Before I go into anything I have to say how down to Earth and just how cool John Lasseter was. I mean this guy IS Pixar. He was laughing, cutting, up, super friendly and answered every question no matter how far out it was. We even saw him and his beautiful wife in the hotel before the red carpet and he stopped and introduced her and said hi. How many people would take time out of their busy day to just chit chat with a group of Mom Bloggers? Here’s a few Q & A’s from the interview session.
John Lasseter: Okay, first of all I gotta give the shirt away. It’s just Cars 2. This is [sounds like: Arin Spooner] that does Hawaiian shirts in Honolulu. They do all of our Pixar Hawaiian shirts and we work with them and this was designed by, uh, Harley Jecob, our production designer. So it has all the little places the characters go. They’re like, uh, I love my Hawaiian shirts and get one made for each of our movies.
Question: One surprising detail in the movie that we’re all really excited about was the secret little words on the [sounds like: lasi tire]. Are there any other ones that we might have missed?
John Lasseter: Everything. My wife, always said don’t make a movie for the first one someone sees it. make it, make it for the one hundred time a parent has to suffer through it on video especially now was we know — I have five boys and it’s like having the video in the car as the parent driving around you’re listening to the stuff and so I always, we work for that.
But so anyway the detailing in Cars 2 is unlike any movie we’ve made. We’ve always had fun with adding things in there but if you look closely every word that’s printed especially like in London with all the adverts and all that stuff is the, uh, it’s all [sounds like: car-ified]. It’s all car related stuff. there’s no — we don’t do product placement and, you know, when there’s a real model car in the Cars movies or a real toy in the Toy Story thing it’s because we want it to be there to help give us a level of believability.
And then we go to the car company to ask their permission. But there’s a lot of things were people’s kind of names and if there’s a big advert on the — advertisement on the side of one of the double-decker buses in London that’s Callahan’s and that’s Sharon Callahan, our lighting lead and stuff. You know, there’s, there’s all sorts of stuff and so, you know, you’re not gonna see the first time through.
You’re gonna have to single frame some of this stuff but it’s hilarious. Some of the things are so, so, so funny and, uh, and I just want to be really clear with you. I’m very conscience about alcohol in the films and it seems like there’s a lot of drinking. It’s all oil. You bend over backwards, it’s all oil in the movie. They don’t drink alcohol and drive. They are — they don’t. It’s oil. So it’s all oil based stuff. I go to, I go to great lengths so every label that looks like it’s all oil and they make a big deal about it because it’s something that’s really important for me as well.
SIDENOTE—I just have to say how much I appreciate those hidden jems in all the Pixar films. It’s fun to be able to watch the film over and over as a mom and see something new and funny with each showing.
Question: Is there any reason why you chose to use the wine glass versus just a regular glass?
John Lasseter: Well there’s, there is all sorts. There martini glasses. There’s beer glasses and like that because, because it fits for the setting of the film, the big parties or the funny come up so the bad guys and the pub and things like that. It just sort of made, made sense. But in all those cases we do make a point to put oil on there.
Question: My kids are five and three. I have two boys and they love Cars [OVERLAP] and they’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting for Cars 2. We had heard a long time ago rumors probably about what the plot was gonna be.
John Lasseter: Spy movie.
Question: No, we heard it was actually gonna be like Lightning McQueen goes back to Radiator Springs and runs a training thing. Is this all movies or has it always been spies?
John Lasseter: It’s always been a spy movie. I wonder if you — I’m trying to think of what you heard. You know, it may have been something to do with the interactive games because the interactive games — that storyline was a part of one of the, uh, the interactive games, you know, where you go back and Lightning McQueen trains you. it’s like trying to — what we like to do is in our films, uh, when we make an original film with Pixar and I think this is the case for all good movies you have to do three things really well.
You have to tell a compelling story that keeps people on the edge of their seat where they can’t wait to see what happens next and it works for adults as well as kids. You populate that story with really memorable characters, uh, and appealing characters. That’s realy the important thing for me. Even the bad guy should be appealing that you enjoy watching and you put those characters in that story in a believable world. Not realistic but believable for the story you’re telling.
And so one of the things that I was thinking about is that when we’re done with making the story we have this world now where these characters to us are alive. They’re like friends of our and they live in this world. In the Cars characters, you know, to me I love this so much. I always think well, you know, interactive comes to us or we start thinking about a sequel it’s like well let’s not just rehash the story all over again.
We have these characters. They’re living in a world. It’s like us living in our world. it’s like they’re stories — all different stories happening everyday and it’s like let’s take a look at what else we can do and so I tend to inter work very closely with, uh, like the interactive folks for like — what are the fun games, you know, driving games? I watch my sons play games. I play games and stuff like that and we try to say oh, let’s create a story with these characters in this world that’s a different story that works for the kind of game play that we want.
