I had put off watching Cars for many years. I think, for one, I didn't see it at the cinema and once it is processed through the Disney machine it becomes a little bit too much. The toys, the adverts, the posters - even the products that have very little association are displayed everywhere. Its overkill. So, only when the latest Pixar films are released do I realise that I missed this one. Not to mention, I have rarely heard people sing the praises of Cars - "my favourite is Finding Nemo, Toy Story and Wall-E"... and so on and so forth, but it turns out that Pixar 'not on their game' would be an 8 out of 10, rather than a 10 out of 10. And this is how I feel about Cars, a great film - 8 out of 10 - but all the other Pixar films are either the same or better. The less said about Cars 2 the better so, lets reflect on what was great about Cars.
When Nostalgia and Product Placement Meet
There is a race at one point between Paul Newmans 'Doc' and Owen Wilsons 'Lightning' McQueen. The dusty setting and the two cars - the blue 50's classic VS the red car - and it reminded me of an advert (that strangely enough was re-released recently as part of some nostalgic ad-campaign) for the chocolate bar - the Milky Way...
Though I doubt this was a purposeful connection, it did place me in a fairly nostalgic mood. I think this is where Cars and Toy Story draw a connection. Both of them celebrate nostalgia and 'the good ol' days'. Ironically, at the same time, in Cars case it places itself at the centre of a conflict - as the industrial and capitalist business that it attempts to tackle is in fact the industry that Cars uses to publicize and sell itself through. Do you think we could consider for a moment all those smaller animation-studios that Disney has trampled upon to create Cars?
On a Smaller Scale...
Fact of the matter is, the film deals with this business mentality on a smaller scale - looking at McQueen as a brand unto himself - a specific car who is selfish and thinks of no-one but himself. He believes that he alone is responsible for his success - ignoring the work of everyone around who helped him become who he is. But this attitude is comparable to consumerism itself - as businesses often feel that this arrogance is required to present itself with a confident image. Nevertheless, McQueen/Consumerism blindly destroys a small town. Somebody obsessed with their own skills ignores the skills of others and what they can bring to the table.
The film explores where McQueen and, ultimately, a western-society is heading. Where are we going if this selfish attitude continues and we continue to believe that our own 'brand' and persona is more important than anyone else. We need to celebrate where we have come from and celebrate the smaller aspects of a society as much as we celebrate the larger, industrial areas of society.
I Love the Fifties
The look of the film - like most Pixar films - is one of the film stronger points. Finding Nemo prided itself on fluid textures that suited the Ocean, whilst in terms of the type of texture, Cars is the opposite. Cars builds itself on a dusty landscape, combining the shiney sports-car with the crevasses and stoney-might of Nevada. This, combined with the Cadillacs, Chevy's and Sunbeams creates an era that has been revived recently through Mad Men amongst many other films that have been released.
The post-war, pre-sixties era was a unique time in history that America is immensely proud of - the cars, the music, the drive-ins and drive-thrus. Personally, if I was to ever live in America, I would take the late 50's anyday rather than the flowers-and-peace 60's, the post-Vietnam 70's or the excess-80's. Something was lost in the last 50 years and I think maybe America sold its soul to capitalism - and it is clear that Cars additionally believes that America could get its soul back... if it is paid for.