**CARS 2 is in UK cinemas from 22 JULY
MMM: Congratulations on 25 years of Pixar. Did you ever think you would achieve that landmark so seamlessly, so effortlessly and with so much success when you started out?
Lasseter: No, at Pixar we always stay focused on every film we make. It takes about four years to make each one of our films. I directed the first three films and then Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird followed. Our goal was to have one movie a year but it took us about 10 years to get there because we didn’t want to have any drop in quality.
We’re always staying so focused on our films and making great films and having fun doing it, because I believe if you’re having fun it’s going to appear on the screen. So, we actually missed our 25th anniversary because it was a few days afterwards and someone said, ‘Hey, by the way do you know this year it’s Pixar’s 25th anniversary?’ We all looked at each other and we’re like, ‘Eh, when was our anniversary?’ But we did celebrate and we did take a little bit of time to reflect back.
A lot of people don’t realise but Pixar – when we first were purchased by Steve Jobs from Lucasfilm – we were the Lucas Film Computer Division before. And the LFCD, under Ed Catmull’s leadership from 1979 to 1986 had 4 major projects that they were working on, and at the time they were considered really crazy, nutty, cuckoo ideas, digital non-linear editing, digital sound editing, digital optical printing (or compositing the images digitally), and computer animation.
And from 79 to 86, those 4 things were developed with our group, and then in 1986 we formed Pixar and were primarily a technology company originally and in 1991 we made a deal with Disney to do our first feature film, which became Toy Story.
And from 1995 on when Toy Story came out were pretty much known solely as an animation studio, but when we started out I was the only traditionally trained animator working with computer animation in the world. And there were only 4 of us out of 40 that started Pixar that were part of animation, so it’s kind of interesting to see that Pixar’s kind of had two phases and from 95 on we were really an animation studio.
MMM: Sir Michael Caine said that actors can be superstitious, it also seems they can be indiscreet. So, John have you phoned Tom Hanks yet and said ‘don’t jump the gun’?
Lasseter: About what?
MMM: Well he suggested that a film is in the offing which I don’t think you’ve made any statement about yet – Toy Story 4?
Lasseter: We’re really excited about Cars 2 coming out; we’re very, very proud of this movie and very excited and really hope it does well!
MMM: In the first Cars, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) is a major character. Did you ever consider recasting his character as you did with George Carlin?
Lasseter: You know, over the years we have unfortunately lost some of our friends. Whenever we work with an actor they become family and friends, and many times we have to find an actor that will sound like them. Jim Varney, who was the voice of Slinky Dog… we lost him a few years ago, so we had to re-voice him.
In Cars we lost both Paul Newman and George Carlin. And the structure of the story in Cars 2 about the big oil versus alternative fuel… the Fillmore character in Radiator Springs is a hippy and makes his own organic fuel and so he was a really important character to have in the movie, so we found a great actor who could sound just like George doing his hippy-dippy weatherman character.
But Paul Newman was a different story. Paul Newman was Doc Hudson. He became a very close friend of mine. I was so inspired by him that our recording sessions on Cars were almost like conversations. He and I would sit in a recording studio and we recorded everything he said. We’d just talk about racing. He was so passionate about racing and he was a real natural race car driver.
You couldn’t get him to talk about acting at all… but racing, he could talk to you for hours. But there was such passion there that it kept informing me… every time I had a session with him, we’d come back and I would tweak the scenes with the Doc Hudson character and it kept becoming more and more like him. So, that’s why I say he was Doc Hudson and Doc Hudson was him.
So when we started contemplating the new movie, right away we said, ‘Let’s just come up with a tasteful way to somehow pay homage to the character and to Paul Newman.’ So we came up with the idea that the big cup they race for in Lightning McQueen’s racing circles, the Piston cup, would be renamed the Hudson Hornet Memorial Piston Cup in honour of Doc Hudson and they turned his office into a Doc Hudson museum. And there’s just a little moment with McQueen and Mater at the beginning and that was my little moment for Paul, my tribute to Paul Newman in the film.
MMM: Cars was pretty much a love letter to Route 66 and the last half-hour of Cars 2 seems to be a love letter to London. Was that inspired by personal trips?
Lasseter: When I finished doing Cars 1 and we started travelling around the world, I’d lived with Cars for about five years so I really had cars as characters on my mind. So as I travelled, each place I went to I looked out of the window and imagined what a car version of this city would look like. I happened to be going to cities with very strong, unique automotive heritage, and I kept seeing them as characters and what they could be like, especially London.
I’ve always loved London. I came here for the first time in 1979 when I graduated from CalArts and I never forgot being in the city with the taxi cabs, double-decker buses and everything was diesel engines and it just had this particular feel to it… the sound of the engines and it just never got out of my head. When you come into London there is something 100% unique about it.
We always wanted to have the climax of the film in London so we could really show off the beautiful architecture in car versions. We had a lot of fun car-ifying London. If you look closely there’s so many automotive details in the architecture… it’ll take you a few times looking at it to see all the incredible details that have been put into the film. And part of it’s just the fun… the fun of reimagining Big Ben, which became Big Bentley, and taking a look at columns and how, with just a little tweak, it looks like the grille of a Rolls Royce.