Or, in the case of our sequels we always try to do something that’s very different. We don’t want to rehash the same thing. What’s so important to us in every Pixar feel is the emotional heart of the film. I think that’s the foundation of what we do and the emotional heart of our films has to do with what does the main character learn? That’s at the basis of every Pixar film. And as we approach all of our sequels we want to take a look at the main character and what can he learn that’s different than the original?
We can’t have him go have amnesia and have to relearn the same thing all over again, right? Most sequels as you know out there in the world tend to be, uh, tend to be just rehashes of the exact same story and it makes the original less interesting. And we don’t ever want to do that and we have this view of this world where these characters are living in and in the Cars world to me is as big as the world that you and I live in.
Whatever we can do they can do but when they get there it’s a car-ified world, you know. And I think it’s really, really kind of important to take a look at, you know, and have — and part of it is having fun.
You know, I believe if you’re having fun it’s gonna appear on the screen and we just really have a blast with this character. The spy genre came out of it because we originally had a scene in the first Cars movie where Lightning McQueen was taking Sally on the first date. It involved into the scene where the neon lights come on and they go cruising. And it was going to be in the drive in movie theatre and we had a movie playing on the screen and I love spy movies.
I grew up, uh, my childhood was during the 60s and early 70s and my favorite TV show was The Man from Uncle. And I just lived that show. I played in the backyard and was those characters. And so my five sons and I we’re really into like the Born Identity movies, the three and all that stuff and we thought this is a great genre to do in this, uh, with Cars because one of the great things about, uh, spy movies is they have cool spy cars.
In our world just like, you know, the racecar and the racecar driver are one and the same, you know, in this spy and the spy car are one and the same. I thought this has really opportunities. But, in Cars the story changed and that spy movie got cut but at Pixar we always — good ideas are never forgotten and so I kept thinking about it.
And so when the opportunity started after Cars came out that they wanted to do another one of these, you know, we only do a sequel at Pixar when we come up with a good idea and I thought it would really fun to dig up that spy movie idea. And I’ve been a big, uh, in my own personal life, uh, the, uh, in my inspiration Alfred Hitchcock films have always been real inspiring for me as a filmmaker and two of the films of the Man Who Knew Too Much and North by Northwest has this notion of an innocent person getting caught up in some sort of conspiracy.
And I thought oh, that’s a really cool kind of story thing so we thought Mater would be the hilarious if he got mistaken for a spy. He’s about as opposite a spy as you get and there’s a lot of fun that can be. and so that kind of started the evolution of this, this idea and going out around the world was inspired from as they traveled around the world doing press for Cars I had Cars’ characters on the brain.
I kept going to Japan and the UK and Italy and France and Germany and all these places that have their own car cultures and great cars and amazing roads and very different than here. and I thought it be really fun to take our characters to these places so kind of those ideas and spy movies, you know, travel around the world, you know, in these glamorous places. And I thought this is gonna be really fun and it satisfied me for wanting to do something that’s really different than the original movie.
Question: I think it’s amazing how the Disney Pixar name has become so trusted among mothers and as a mother I really see your role as kind of a sacred responsibility. And I wonder how you perceive that responsibility and also with a movie like Cars what are the thought processes and production process to kind of sure that it’s hitting the right target age, family friendly, the content, the messages, all that.
John Lasseter: Well I take it very seriously as the chief creator officer at Disney Pixar Animation. Uh, you know, I have five boys and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the movie theatres as a dad, you know, not as a filmmaker but as a dad and just been like, you know, here’s a movie that’s been advertised as a family film and you go in and there’s language that’s inappropriate, you know, not the language I speak with my kids at home.
You know, it’s subject matter that’s inappropriate that I think oh, they’re not ready for this subject matter. And, and it’s, uh, in Hollywood they tend to want to make things you hear the word edgy, right? Because they want to appeal to the core movie going audience which is kind of a little older. And so they feel they have to do these things or kind of humor that is, you know, fart humor or something like that.
I mean a good fart humor every now and then is okay, you know, because we all deal with it with our kids, you know. We have our names for them and stuff, you know. It’s funny my — just on that. My wife with our firstborn he would — every time he’d fart she’d go I heard that. Like that so that’s what he thought — he would say when he would fart. So as he grew up he kept going, you know, I heard that. So anyway it’s just, you know, we can go on and on with stories of our kids.
SIDENOTE— When he said Fart joke the entire place cracked up. Which just goes to show in the middle of anything the word Fart is just funny.
