What Went Wrong With Cars?

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.

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50 thoughts on “What Went Wrong With Cars?

  1. I agree with the review here. I never really got excited about the trailer like I did for previous Pixar movies. I haven’t seen the movie yet and may wait until it hits DVD. I have to get really excited about the movie from the trailer to go to the theater. Pixar hit so many home runs, so it’s ok for them to hit a ground rule double. :)

    I think another issue is the onslaught of so many animated films coming out lately, it waters down the good ones. Maybe Hollywood is rushing these animated films so much that the quality is going down.

    It’s been since “The Incredibles” since a really good animated film was released. (imo)

  2. Nah. I bought into the talking car thing pretty easily. You’re atching a cartoon, right? So you gotta suspend disbelief before the lights go down or you’l’l be costing yoruself some enjoyment.
    Me, I go to a movie to like it. I’m rarely ever disappointed.

  3. CARS was fun especially for us older folks. I enjoyed it immensely but then I enjoy most animated films.
    The problem with the movie is simple. It is hard to think of the vehicles you drive as cute. Bugs can be made to look cute, toys can be made to look cute even dinosaurs and rats can look cute…but cars…nope. If they don’t have fingers you can’t make them look cute. Anyone agree?

  4. I wasn’t flaming, I was DISCUSSING.
    ( I knda thought Sally Carerra was cute, even if she did have a pinstripe tattoo )

  5. This has been one of the most entertaining threads on this site. John and the Attack of the Unknown Flamers!
    And as to the movie, it didn’t have the cuddly factor, no cuddly bugs (yes they were cuddly, look at ANTZ for non-cuddly bugs), cuddly toys, cuddly fish and cuddly monsters. Cars? Not so cuddly. In fact, no one I know even wants to check it out.

  6. Hey! I LIKED Doc Hollywood!

    I didn’t catch a whole lot of insider’s references in CARS, but I was having too much fun to think much. I’ll wait for the DVD to start digging references. With the Shrek movies you didn’t have to think, they hit you over the head with them. Pixar’s a bit more subtle.

  7. Piffle.

    The only thing wrong with “Cars” is the critics. It’s a fun movie and I’ll be seeing it again. I’m pretty sure other people will, too. It may prove to have more staying power than all the fashionable naysaying you can muster.

    The movie is worth seeing just for the challenge of picking out all the homages and inside jokes.

    And it’s a far cry more entertaining than “Doc Hollywood” was anyway.

  8. I think you’re adding fuel to the fire by using that headline, though. EDitorially speaking, you shoulda added a great big huge ‘NOTHING!!!’ to the end of it, to make sure your point is made and your article backs it up.
    Beh. You don’t need me telling you that kinda crap. I’m sorta with you- perception that ‘Hollywood is in a slump!!’ and it’s all Hollywood’s fault, and so on and so forth. Truth is, the entire movie-making landscape has changed, its foundations are becoming as liquid and murky as the mudslides in the hills. This is why investors will shell out $200 mil for a third installment of Spiderman ( no Elfman? Could be trouble spideyfans ) or a $20mil director’s fee to Peter Jackson for a remake of ‘King Kong’ without blinking, but they force Mel Gibson to finance and distribute ‘Passion of the Christ’ himself- they want the big bucks and no whammies and they are too lazy to do the market research any more. It’s not neccesarily Hollywood’s fault that the movie-going public’s tastes are different these days, but it IS their fault for not being in touch with their market. DVD sales aren’t helping. THey really ought to start publishing combined box-office and dvd sales figures, that’s the real story, that’s where the whole picture can be found.

    Another thing- the indy scene has exploded in a big way. Ever since Robert Rodriguez made and shopped EL MARIACHI, the writing’s been on the wall. John Singleton plays his Hoop Dreams on credit cards and swishes it, The Wilson boys get $5mil to make BottleRocket and take off like a missile. Shane Carruth, homeboy from down the street, wrote, produced, directed, PRIMER for near-nothing and got paid bigtime for it. BrokeBack Mountain is an indy film.

