Director’s Commentary Track Review – Cars 2 Blu Ray

Cars 2 Logo

We all know that Pixar DVDs/Blu-rays are packed with great special features, but one of my favorites among the special features is the director’s commentary track.  Today’s post is a summary of what director John Lasseter and co-director Brad Lewis had to say about their work throughout the Cars 2 movie.

With any director’s commentary, you start to get deeper insights into the backstories that lead them to the finished product. I can tell you with having watched all of the other bonus features on the Cars 2 Blu-ray and reading The Art of Cars 2, I was still able to pick up some great tips and facts about the film. 

So, here’s our summary of the facts from the movie presented in a bulleted style – as they described the scenes in the movie.

John Lasseter knew that the purpose of Cars 2 was to show something completely new and different, not just to rehash what had been done in the first Cars movie.

The inspiration for the film came from three areas:

  1. In a scene that was cut from the first movie, Lightning McQueen takes Sally on a date to a drive-in movie theater and Pixar had to design a movie that they would be watching on the date…which was a spy film.  John also mentioned that he loves spy movies and particularly the Bourne movies – he feels that they redefined how spy movies are made.
  2. During John’s travels for the press junket for Cars 1, he was constantly thinking about what Lightning McQueen would do in these countries.
  3. John attended his first Formula 1 race during a press junket in Spain and he fell in love with the sounds and the pageantry of the event.

John thought it was cool that the opening shot was of a boat rather than a car.

Cars 2 Screencap Sig Hansen

The spy movie opening came to John on his Birthday (January 12) while he was getting a massage. He wanted a scene that would introduce Finn McMissile and all his cool gadgets.

During one of the pre-screenings of the film, John’s son, Sam, said that he wasn’t sure that everyone would know what a lemon is in today’s world. John’s wife came up with the scene where Mater is towing Otis, the town lemon, to show the audience what lemons are.

Cars 2 Screencap Mater

Otis’ name was inspired by the town drunk in the Andy Griffith show.

The Pixar team wanted to pay tribute to Paul Newman’s passing somehow and they didn’t want to have someone else do the voice acting so they decided to rename the piston cup after Doc.

The character of Mel Dorado was originally called Caddy Caddilac – Harley Jessup came up with Mel Dorado after a play on El Dorado.

Cars 2 Screencap Mel Dorado

They struggled with who the bad guy would be and they originally had a failed Russian super-car.

Francesco’s role in the movie actually grew because they loved the voice work of actor John Turturro. An imitation of Turturro’s friend morphed into Francesco’s voice.

The Red Bull racing team hosted the Pixar research team in Italy and gave them full access to research the Formula 1 world.

So many of the things that Mater and Lightning McQueen do at the beginning of their journey to Tokyo are things that John was amazed at doing when he traveled the world.

Holley’s character was originally an Italian spy named Julia.  

Pixar recruited Lewis Hamilton, who was the current Formula 1 racing champion at the time, to work with Pixar on the racing details.  When Lewis was on his way to Pixar headquarters he was late because he ran out of gas!

Now to the Mater toilet scene.  John talks about his first experience with a bathroom in Japan – he said the first thing that freaked him out was that the toilet seat was warmed.  He also noted the numerous buttons as well and that he was so curious that he ended up pushing one and a surprise splash of water had him saying, “whoooooo”.  He said that every time he and his kids go to Japan they end up pressing the buttons and everything is covered in water when they leave the stall.

The number of pit crew workers in the pits for each racing team is truly representative of the number of workers that would really be in the pits for each style of race – so not every team had the same number of “pitties.”

Michael Giacchino was the reason there was no music at the opening of the first race – he suggested they just celebrate the sound of the engines to start the scene.

The name Siddeley came from the British aerospace industry – Hawker Siddeley Corp made a lot of key airplanes in World War II.

When the characters arrive in Paris, the shot of the two cars kissing on the bridge where Mater, Finn, and Holley are passing is John’s tribute to his wife.  The bridge is based on the Pont des Arts Bridge and they make a point to go to the center of the bridge and kiss every time they are in Paris.

Les Halles, a now-closed wholesale market in Paris is what the auto park markets are based on.

