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Thursday, April 24, 2008  

Cars and Questions

After several hundred viewings of Cars, I thought I'd come up with all the questions that could be asked about it. But this post from Monty made me realize I was wrong. Thanks Monty, for giving me an excuse to write about an untimely subject that's been kicking around in my head for the last year. Now I can share my other questions:

How much experimentation and screen testing did Pixar do with the cars' windshield-based eyes, in terms of distance apart and size, to arrive at the coefficient value of both guaranteed to provide maximum cuteness? I bet it was a lot. Somewhere in Emeryville there's a Mac whose trash folder is stuffed with discarded versions of Lightning McQueen looking like everyone from South Park characters to Brandy.

Why do the cars all have side and back windows if they can only see out their windshields? And how fucking terrifying would it be if they had a 360-degree field of vision like you do in a real car? Remember that moment in the big tiebreaker race where McQueen catches up to Chick Hicks in reverse using his new mirrors? It would have been a completely different movie if we saw two humongous blue irises peering through the back window while his windshield went zombie-white. I'm just saying.

What's inside a Cars car? Seats and a dashboard and a steering wheel? Or gooey, squinchy brains and guts, like the interior of a new-school Cylon Raider? Unfortunately, Sarge the army jeep keeps his canvas roof buttoned up tight so we never find out. And it's not like there are any motorcycles zooming around. Also, the bit where Minnie and Van lock their doors is funny, until you think about the fact that it means that up to this point in the movie, they've been driving around in a state that will allow any old vehicle to roll up to them, open a passenger door, and spill their prefrontal lobes and hypothalami right out onto the pavement.

Of course, opening that door would require opposable thumbs, which of course none of the cars have. We've always been told that opposable thumbs are what allowed our species to rise from the primordial slime and ultimately build our towering civilization. But apparently prehensile tires and windshield wipers would have worked just as well.

Early on, McQueen is disgusted to be passed on the highway by a van with a mattress tied to its roof. Okay, by this time we've already established that this in a parallel universe with no humans in it, so who the fuck's going to be sleeping on that mattress, anyway?

The cars of Cars inhabit a world where representations of car parts are everywhere. McQueen competes for the Piston Cup, a trophy shaped like a car's piston. Radiator Springs is in Ornament Valley, an area marked by giant rock formations shaped like hood ornaments and radiator caps. Sally dreams of reopening the Wheel Well Hotel, a classy overnight spot for cars with a façade shaped like, obviously, a wheel well. It's all cool to us, but if you were a car, wouldn't you find this a little macabre? Jeff Gordon doesn't race for the Aorta Cup. A valley full of rock formations shaped like giant noses would creep everyone out, with or without a town nestled among them called Sweat Gland Springs. And can you imagine a high-end hotel calling itself the Shoulder Joint, let alone going out of its way to look like one?

Finally, where do new cars come from in this universe? Mack uses the quasi-religious expression "Thank the manufacturer" at one point, which suggests some kind of celestial assembly line. But then there's a shot of two little baby cars at the big race, which implies sexual reproduction (as does McQueen's attraction to Sally). At least they're late-model cars; otherwise I'd have to call bullshit on the whole enterprise. But then many of the other characters are late-model cars as well. McQueen, for instance, can't be more than a few years old, which fits with his level of emotional maturity but not his successful career as a professional athlete. And I'm not even going to get into the question of how a van and a sedan like the Rusteeze guys could be brothers.

I’m just hoping Cars 2 answers some of these questions.

And yes, I know, I'm sure a lot of this is addressed in the DVD commentary, but M. Small hates those. "Turn off the talking!" he demands, and it's not like I'm going to sit through this movie again without him.

posted by M. Giant 8:00 PM 7 comments


OMG that's too funny, and next time Liam watches it, I'm going to be all freaked out by wondering what is inside the cars!



By Blogger Andy, at April 25, 2008 at 4:28 AM  

As the mother of a Cars-obsessed son, I have had many of these same questions. I think we've watched it a few too many times.

By Blogger Bunny, at April 25, 2008 at 4:47 AM  

Hey, M.Giant! I finally got my Blogger issues addressed.

My husband likes to critically analyze cartoons. Once, he said of Dora, "Like a kid her age would just be roaming around the country with no supervision. Where are her parents?"

I was like "Are you actually looking to report Dora's family to DCFS?"

I'm not saying you're overanalyzing, mind you. The eyes are windshields/why do they need the other windows thing was a good point. Plus, the mattress thing made me laugh. Hard.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 26, 2008 at 12:56 PM  

Having JUST returned from Disney where they have BOTH Lightening McQueen AND Mater ... I can assure you that inside the vehicles they have ... Ah ... I forgot to look?

All 4 of my boys are past the CARS phase (mostly) and my nephews didn't mention it. But I KNOW we saw them. And I KNOW we took pictures. I will be back to you shortly with the answer.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 26, 2008 at 3:47 PM  

Oh thank god. I thought a lot of these same things. The movie really annoys me. I think I am going to have to put cars on hiatus for a while. My son has watched it so many times that he spouts out chunks of dialogue while playing. Yesterday it was, "I don't need a map, I've got GPS" from Minnie and Van. Urgghh! Also, when it's on, he doesn't even watch it anymore, he just talks along with it and plays with his cars. Its too much.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 28, 2008 at 8:28 AM  

I read somewhere that the animators had difficulty with the cars, because they had to project emotional expressions with mostly the face.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at April 30, 2008 at 12:36 PM  

I'm not sure they can only see out their windshields, because then how would they use the rearview mirrors?

And did you see the Deleted Scenes, where Lightning McQueen dreams that his engine is taken out and put into Mater, so now he's trapped in a tow truck's body? Creepy!

By Blogger Monty Ashley, at May 1, 2008 at 1:15 PM  

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