    None of this should be a big surprise to anyone, and for me the big surprise is that it IS a surprise. George Lucas- Indy film maker, and I ain’t talkin’ Jones. All but the first Star Wars are INDEPENDENT FILMS. Peter Jackson’s set himself up to do the same thing now. The blockbuster’s done for and it’s not because they’re bad movies, it’s because they’re not what the market will bear any more.

    The market’s changing, definitely, has changed right under Hollywood’s very noses, and they still don’t see it. Just a couple small adjustments and they can alter the perception of the disappointments and turn them back into big winners, but they have their work cut out for them- they are their own worst enemy!

    It’s all about the buzz, and the buzz right now is a downer, which is a shock considering some of teh movies coming down the pipe this summer.

  9. Hey there ED R

    I think you misunderstood me. I don’t think they went “wrong” at all. My point was that the movie is good, critics ratings are great, and $60 million opening is fantastic.

    But PERCEPTION of the film is disapointment. My point was that if it was any other studio… no one would be saying “disapointment” at all.

    Good comments!


  10. Aw, Come ON. Third highest Pixar opening ever and it’s a failure? Oh NO!! We’re DOOMED!

    You are definitely reading the tea leaves wrong here, if you ask me. CARS is on its way to an INCREDIBLES-level first week. It’s a winner of a movie and it’s going to have long legs thanks to kids being out of school, which hasn’t been the case for the other Pixar movies.

    I think what you’re doing wrong is using the wrong measuring tools. Stock prices and Rotten Tomato percentages, not to mention critic’s reviews, are all subjective and almost meaningless filters through which to view a film. You may as well tie it to the price of gas for all its appropo.

    You WILL, however, see changes in style and substance at Pixar soon enough. The three biggest events that have had the highest impact on Pixar movies since 2002 are the deaths of Glenn McQueen, Dan Lee and Joe Ranft. These three people have had a lot of influence on the visual styles and the storylines of all Pixar movies. Glenn and Dan were animators – Dan designed Nemo and Glenn was a lead animator – and Joe was a story man, though mostly he was famous for being Heimlich in A BUG’S LIFE. It’s impossible to measure the impact of these deaths on Pixar, but they have affected the direction Pixar’s going and styles will change somewhat. We haven’t seen as much of an impact as we will.

    That’s not to say that the product from Pixar will be bad in teh future. I have every confidence that it will continue to be of the highest quality in terms of animation and story. It’ll just be a bit different, is all. You know, like how no matter how hard you try, you can never make lasagna or cookies as good as your grandmother’s were.

    SOrry for being so long-winded, but I think you’re wrong about Pixar ‘going wrong’ with Cars.

  11. These movies are primarly for children(but adults can enjoy them), and cars is kind of a guy thing maybe the thing was that girls have no interest in seeing talking cars

  12. this won’t be the first time a pixar film has failed for me….monster inc fucking sucked. all the love they get is a bit overboard. sure they have had a lot of hits but only 3 of their movies are what i would call great. (toy 1 and 2, the incredibles)
    everything else has been average (nemo, bugs life) to shit (monsters inc and cars)

    i am not surprised cars has underperformed so far……it just wasn’t very good.

  13. You call the guy a loser, and then attack him for calling others names? What ever happened to taking the high road?

  14. Hello Loser who is too gutless to post his real name or email address:

    Yes, I deleted your posts. For a long time I’ve put up with you not joining discussion, but hurling insults and name calling. You clearly have the maturity of a 5 year old.

    I love debate, and I love being proved wrong (even though I deleted your post, I mentioned the trailer you sent that proved me wrong… look above)

    But you constantly just engage in name calling and hurling insults. And that isn’t tolerated here. I’ve banned lots of people for that… but I’ve taken it easy on you becuase you only seem to direct it at me… well I deserve the same respect everyone else does.

    If you just want to debate… that’s fine. But you consistently cross the line.

    Grow up.


