John Lasseter

John Lasseter

After completing Cars, John Lasseter knew he wanted to tell another story with these characters that both he and audiences had come to love. And the ideas for Cars 2 were taking shape long before production on the film began.

"During ‘Cars,’" says Lasseter, "we were developing a sequence in which Lightning McQueen was going to take Sally, the Porsche, on a first date. And it was going to be at a drive-in movie, because that’s very car-oriented.

"Then we thought, ‘What movie is playing?’ I love spy movies and I thought it would be so much fun to see what a spy movie would be in the car world. We came up with this character named Finn McMissile who was going to be starring in this little movie-within-a-movie.

"I am a huge fan of spy movies," continues Lasseter. "I grew up on the TV show ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ and my five sons and I love watching the spy movies together. We must have seen the ‘Bourne’ series hundreds of times.

"And so even though the sequence changed and Lightning and Sally went cruising on their first date instead, I never forgot the idea of Finn McMissile and the spy movie. I thought, ‘There’s a lot of potential there.’"

Then in 2006, while on a global publicity tour promoting the international release of Cars, Lasseter knew that these culturally diverse foreign countries would be the perfect setting for the Cars characters to become embroiled in a spy story.

"It’s exciting to take Mater around the world and put him in situations that are totally unique to that country," says Lasseter. "This is where the spark of the second part of the story came from as I was traveling.

"I had all these characters in my head, and I found myself constantly laughing, imagining what Mater would do in these different situations. How would he handle driving on the wrong side of the road in London?

"What would it be like to have Mater lost in the maze of streets in Tokyo, with no English street signs? And how would he function in Italy, where the traffic signals are just a mere suggestion of what you might want to do?"

Apart from the chance to take the characters all over the world, and explore the world of international racing and espionage, the thing that appealed most to Lasseter was the heart and humor inherent in the characters and the story.

"The humor in ‘Cars 2’ comes from the personality of the characters," says the director, "and seeing them in interesting, fish-out-of-water situations. But at its emotional core, the movie is about Lightning McQueen and Mater’s friendship, which gets tested in a very different and interesting way.

"It’s about how the strength of a friendship can be tested. What may be solid in one place can appear much different in another. Put a friendship to the test under a different set of circumstances and in a different setting - how true and deep is this friendship, really?"

Lasseter is particularly fond of Mater. "Mater is such a special character; he’s honest and completely straightforward and tells it exactly like it is," says the director. "He’s just fun and lovable.

"When a character as innocent as that discovers that people are not laughing with him, like he’s always thought his entire life, but laughing at him, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see him become immediately and more realistically aware and learn the truth about himself - or what he thinks is the truth about himself.

"It’s very touching, because through his own journey, his friendship with Lightning McQueen is eventually made even stronger. They both realize that, you know what, Mater is who he is, and it’s not Mater who has to change, it’s the world that should change."

Says co-director Brad Lewis, "Working with John is always inspirational. He’s got such a vivid imagination, and you can just tell there are these huge worlds that live in his brain.

"In the case of ‘Cars 2,’ the characters are so special to John. We have a great history together and a great friendship. It was a joy and a fantastic learning experience to work side-by-side with him on this film."

Producer Denise Ream says it was a dream come true to work with Lasseter and not just for her. "Since John finished directing ‘Cars,’ Pixar has grown significantly, so a lot of artists here hadn’t had the opportunity to work with him in that capacity before. That’s been really wonderful," says Ream.

"It has been a real treat seeing John directing the artists and animators and working with all the different departments. As a director, he is very specific, he knows what he wants. He has passion. It’s fun working with someone that has such passion for the medium. And let’s face it, he’s an amazing storyteller.

"He had this movie in his mind, and it’s been fun to help bring that vision to the screen. It’s been challenging, but because he’s been fun to work with, it’s just made it enjoyable for everyone."

Cars 2 is released 22nd July.