An induction into the world of C.H.R.O.M.E. for Cars 2
Working in the entertainment press industry, on occasion I'm invited to rather cool special events, but rarely am I tagged to attend a super secret spy conference.
I had a little info about what it meant that I had been recruited in to C.H.R.O.M.E, but the CARS 2 characters gave me some indication of what I had in store for me.
I was out of my shuttle and stepping through the doors of a San Francisco Art Institute. Press had been flown in from all over the world, and no one knew what exactly to expect.
The floor was lined with a gorgeous collection of classic cars. Not your typical '60s Mustangs, but true, exquisite classics. Ferraris, Jaguars, Mercedes, Aston Martins, many fifty, sixty years old, but each looking brand new.
The event is a hybrid press party for both the release of CARS 2 and its attached video game, which was playable on a host of flatscreens set up all around the room. We had to surrender our electronics and were led into a theater area.
Proceedings were kicked off by Lindsay Moran, an ex-CIA operative who wrote a book about her time with the agency, and spent a long while educating us in all the various ways you're trained to be a spy. There are defensive and aggressive driving courses, learning to wear disguises and use aliases, learning how to spot a tail, withstanding abuse and interrogation. By the end, I contemplated giving her my resume it sounds so damn cool. By the end, I thought the lights were going to go off and we'd all have bags thrown over our heads and have to fight to the death in some sort of spy metagame, but not so.
Rather we were treated next to the presence of one John Lasseter, Pixar creative head and director of TOY STORY and CARS. He was wearing his signature Hawaiian shirt, albeit one peppered with CARS 2 characters. He informed us that we'd have the pleasure of seeing a few unreleased clips from the movie, and though I can't show them to you, I can describe them the best I can.
We were treated to the first few minutes of the film, which has Michael Caine's Finn McMissile infiltrating an oil rig run by the villains of the film, the lemon cars of the world including Yugos, Gremlins and the like. It's like if James Bond had to complete a mission using ONLY his spy car and its gadgets, and we saw everything from grappling hooks to machine guns to oil slicks in McMissile's assault on the compound.
Lasseter informed us that the genesis for CARS 2 was actually from a cut scene from the original. Lightning and Bonnie were supposed to have a first date at a drive-in, and the movie playing was going to be a spy flick starring a car named McMissile. That scene got cut, but the idea lived on.
The second half of the film, the World Grand Prix, was inspired by Lasseter's time traveling the world on the CARS press tour, and everywhere he went imagining the sorts of trouble Mater would be getting himself into in all these strange places.
In that vein, he showed us the second clip, which had Lightning beginning the Prix's first race in Tokyo with Mater and his old friends as his pit crew. He's up against the cocky Francisco Bertoulli, an Italian F1 car, and though we only saw the intro to the race, it's clear the action in this film is going to be leagues above the first.
Lasseter explains that CARS 2 is by far Pixar's biggest film in terms of scope. Sure, they've had to create some big environments in the past, be they an epic spacecraft or Paradise Falls, but nothing like what's seen in CARS 2. They had to create models for three different entire cities where the three branches of the race take place, and that's not counting intermediate locations like Radiator Springs or airports.
And that's just where the final scene took place, where Finn and Mater are chased around an airport by baddie cars. Mater has been mistaken for an American secret agent, and McMissile does his best to escort him to safety using even more of the spy gear built into him. An hour of a car wearing a boot paving a road this is not.
At the end of the clips, Lasseter was visibly annoyed by a woman's question in the front row who questioned whether this film was actually for kids due to all the "scary" scenes that involved chasing and gunfire. Lasseter, like myself, rolled his eyes and said that all kids would love this film, and all children's movies have some scary parts in them, be it Sid's toys in Toy Story or the donkey transformation in Pinocchio.
The rest of the roundtable went smoothly, with Pixar animators and designers brought on stage to field questions about the movie and game. We learned that Mater's experiences in the world of the Grand Prix were inspired by Lasseter's own fish out of water moment at a Milan F1 party full of supermodels, where he strolled in wearing a Hawaiian shirt and suit coat. At that moment, he WAS Mater, and asimilar scene is in the film.
When things concluded, I strolled over to a console to check out the game, which seemed to be the main reason we were supposed to be there. I played all its modes, from race, to battle race, to arena battle and more. Pixar worked incredibly closely with Avalanche Studio, Disney's video game arm to make sure that everything fit well within the CARS universe.
Many voice actors reprised their roles, and the team seemed to genuinely have a lot of fun putting the thing together, as the subject matter of the film easily lends itself to a game format. It's a title aimed directly at children, which you could tell by the 50cc race speed that wasn't able to be cranked up for more seasoned racing game players. There's no online, but I could easily see kids having a great deal more fun with it in four player splitscreen. Not too many titles carry that format anymore, but it's good to see my childhood hasn't completely been erased in the industry.
So all in all an interesting event, and the game and movie look like a fun time for kids everywhere. I've always found CARS to be the least "adult" of Pixars movie, and six minutes of the sequel haven't convinced me otherwise, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, nor will it not be enjoyable. It's just not quite as...deep, perhaps as other Pixar films in my estiamtion.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go deliver my resume to the CIA. They need bloggers, right?
|Extra Tidbit:||Good lord do I want an old Aston Martin.|