  15. You deleted my posts???? Whats next, blocking IP’s? Have some respect for people who go to your site. I had to search pretty damn hard for those links disputing your claims so to delete it just because it proved you wrong is rediculous.

    Great journalism there. Maybe you should update the FAQ to state that any posts that go against your word will be removed.

  16. Come on now, no beefs, just movie geek debates.

    I have no problem admitting Im wrong if Im wrong, and I am not wrong when I say I saw a Cars trailer that said Nov 2005, because I saw it with my own damn eyes, and it is a vivid memory because I remember reading an article that speculated that Cars did not screen well and was going back to the drawing boards.

    Did it screen poorly and was delayed to rework something? I dont freak’in know, but I DO know I read an article that speculated that and I DO know I saw a teaser trailer that said Nov 2005.

    Now unless you are Paul Giamatti from PAYBACK you can’t alter my memories, I know what I saw.

    And in case it doesn’t translate well in my writting, I am humorously debating this issue, Im just a movie geek who likes to talk movies, I dont want anyone to sensuously stroke my ego, nor am I suggesting anyone else needs to be stroked….

    I feel dirty having just typed that


  17. K, let the last word be heard from a chick who A) doesn’t drive B) has a desided lack of interest in cars in general and finally C) wouldn’t even know what to do with what under the hood unless it’s …never mind, you get the point. I loved the movie. My eyes were dazzled and my inner kid was happily satisfied with the story and characters. Owen Wilson has never been a truely deep character but the supporting cast makes up for what he lacks in spades. Larry the Cable Guy and Paul Newman most noteably. I’ll definitly be going out to get the sound track as there were a few good crank up the volume tunes in there. As Larry would said “I don’t care where yer from that wuz funny, Git ‘er done!!”

  18. Sigh…. ok, I’ll try to make this simple.

    Nord made the initial assertion that Pixar had started running ads for a November 2005 release date as early as Summer of 2005, and that the date was then changed in a copy move to Dreamworks’ Shrek 2.

    My arguments were (if you read my above posts) that:

    1) Pixar was already releasing summer flicks before Shrek 2 did (ie. Finding Nemo)

    2) Once in production and the ads started, the date was NEVER changed. As I said above, the VERY FIRST Cars trailers had the tag “Comming Summer 2006 on them.

    3) Nord was NOT incorrect in thinking that at some point in history, at the earilest stagest of development back in 2004 Pixar decided to move it’s release date to the same May release as Finding Nemo. He was only incorrect that any sort of ad campaign was started touting a November 2005 release date… which never happened.

    4) The Incredibles and Shrek 2 were not in theaters at the same time and thus never went head to head (except at the Oscars.. in which The Incredibles won)

    5) Once Production started on Cars, the date was… and has been summer 2006.

    Nord was right that at some time in history a date change happend. He was just wrong as to when said change took place… and that was my beef.





  19. Pixar/Disney is still gonna make a fuckload of money on this…… kids love things that go VROOOOM! I think cars will stick around for awhile in the theatres, sell boatloads of DVD’s, and the merchandising alone should be off the charts. Just from the preview, my son has been obsessed with getting all the “Cars” toys. It’s like a license to print money.

  20. “Cars was never scheduled for a 2005 release. Just FYI.” ~John Campea

    Don’t worry Nord. Its never been a secret the movie was originally a Nov05 release and its never been a secret that John won’t admit he’s wrong unless he wants to. Some people need that ego stroke. So just relax and do like Doug and Darren and pretend he’s right so he can move on.

    Baby, you can drive Disney/Pixar’s ‘Cars’ By Gary Strauss Nov 02, 2004

    “Cars isn’t due in theaters until November 2005, and production won’t finish until next (summer 2005).”

    Disney and Pixar Steer Cars to Summer 2006 Release, Dec 07, 2004

    “Commenting on the announcement, Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios said, “The move from November 2005 to June 2006 makes perfect sense”

    Lemon Laws By Rick Aristotle Munarriz Dec 08, 2004

    “Disney (NYSE: DIS) and Pixar (Nasdaq: PIXR) announced that they would be delaying Pixar’s next full-length animated feature by eight months to cash in on the potent summer crowd come 2006.”

