answer of that question. Worse yet, he was making the mistake of just trying to do it just like the [younger racers]. “I’ll get fast again. I’ll do what they’re doing. And I’ll be fine.”

Scott: He’s looking outward and not inward for the answers.

Bob: Mike, you had a one sentence sort of summation which is interesting, in reference to comeuppance, which was “life worth living.”

Mike: Oh, yeah. It’s just kind of a theme of a life worth living is a life that’s constantly evolving. And if you stop or just try and look back, or worse yet, try to go back, then it’s not a recipe for happiness.

Bob: We’ve seen a lot of comeback stories, so we strive to make an emotional and unique one that you may not expect.

On whether the new generation of hot shot racers who threaten Lightning McQueen was at all mirrored at Pixar:

Bob: No, we’re very nurturing and accepting of these young people coming in. Like I always say, there’s no way as a story editor I’d get hired now. You hope that they’re much better. We embrace the technology and all that. The trick for us is to not feel threatened and to welcome in this young crop of kids who have such a developed sense of art and cinema. It’s a wonderful thing. It’s not quite so much what we used to guide us in this film. It mainly grows out of McQueen unable to accept the truth that he’s a little older and obsolete and the rest of the world reminding him of that and forcing him to deal with it. So you want a nice crop of very young cars who are fast and very contrasted to him. Even Cruz, who’s with him, is very technological and is fast, and is just different. He’s from an older generation, and it’s all gotta point him into learning what he needs to learn. So that’s why they’re there, to really throw him off balance.

Finally, how are cars born in the films?! Is there religion in the Cars universe? Bob Peterson offers a very simple and succinct answer.

Bob: Luckily we get to spend our time thinking about these stories which are very much universal human stories, and if we find ourselves pondering this kind of stuff, then we’re probably not doing our job very well.

North America, get ready to gear up! Cars 3 opens nationwide on June 16th.

 

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App-Enabled Ultimate Lightning McQueen by Sphero

Cars 3

Posted by Simoa • May 28, 2017

Lightning McQueen doesn’t only come to life onscreen. Now the legendary race car zooms right into your home thanks to toy and robotics company, Sphero. Star Wars fans will be familiar with the BB-8 app-enabled droid Sphero launched last year, and now they’ve announced an app-enabled Ultimate Lightning McQueen! This is not merely a talking toy car, but a brilliant replica with animated eyes, animatronic mouth and emotive suspensions.

“From the beginning, we wanted to make Ultimate Lightning McQueen feel as real as he does in the film. In order to create a scaled down version of his big personality, we worked closely with the team at Pixar to ensure we were getting his nuances just right – such as leaning into turns and expressive facial and body movements.” -Paul Berberian, CEO of Sphero

The Ultimate Lightning McQueen app is available on iOS and Android devices. Fans can play games and enjoy a variety of interactive features. You can even watch Cars 3 with Lightning and he reacts to the movie in real time!

Product Details

  • Driving: emotive suspension allows Lightning McQueen to move like a champion
  • Drifting: drift and do donuts with authentic movement
  • Reactive touch: master Ultimate Lightning McQueen‘s latest moves with a simple tap
  • Build strategy: match wits and sharpen your skills through a pit stop inspired mini game
  • Acting studio: build custom scripts that bring existing animations to life

 

Ultimate Lightning McQueen is available for purchase on Sphero.com and Disney Store for $299.99.

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Newest Pixar in a Box story lesson!

Pixar in a box

Posted by Simoa • May 11, 2017

Pixar’s collaboration with Khan Academy is truly valuable for learners and fans of all ages. The storytelling courses offered are free and provide a rich opportunity for fans to gain coveted knowledge about Pixar’s famed approach to the art of story. The newest lesson is focused on story structure. Watch the brief clip below for a preview.


Story Structure is the third unit in the course, which can be found here. Be sure to sign up if you haven’t already!

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Welcome to Upcoming Pixar’s new writer, Joanna!

Pixar Planet, Upcoming Pixar

Posted by Simoa • May 7, 2017

Ever since I joined Upcoming Pixar in 2014, I’ve been so excited to contribute to this long running site, bringing you all the latest news and updates from our favorite animation studio! Adding Nia’s own brilliant perspective as my cowriter was a great move in the right direction, and now we’re welcoming our third writer! Her name is Joanna. Here’s a brief introduction:

Hi, I’m Joanna and I discovered my love for Pixar after seeing Up in 2009. I have now lost count of the number of times Pixar has brought a smile to my face. Since 2012, I’ve run a Pixar tumblr (musicalhog.tumblr.com) where I make gifs and share my enthusiasm with fellow fans. I’m looking forward to contributing to the site and getting to eagerly await Pixar’s upcoming movies in good company!

I have absolutely no doubt that Joanna will be a valued addition to Upcoming Pixar. Nia, myself, and all of us here are so eager to have her join. We know you will be too!

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Don’t fear failure: newest Cars 3 trailer

Cars 3, Trailer

Posted by Simoa • April 26, 2017

The latest trailer for Cars 3 debuted today, and it is spectacular! We’ve come to expect only heart pounding thrills with each new teaser, along with the central conflict.

 

Perhaps as a nod to all the Cars merchandise out there, this trailer opens with various Lightning McQueen branded products. As a sleek silver car informs him, his legacy is under threat with each new accident Lightning suffers in his races. The question of retirement ever looms.

But as we know, Lightning McQueen refuses to retire. This is where Cruz Ramirez comes in. She’s his trainer and is determined to help him recapture some of that former glory. Meanwhile, rookie racer Jackson Storm acquires more wins and more time in the spotlight. It’s clear he poses another threat to the McQueen legacy. Lightning will never be as fast, but he can outsmart Jackson.

Cruz also tells him something that will define his journey and the film.

“Don’t fear failure. Be afraid of not having the chance.”

On June 16th, we’ll finally watch Lightning McQueen take his big chance!

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Don Rickles, beloved voice of Mr. Potato Head, dies

Don Rickles, John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, rest in peace, Toy Story

Posted by Simoa • April 7, 2017

Don Rickles (May 8, 1926 – April 6, 2017)

Don Rickles, the famous and lovable “insult comic” has died at age 90. Although his career began in the 1950s, with supporting roles in films, he is primarily beloved by Pixar fans as Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films. Rickles died of kidney failure, as reported by the LA Times.

Lee Unkrich shared his memories of Rickles, and noted with fondness the insults he received while they worked together.

A moving tribute by John Lasseter was also shared by Pixar earlier today.

Don Rickles truly was a member of the Pixar family. Just try to imagine the Toy Story films without the singular presence, wit, and directness of Mr. Potato Head. His impact on other comedians and actors can’t possibly be overstated. He will be dearly missed.

We want to extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends during this time.

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Cars 3: Driven to Win

Cars 3, Video Game

Posted by Simoa • April 5, 2017

Buckle up, Cars fans! A new video game for the upcoming Cars 3 has geared into action.

Driven to Win looks like an exciting new addition to the world of racing, offering up plenty of thrills just in time for the film’s June release. We’re sure that avid Pixar enthusiasts will love this game. It features new characters from the film, including Jackson Storm and Cruz Ramirez, along with Lightning McQueen and Mater. The preview clip showcases some impressive stunts, which no doubt match the intensity of the film.

This is your chance to become a racing champion!

Cars 3: Driven to Win is not yet rated but is available for pre-order.

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