To keep additional authenticity, since Tombe is a three-wheeled car, they figured he would tumble easier (of course) when taking hard turns and wore his paint in those areas where he would tumble more. Tombe is also a play on a French verb meaning “To Fall”.

Stevenson is the high-speed train name that Mater, Finn, and Holley travel on.

The fountain in the middle of the town in Italy shows a Maserati car holding a trident (Maserati’s logo).  The base of the fountain also has the names of the Maserati brothers who started the car company.

Cars 2 Screencap fountain

Casoli is the ancestry village of Michael Giacchino’s family so Pixar named the village Carsoli as a nod to him.    

Franco Nero performs the voice of Uncle Topolino and his wife Vanessa Redgrave performs the voice of Mama Topolino.  Interestingly, Vanessa also voices The Queen of England in the film.

Although Mater in his materhosen costume was only seen for a quick moment, it was originally supposed to be a larger part of the script. The scene was eventually cut when the number of races was cut from five to three.

Porto Corsa (meaning race track in Italian) is a town that Pixar made up based on three towns – Portofino, Positano, and Monte Carlo (although Monte Carlo isn’t in Italy, it still inspired the town because of the Grand Prix and Casino).

Denise Ream, one of the producers of the film has a cousin who is a priest in the catholic church and they sent the “Pope car” designs to the church for approval prior to using the car in the film – the Pixar team received the official stamp of approval from the Vatican shortly thereafter.

The whole purpose of Mater hitting the gong in Tokyo early in the movie was created solely to be able to transition out of Mater’s dream sequence where he was tied up and the Big Bentley clock was clanging away.

Cars 2 Screencap Mater clock

They wanted to base the gears inside Big Bentley on the actual gears inside Big Ben but it turned out the gears were about the size of a big table so they just made the gears bigger to add emphasis and drama to the scene.

The Prince Wheeliam is based on the Bentley Continental GT and the Queen is based on a Rolls and Bentley mix. The crown on her car is based upon an old classic luggage rack that they saw.

Sharon Calahan talked with John about not being able to get done with the lighting in time for the release, so they decided they would make London overcast so they wouldn’t have to deal with the more complex aspect of direct sunlight and casting shadows. It started as a time-saving device, but as they talked about it more they realized that London is very often overcast so they thought it would actually fit.

Harley Jessup’s team created the logo for the World Grand Prix as a cartoon character named Globie – which they ended up using as the inflatable character that Professor Z lands on when he crashes out of the window from his private box when Holley surprises him.

You wouldn’t think so, but one of the biggest challenges during the film was the big water blast that happens when McMissile blows up the combat boat by releasing the explosives from his tires.

In the pub scene where Acer and Grem are thrown into the pub (Ye Left Turn Inn) there is one scene where they disrupt a perfectly poured pint of oil and the table gets knocked out from underneath it, spilling the oil.  That scene of the glass falling was the longest “per frame” render time of the entire movie – every frame took 112 hours to render!  This was due to all of the reflections and other details in the scene and it probably lasted about 1 second.

This was not stated in the comments, but there is also a car-a-fied version of Merida, Queen Elinor, and King Fergus from Brave right behind where the glass falls.

Cars 2 Screencap Brave Easter Egg

The music that starts playing when Mater figures out that Miles Axelrod is the “bad guy” is the same spy theme that is used throughout the film when McMissile or Holley are working but for Mater, it’s played with an electrified banjo rather than a guitar to give the same theme a lighter twist and makes the theme Mater’s own.

John states that he love, love, loves epilogues in a story and how it ties everything back together to wrap up.  

At the end of the movie, Holley wasn’t going to say that she was Mater’s girlfriend when she comes to Radiator Springs, but at an early audience test, a woman said that she really wanted Mater to have a girlfriend so they made it happen.  

The end credits of the film are a visual montage of Mater and Lightning McQueen’s journey going back home through Europe. The most hilarious of the mini vignettes is the running of the “Bulldozers” through Pamplona!

We’ll wrap up with a fun fact that you may not know – what date was Mater knighted on?  Tuesday, July 15, 2011 – I wonder if that date has any significance?

Cars 2 Screencap Sir Tow Mater

If you have additional tips or facts, or just want to include your thoughts add a comment below.

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