    (Links couldnt be provided because this site hates facts)

  21. I don’t think it was talking cars that turned me off. What turned me off was the story. True, I wasn’t as excited for this one as I was for say, Finding Nemo, but what I disliked most about the movie was the story.

  22. Ok Ok Ok

    I will relent that Pixar started the summer release trend with Nemo, you have that.

    But I went looking for articles to prove what I KNOW to be true, because I was initially looking forward to Cars and then they changed the release date, I remember it vividly and I really dont know how you are arguing this, the above article, and I dont care when it was from, cleary states that Pixar moved their date from Nov. 2005 to summer of 2006, how are you disputing this? am I missing something?

    Steve Jobs goes on and on about why the move was beneficial, Im telling you, the first trailer I ever saw for Cars said Nov 2005 and I remember feeeling let down when the next trailer I saw said Summer 2006. Its right there in black and white and its not just this article, there are a ton of them that all say the same thing, the date was moved!!

    I dont care who’s right anymore, Im just glad its 2 PM in the afternoon.

    besides, you know I love to rib you on anything Pixar, lol


  23. No Nord, I’m not.

    That story was when???? Oh yeah… BACK IN 2004!!!

    You’re original argument was that PIXAR changed directions AFTER first showing their trailers a year in advance.

    You also said PIXAR stole the summer idea from Shrek. When this story:


    Show that it was Dreamworks who stole the idea from PIXAR:

    “In fact, the highest-grossing film for the year is the CGI-animated “Shrek 2,” which follows in the wake of “Nemo’s” strategy with a May release, enjoyed prolonged summer viewing and is currently doing well on DVD.”

    I still stand by everything I said. From the moment production started, and the marketing began, the release date for Cars was ALWAYS summer 2006. PIXAR has been saying that since 2004 when everything was in pre-production. And PIXAR was doing summer releases BEFORE Shrek.

    Nord is down.

    Unless you count changing your argument half way through the debate as “still standing”.



  24. Some one get me some boxing gloves!!!!!!

    Dude, this is straight from the BBC


    Pixar-Disney delay Cars release
    Animation studio Pixar and Disney have put back the release date of their next film Cars by seven months.
    Both companies said they wanted to move the release date from November 2005 to summer 2006 to capitalise on children being on their school break.

    Cars will be the final film produced by Disney-Pixar. Their distribution deal is due to end in 2005.

    A spokeswoman for Disney denied the two were in talks about a further deal, prompting the delay.

    ‘Perfect sense’

    Steve Jobs, Pixar’s chief executive, said: “Cars longs to be a summer movie.

    “We plan to finish Cars on its original schedule, and look forward to Cars and our future films benefiting by summer theatrical releases and holiday DVD releases.”

    The announcement follows comments made by Mr Jobs last month when he said Pixar hoped Cars would replicate its success with Finding Nemo – a summer release that became the 12th highest grossing US movie of all time.

    Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios, said the move made “perfect sense”.

    “In the vein of Finding Nemo, we feel the movie will have legs throughout summer and beyond,” he said.

    “Cars is the quintessential summer film for audiences of all ages.

    “It has a fantastic story full of action, adventure, comedy, heartfelt emotion with cutting edge animation and incredible voice talent.”

    BAM!!! Campea is down!


  25. No Nord, Cars was NEVER slated for a 2005 release date. Yes, the teaser ran a full year in advance… and those teasers showed “Coming Summer 2006” at the end of them.

    And yes, Incredibles ran in the SAME YEAR as Shrek. That’s why they were both nominated for the Oscar in the same year which I mentioned above. But as I said earlier, they never played in the theaters at the same time.

  26. Hey there Campy!

    For some reason I cant seem to post my Links, but trust me (or just goodle it) The original release date was indeed Nov. 2005 and they did show teasers during the summer of 2005.

