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Seriously, what were you thinking? Why did cars 2 have to go down that road?

Mater, Lightning McQueen and all the other zany guys from the first movie have embedded themselves firmly in my son’s subconscious. He thinks ‘ I am speed ‘ every time he picks up his shiny red replica Lightning. He smiles at the first glimpse of Mater’s buck toothed, tongue dragging noggin. The morality that was interwoven throughout the first movie found a home in my son’s head. A simple character arc that showed the main protagonist’s arrogance gave way to humility, where winning came second to being a nice guy. Mater in all his southern clichéd hillbilly stupidity, demonstrated the kind of honesty and integrity that a child can identify with: no complex issues, just black and white morality. It was also laugh out loud funny and both witty and childish enough to captivate and amuse an audience of all ages.

Of course it was beautiful to look at, all Pixar films are. Damn, when I was growing up cartoons didn’t look that.

I can, sort of, forgive the merchandising. If something is that good, why wouldn’t the audience want to take a bit of it home?

My son is two and a half. He views the world through what he’s been taught, what he’s seen and his over burgeoning hormones as he pushes boundaries and tests limits. Thomas the tank engine (I’m now an expert) , Cars and Finding Nemo are his current favourites. He is also a massive fan of being read to: Room on the broom, Super smelly alien and Snail on the tail of a whale are currently topping his favourite book charts.

Being a little boy, he ticks many little boy boxes: crashing and bashing his toy trains, running in circles around the house at speed, hitting to get a reaction or to illustrate the excitement he’s feeling. It’s only a matter of months before his knees are constantly scuffed and mud has a permanent place on his fore-head. But he also experiences and displays profound sensitivity to situations, people or things (objects-toys) around him. Things can scare him, amuse him, enthrall him, bore him or make him cry. He had emotionally connected to Mater and friends: they smile, he smiles. Mater’s fear of the ghost light -in the Mater’s tales episode -was so profound that we had to turn it off after a few minutes as the wee guy couldn’t bear to experience the same anxiety. (to date we’ve never watched it all the way through as he’s not quite ready to cope with the storyline.

The excitement that he displayed was clearly palpable when he saw Lightning and Mater on the box of the Cars 2 DVD. Unlike Finding Nemo or Lady and the tramp, which have the ability to nail a 2 year old’s bum to the floor. Cars 2 left the little future animator bored. Bored because the script was too complicated. Bored because the action was too frenetic. Bored because the story itself was too convoluted and the relationships amongst the characters had changed from the ones he had connected with in the first movie. Relegating great characters to nothing more than mere cameos or a cynical attempt to increase merchandising rights.

A real shame.

I don’t want this to be in HR terms: a shit sandwich, but I love Pixar, my son loves Pixar. You produce, direct, animate beautiful, thoughtful and witty films. They are gob smacking-ly well done. So when the scripts were being reviewed for Cars 2, what were you thinking? Why would you dismantle, your own hard work?

You have a responsibility to preserve the connections that your audience has made with your characters. I understand completely that not every movie is suitable for very young minds: The Incredibles (my favourite) is way over the wee guy’s head at the moment. But ‘Cars’ was clearly aimed at a young audience so why the dramatic change in tone, style and content?

Guns! You put guns in the second movie. What? Violence! you put violence in the second movie. What? What are you planning for Cars 3? Mater’s recollection of the Vietnam war ? Or Lightning’s war on terror?

You were clever, you were witty, your references to the spy genre and particularly James Bond were funny (to me, I’m in my 30’s ), you produced a beautiful, to look at, movie and you managed to spectacularly miss the point. If You want to demonstrate how talented your team are and how brilliantly you can include modern pop culture references within your movies. Make a new one. Don’t take something my son loves and project adult themes and a horribly misguided alternative fuel story on to it.

I’m surprised the film’s sponsor wasn’t Esso. If your company loses sight of its audience and its’ technical prowess becomes more important than its’ story telling or morality, then eventually what made you brilliant will merely be a foot note.

The common cock-up with sequels seems to be to make them bigger, louder and better when actually it’s the essence of the first film that needs replicated. When you emotionally invest in any fictional character, you are at the mercy of its creator. You want the creator to be respectful to the reasons you invested in the first place.

I don’t want my son being shown glamorised Hollywood violence. A time will come when it is sadly unavoidable but not at the moment and certainly not through Mater, Lightning and company.

” oh look, Iggle piggle comes with a Uzi.”

The confused message about green fuel was lost in an attempt to make witty and knowledgeable in-jokes towards the car industry, motoring and motor sports. Everything that I/my son loved about the first movie was notable in its absence from the second movie. I’m sure in a few years he’ll love the spy storyline and the action but today he found it boring. He kept asking where the tractors were? A real highlight from the original.

Maybe, my son and I weren’t the target audience: a two-year old and a grumpy.But if that’s the case you missed a trick, we had already bought into the franchise by loving the original and I control the purse strings when it comes to buying that all important Lighting McQueen merchandising. The captivating ability of your movies cannot be understated ,the little future Jacques Cousteau came back from the beach recently with a Nemo stone (his words). That has now taken pride of place in his pocket whenever he goes to the beach. A relief really, as a two-year old’s pocket can become a bit of a lucky dip of found stuff and things that squelch between your fingers when you put your hands in to check. Nemo is in my son’s imagination, what I don’t want is him finding or even looking for a ‘Mater’s machine gun’ stone on the beach any day soon.
2013-01-30 20.54.162013-01-21 12.00.07
The Nemo stone and its finder

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