I almost feel silly asking “What went wrong with Cars?” after it made over $60 million on it’s opening weekend. I mean come on! $60 million is a HUGE number by just about any ones standard. But apparently not for Pixar. A 77% on Rotten Tomatoes is great for just about anyone… but once again… apparently not for Pixar.
After it’s opening weekend, Disney stock actually DROPPED. Why? Because their newest film (Cars) didn’t live up to expectations. $60 million and a 77% rating wasn’t up to expectations?!?! Well… not when you’re Pixar.
In a sense, Pixar has become a victim of their own masterful genius. Up to date (and many would argue Cars included) everything that Pixar has touched has turned to solid gold. Every single project has been a classic, and for a while it seemed like each new film surpassed the last. That’s wonderful. But then what happens when you release a film that’s just “Really Good” instead of “Instant Classic”? Stocks drop, people whisper, critics complain.
Had any other studio put out Cars with a $60 million opening weekend and the vast majority of critics giving it positive reviews, then stocks would be skyrocketing, the industry would be all abuzz about this new studio, and dare I say even more critics would give it positive bump… because their expectations were a bit lower.
But it wasn’t any other studio… it was PIXAR. From artists we expect art… but from gods we expect worlds. And perhaps that is the way it should be.
So what went wrong? Well, to put it simply, the very thing that makes Pixar gods, is the thing that lead to Cars. Risk.
One of the things that makes Pixar so special is the fact that they have never feared risk. Who wanted to see a film about bugs??? Who on earth thought a father/son movie with animated fish would gain any sort of an audience? No one. No one that is, except Pixar. The directors had a passion for those stories, and Pixar let them run with them… and look how those turned out.
The same dynamic was at play with Cars. Who wants a story with talking cars? It was a risk, but they were passionate about the story and decided to once again take a risk. Bravo to them for doing it! But eventually, when you take lots of risks… you’ll hit a triple instead of a Home Run. And so Cars, which has never had a lot of buzz or anticipation ends up being a wonderful triple… but that’s a let down when everyone was expecting The Mighty Casey to knock one out of the park.
I still remember seeing the first few trailers for Cars. It was the first time the marketing for a Pixar project hadn’t impressed me. Talking cars… that’s all I saw. No glimpses of the story or what could make this film special. It was just talking cars zipping around a race track. Most people had the same reaction that I did… and for the most part our excitement level never went much higher than that. I still gave Pixar the benefit of the doubt… and rightfully so… they are Pixar.
So did the concept of talking cars in a magical talking car land really work? No. But still they managed to pull a great story and entertaining movie that just about everyone likes. But when you’re Pixar… people don’t want art. They want worlds. And so they should.