But it’s that kind of, uh, you know, with that kind of thing see it’s fun and it’s okay but with I just, I just look at it from a father’s point of view and I think that’s what’s so great about Pixar is that is that we’re all family. We all are family people, you know, at Pixar and, you know, we all love movies ourselves. And I am devoted to making movies that you, all of you enjoy just as much as your kids and you walk out feeling like it’s okay and you don’t mind them watching it again and again, you know, because at the end they are wholesome because there is nice, nice messages in there.
We don’t make our movies to teach lessons. We’re not into that. We have great messages in our film that are there to help tell the heart of the story. And, and I take great responsibility and there’s certain things and that’s what I said right away about the alcohol because it’s important for me. We never have smoking in our films, you know. We have smoking tailpipes but, you know, they’re cars but we don’t have smoking.
We don’t have, you know, over drinking. We don’t have all that stuff and in this case they’re cars and it’s all about oil and that was really important for me to say that to you, uh, and language. You know, language is, is an important thing too. Violence is, is something we take a look at. The Incredibles and Cars and are both a certain kind of genre. The Natural has a certain level of violence that comes in there.
And so to me I’m very conscience of the violence in there and sort of like where do you draw the line of being, you know, it’s kind of okay because, you know, all the stuff our kids watch there’s a lot of this going on and there’s a certain level that is accepted for the kind of genre that they’re watching, superheroes or kind of spy movies. And then there’s stuff where it starts being kind of cruel and we draw the line there. We don’t want to do that even with automobiles.
And we had a scene that was quite interesting that was, uh, in the scene where we needed to show, illustrate from a point of view. It’s very important for me to tell the stories visually so especially for kids and also as we translate it into different languages. One of my great mentors was a great Warner Brothers cartoon director, Chuck Jones, and he also said great animation, you should be able to turn sound off and still tell what’s going on. And so, and so I always in every one of our films at Pixar and Disney I’m always trying to tell things from a story point.
Cars 2. We had sort of this complex idea that the, the, the Professor [sounds like: Sundup] invented this kind of weapon you might say that was hidden in this TV camera and you don’t see a beam coming out or anything like that. we needed to show sort of what — when it’s used what will happen and so we had the American spy, Rod Redline, is his name, the guy in the blue car and they were — we had the scene where he kind of uses it on the guy. And we had an early version of the scene and it was just too cruel and what was nice is that we had a lot of people that were working on the Cars 2 production come to us, you know, after we showed the sequence and they raised their hand and say we don’t feel this is right.
And I was so focuses on the genre and I was so focused on the, uh, you know, on sort of the needs of the story I kind of — I took a step back and looked at it again from the dad and go yeah, you’re right, you’re right and so we backed off tremendously. We made the guy a tough guy and, you know, his engine gets bumped, he can get fixed, you know. That’s what he says and so it’s one of those things that we, we were very conscience of that line and it was really important because I knew I was stepping into a genre that had guns and explosions and stuff like that.
But I wanted it to be okay, you know, for kids and for families and I just wanted all of you to know it’s very important for me and the same way we approached it for The Incredibles. The Incredibles was a superhero genre and we wanted to, you know, you have to have a certain level in order to really tell a really good story in that genre.
Question: I’ve been following the construction of Cars Land.
John Lasseter: Oh, yeah. You guys all, you gotta come to Cars Land. This time next year we’re gonna have the same room in Cars Land. Promise me that. [CHEERS] As long as I say I guess it goes. Cars Land. All right, great, all right. Look what Jon Lasater said. I get to go to Cars Land. Cars Land is awesome.
SIDENOTE—Right there up above John Lasseter himself said our group of Mommy Bloggers should be there for the opening of Cars Land lol. Hilarious!!
Question: It looks awesome. I’ve been following all the pictures. [OVERLAP] I know that it’s schedule up in summer of 2012. Was there any plans on actually opening up Cars 2 with Cars Land?
John Lasseter: Yeah, you know, it’s just the timing of everything. This was always, you know, 11 was Cars 2 and 12 — you can’t have too much Cars stuff in the same year. You gotta dull it out. You know, but, uh, it’s really the production, the production cycles of both Cars 2 and Cars Land but Cars Land is so awesome.
Now my history is I grew up in Whittier, California. It’s about a half an hour from Disneyland in Anaheim and when I was going to Cal Arts I already knew I wanted to be a Disney animator as I was going to Cal Arts in the character animation program there.
And I got a job at Disneyland as a rider operator on the Jungle Cruise. I started at a sweeper in Tomorrow Land, 1977 and then I transferred into the ride operator on Jungle Cruise and it was the most fun job I’ve ever had. And I do want to recommend to all your children and your readers and stuff like that jobs at Disneyland is one of the great things your kids can do.
