Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) return for Cars 2.
Pixar is revving up for Cars 2, opening June 24, and to get moviegoers all geared up for a rendezvous with these beloved characters on wheels, we were invited to visit the studios in Emeryville, CA, and chat with Larry the Cable Guy (voice of Mater), Emily Mortimer (voice of British spy-in-training Holley Shiftwell), and director John Lasseter.
In the new film, Mater and Lightning McQueen leave Radiator Springs behind to compete in the World Grand Prix. While Lightning is busy focusing on defeating his fierce international racing competitors, Mater gets mixed up in a top-secret spy mission. Glitzy shots of Japan, Italy, Paris, and England serve as the backdrop for this story of friendship, fueled with all kinds of spy genre action.
Q: John, how did you come up with moving all the cars into this spy world?
Lasseter: I have five sons, and we probably watched the three Bourne movies about 25 times. We love those, so I thought that could be really fun. I kept thinking, if I get a chance to do another Cars, I would like to take [Mater and Lightning] around the world. We [had] an international press junket in Barcelona, Spain, for Cars, [and it] was at a Formula 1 race. I thought, I'd love to get those kinds of cars and international racing in the movie…. I had a strong desire to start Cars 2 out as far away from what you would expect to find [in] a sequel to Cars. The first thing you see is a boat out in the middle of the ocean, and a car on a boat that's looking for a car. I just love that notion of taking it as far away as you can.
Q: Emily, what did you think of the voice sessions?
Mortimer: You sort of have to do it much more than you first think. That was my problem at first, giving these subtle little readings, and [then] they say, "No, no. It's got to be bigger." It's almost like being on stage and really sort of throwing your voice and just committing to something quite strong. You do a lot of gesticulating because you're trying to get it right….You become very animated doing it.
Q: How much interaction did the two of you have?
Larry: We've dated for many years. [laughs]
Mortimer: No, today's the first day we met! But I felt like I knew him from having seen [Cars] with [my son] Sam so many times. [John Lasseter] will [voice] Mater in the room, and I can tell he's really feeling it. He really has such a deep love for that character.
Larry: [John] knows what I sound like. So when he hears her talk, he'll know exactly what pitch, how she ends the sentence, and if it's going to work with what I'm going to say next. He's just really good at that. Hence, the private jet. [laughs]
Q: What are your favorite Pixar movies or characters?
Larry: It's a tie between The Incredibles and Up.
Mortimer: Nemo, because Sam was about 18-months-old when Nemo came out and we put him in front of it way too much. Embarrassingly enough, one of his first words was Nemo. [laughs]
Lasseter: On this movie, I kind of related to Mater, because [on] our first research trip for Cars 2, Brad Lewis and I went to the Italian Grand Prix in Milan….we were invited to the Red Bull party at the Milan Museum of Modern Art. I got dressed like I normally do – exactly how you see me. And I walk in and [say to myself], it's Milan, John! It's the home of Armani, models, couture and modern art.... I felt like Mater. [laughs]
Q: How good are you at driving?
Larry: My wife thinks I suck.
Mortimer: I'm not allowed to drive. I borrowed a friend of mine's car…. Within the space of a morning, I had three tickets…I got two tickets at the same time – I was on my phone, [and I wasn't wearing] a seatbelt. And then I parked somewhere wrong. So I'm banned from driving.
Q: Emily, how did your experience voicing Sophie for the English version of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle compare to Cars 2?
Mortimer: I kept hearing this high, little Japanese voice doing this brilliant performance, but it was just so not me….That was a bit confusing, but [Cars 2] was – although hard not to have a visual thing in front of me – it was more collaborative and organic. You felt involved from the very beginning… from the very nascent early stages… where they [even] video you in the first few sessions [to develop their early animations].
Q: John, with the recent earthquakes in Japan, how do you feel about the reception of the film there?
Lasseter: I'm so proud of the film, and it is a true, deep love letter to Japan. I'm kind of happy we've made it this way. I've been there so many times. I really, really love that country. My heart just breaks like [everyone else] for what's happened there. I'm so excited for them to see this…and the same frankly goes for each of the places we go to [in the film] – Paris, Italy, England. I've been [to all of them] so many times and I love each of those places.
Q: Pixar films just seem to get better and better. What's the next frontier?
Lasseter: It's just going to keep going. Frankly, from Toy Story on, I've gotten that exact same question. What's so exciting is where our tools are. It gives us as artists the ability to kind of [develop] more and more what's in our mind and what we [can] conceive. It's so much fun because there's no holy grail. The holy grail is making great stories.
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