    Shrek 2 and Inredibles were indeed released in the same year (2004) and Shrek 2 is listed at #3 all time domestic box office, while incredibles managed #31 (ass handing).

    So Pixar took a page straight out of DreamWorks books, delayed Cars until this summer to, as I said, enjoy a summer kids movie release status and Christmas holiday DVD sales, and at the momemt people started doubting, and for good reason.


  27. I really enjoyed Cars. Let me start out saying that.

    Though, this is NOT at all the home-run we have come to expect from Pixar (and which i think ratatoiulle sp?) will hit BIG time.

    The biggest problem with cars, was not the character design, which for cars was fairly good. Or the voice acting, which i think was quite good except for owen wilson who just SOUNDED LIKE OWEN WILSON INSIDE A CAR.

    The main problem was in the film, you had a main character, which for the first 3/4 of the movie, you HATE. He is self-centered, arrogant, and more or less irredemable. And when he does turn around finally in the last act of the film, the audience has really stopped caring, and his turn to good doesnt really work as well as it should. A better choice for this movie would have been having him turn good a bit earlier in the film, and possibly have a rocky-style buildup montage of Doc Hudson teaching/training Lightning for the big race. As it stood, his redemption really didnt work well for me. And i think it didnt work well for anyone else either. This is more or less the reason why Cars didn’t work out as well as it should have.

    Though with the passing of Joe Ranft, I can imagine a studio like Pixar, which works like a big family, took a huge hit. And it shows in the quality of this film. I mean who would want to make a movie about cars when one of your co-workers just died in one? Especially when it was someone as big to Pixar as he was. I think it really took a toll on the work done in this film.

    Just my two cents.

  28. It was a knock out for me. Sure it wasn’t as good as Finding Nemo or the Incredibles or Toy Story…but it was a very fun and entertaining film.

  29. I watched Cars last weekend and it did disappoint me. It’s more one dimensional in terms of plot. It’s basically a race car learning to slow down and that theme is a very common one. Other Pixar films like Finding Nemo and the Incredibles deal with more interesting issues which is why they appeal even to an older audience.

  30. It looks like a movie for Nascar race fans. I cringed when I saw the first promotions. I’ve been a huge fan of Pixar since day one, but not Nascar. I know it’s more than that, but so far, no interest.

  31. the problem with cars is simple.

    the character design for cars sucked. that is the only problem with that movie, and it is a huge one.

  32. Also Nord… when you said:

    “when The Increibles got its ass handed to it by Shrek 2”

    What do you mean by that? The two films never went head to head. How can you say a movie that made over $620 million world wide (Incredibles) got its “ass” handed to it?

    The only time Incredibles and Shrek went head to head was at the Oscars. And The incredibles won that fight.

  33. Not only did it have to happen, Pixar KNEW it was ging to happen.

    Cars was originally slated for Nov. 2005, with previews being shown thoughout the summer of 2005, then when The Increibles got its ass handed to it by Shrek 2 Pixar got the hint and decided to copy EXACTLY what Dreamworks did and thats release it in the Summer, all the kiddies out of school and enjoy Christmas holiday DVD sales.

    Pixar this and Pixar that.

    Pixar blinked, everyone saw it, and generally tainted any buzz Cars had going for it. Critics and audiences alike smelled blood and you got to love Western society, we love seeing the big guy take one on the chin.

    Cars is probably a wonderful, well made movie, but it was completely mishandled and ultimately thats why it failed.


  34. It seems to me that the internet has gotten alot nastier towards movies these days. Every time a big blockbuster looms, without question, there appears naysayers who look for the negative and forget what they’ve got.

    The good thing is, these pitiful people who can’t see the wonder in the world around them do not take away from the enjoyment of those of us who are ready and waiting to be amazed.

    That ability…the ability to remember the feeling of wonder without over analization…is what keeps ME personally feeling like a perpetual child. Why anyone would try to attack a movie for being “fairly good” is beyond me.

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