If you live anywhere near there and you can do that they learn so much and it’s so fantastic. My son, he worked there last summer. He just graduated college and he decided he’s gonna go to graduate school. He’s taking a year off just so he can work for one more year at Disneyland because he has to kind of go on because he loves it so much.
It’s like the best way to describe it is college without the homework, you know. It is all the fun stuff but it’s amazing being at a place where everyone is happy all day. it’s just magnificent and but anyway I — one of the great things in my career is, is when it’s just being now creating characters that are finding their way back into this place of my childhood, you know, one of my favorite place in the world, Disneyland.
And to, to actually have a whole set of characters and think and inspiring an entire new land which Disney hasn’t build a big, gigantic new land in a long time in any of their parks. This big is 12 acres. It’s three new rides. It’s all Radiator Springs and the Cadillac range and the Buicks and you can’t believe how beautiful it is.
The quality of work that’s being done there, there’s a quaintness to it, it’s really like old school Disneyland. You know, and that’s what California Adventure has deeded. I’ve been working very hard — one of my jobs as principle creative advisor for Walt Disney Imaginary — Imaginary is the group where Disney designs all the theme parks. And, and, uh, I’ve been really devoted to helping fix California Adventure because to me it was just kind of a — they attempted a Disney theme park on a budge and what the cut was all the theme-ing and that’s what makes Disney — Disneyland so great.
It takes you — each land takes you to a different place and a different time and transports you and California Adventure never did that and so that’s what we’re kind of doing. We’re going back and putting really great Disney, you know, rides based on Disney characters in. The Little Mermaid just opened this year. I don’t know if you had the chance to see Worlds of Color. It is spectacular and, uh, and then the first one was the Toy Story Mania ride which is so much fun.
And so with Cars Land opening and redoing the whole Main Street where as the Main Street at Disneyland is American town of Walt Disney’s childhood. The theory is this Main Street is the American town and the beginning of Walt Disney’s career. so it’s Los Angeles in the 1920s and it’s so quaint and beautiful and it’s got a red car, a streetcar, a real streetcar that’s gonna run down through the Hollywood street all the way down to Tower of Terror.
And it’s just gonna be, it’s just feel so much like a Disney park and the castle at the end is this famous theatre from Hollywood called the [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Circle Theatre where Snow White first premiered and they’re building that and it’s gonna be a restaurant in there, you know, really, really great restaurant inside it.
And just down the way you’ll turn down in Cars Land and it’s so fun to really, uh, take this park. And it’s gonna be so unique in all of the Disney theme parks and it’s gonna for the first time really feel like a true Disney theme park. And you’re really gonna be transported to Radiator Springs. So if your kids or your readers kids love anything dealing with the Cars movie they’re gonna want to see this because it’s really, really spectacular and the level of detail is so phenomenal.
You know, and again just like I was saying about the, uh, going to your first question about the, uh, the, uh, the, you know, creating a set of characters in this world we’ve kind of worked with the Imaginers to kind of like tell new stories kind of within that. And Stanley, who’s, you know, the statue, the founder of the town, we actually see is part of the Q area for the big E Ticket ride, Radiator Springs Races. You go through his original, uh, Stanley’s Oasis, his original roadsides stop.
And it’s really kind of wonderfully, catchy, old route 66 feeling to it and so it’s really, really fun to kind of even expand on the, uh, sort of the Radiator Springs and all the characters and stuff, you know, but actually to build it real is really fun. So I wanna do one last question you guys
John Lasseter: No, no please don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying I can’t really answer that because I love my boys so much and they’re so much apart of my life and what I’ve done and, uh, you know, and it’s, it’s, uh, it’s one of those things that I really — being a father is one of the great things. And at Pixar whenever, uh, I see two people get married, you know, I’m always so excited for them.
And then when they get pregnant it’s like I’m really excited and when they have a baby I say don’t stop, keep going. Oh, I don’t know if we can. I say yes, you can, go, you know. You want more. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t, you know. I love having five, five, five kids.
I do have two nieces that I adore, you know, and it’s this strength of, you know, both my — the boys in my life and the girls in my life is the balance of, you know, with Pixar, you know, having, uh, even though most of the main characters we’ve had are, uh, are male characters. We do have really strong female characters and next year we have Brave which is our first female main character which we’re very excited about and so, you know, it’s that balance.
My wife is very, very strong about having strong female characters and we have amazingly strong, uh, women at Pixar and so that’s why I think all of the female characters like Jessie and Holley Shiftwell and Sally and Eve and, you know, all these characters are very, very, uh, kind of strong characters and we’re very excited about having the first female lead with Brave and so that’s next year. Thank you very much, thanks for coming.
***I was flown out to LA for the Disney DreamWorks Event, but all my opinions are my own.***