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On Friday, Pixar released “Cars 2,” which promptly raced to the top of the box office. As it did so, however, the film spread a message of green technology, electric vehicles, and alternatives fuels which may result in criticism similar to that of Pixar’s hit 2008 film “WALL-E.”
“Cars 2” takes on the environment again, and with technologies that are currently in vogue now. For example, Miles Axlerod, voiced by Eddie Izzard, is an ex-oil baron (and SUV). He’s converted himself from gas to electric and now pushes the clean-fuel alternative lifestyle.
In addition to his own electric vehicle conversion, Axlerod has a new alternative, green fuel, Allinol, which is designed to be an environmental alternative to gasoline. Naturally, it wouldn’t be a standard animated film without some conflict, and in “Cars 2,” the problem is someone trying to discredit Allinol (sounds like something Exxon, Chevron, or BP would do in real-life, doesn’t it?).
Director John Lasseter puts it this way:
“With ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and alternative fuels and all the things going on, I kept thinking, well, in their world, it could be neat to have sort of big oil vs. alternative fuel. It makes logical sense for a world where cars are alive.”
When Pixar’s “WALL-E” was released in 2008, its environmental message was decried by some on the Right as “leftist propaganda about the evils of mankind.” WALL-E was basically a love story, following a robot named WALL-E, who is designed to clean up a waste-covered Earth far in the future. It’s that waste-covered Earth, obviously destroyed by humanity, which drew the criticism.
However, despite the calls of “propaganda,” that’s not what Lasseter and crew are doing.
“We don’t make message movies. We weave things in that are going on, that you’re familiar with in the world, and kind of bring it into our stories.”
“Cars 2” producer Denise Ream agrees that the idea is not to produce propaganda, but a fun story that sells:
“It really is all about, OK, how can we go about telling the most interesting story possible? But hey, if people come away with the sense of we need to treat the Earth better, I think that’s great, because I’m all for it.”
Star Owen Wilson, who plays protagonist race car Lightning McQueen:
“I remember in the ’70s, the gas lines. We’re still dealing with a lot of those problems, so anything that can sort of get the message out in an entertaining way, that we need to be looking for some solutions to some of these problems, I think is good. Because the way we’re doing it now obviously isn’t working, which is why you see Detroit and all these big companies shifting focus now to more efficient cars.”
“Cars 2” has been critically panned, with the worst reviews of any Pixar film thus far. That said, although Rotten Tomatoes currently has a rating of 33 percent for “Cars 2,” viewer reviews are at 73 percent, showing once again that public reaction to a movie doesn’t necessarily agree with critical reaction. The $25.7 million the flick took in on Friday also shows that.