John Carter Producer: Pixar Backlash to Blame for Cars 2 Oscar Snub?

Last summer’s Cars 2 marked a notable footnote in the history of Pixar Animation, just not a good one; despite opening to the studio’s sixth-highest worldwide take to date, the sequel to 2006’s Cars earned middling reviews, prompted critics to deem it a commercial cash-grab, and eventually – maybe most shockingly, given the studio's track record – became the first Pixar film not to nab an Oscar nod for Best Animated Feature since the category was inaugurated. Could it be, as Pixar producer Lindsey Collins suggests, that Cars 2 was Oscar-snubbed because of anti-Pixar backlash?

Speaking with press today in Phoenix, Arizona for John Carter, which she produced for longtime Pixar collaborator Andrew Stanton, Collins assessed why Cars 2 was overlooked in favor of five other animated films (A Cat in Paris, Chico and Rita, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, and Rango).

“The fact that [Cars 2] was a sequel -- in a way it’s funny, because obviously from a franchise standpoint people love sequels,” Collins explained. “And certainly from a franchise standpoint Cars 2 did insanely well, such that we can’t even count it as a good metric to tell us whether or not to do sequels.”

Sequel status aside, Collins surmised a larger reason was working against the John Lasseter-directed pic, which was the first Pixar film to earn an overall “rotten” score on Rotten Tomatoes. “I think it had the fact that Pixar has dominated going against it,” she added. “At a certain point there was going to be somebody who was going to take the fall a little bit. It was going to be like, ‘Eh, we don’t like that one.’”

Then again, Cars 2’s nomination miss could also be chalked up to the relatively deep field of animated films in the running for Oscar this year – many of which surprised Collins and defied her own expectations of the competition. “I see every single one of these things because my kids drag me to them all, and to me it felt like God, there are some great animated films this year. I actually had one of those, ‘There’s two hours of my life that I’m never going to get back’ [thoughts], and then you walk out like, ‘Actually, that was quite good!’”

Among the “great pictures” not spawned from Pixar that Collins had praise for? “I loved Rango," she admitted. “There were actually some great pictures this year.”

As for the cold critical reception and accusations of crass commercialism Cars 2 received, Collins maintains that Lasseter “truly, truly loves” the sequel -- and Pixar, she says, supports the films its stable of directors want to make. “John loves that world, he loves those characters. We got accused of being very commercial with it and it’s kind of funny, it’s so ironic because if you’ve met John Lasseter there’s not a disingenuous bone in that man’s body.”

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  • DK says:

    I am a huge Disney and Pixar geek, and I walked out of Cars 2. The dialogue wasn't as sharp, the storyline was weak, and the overall product was clearly aimed at the kids who would be begging for their parents to buy more Cars merchandise.

    The first Pixar movies (and hopefully Brave as well) focused on story, humor and heart. They appealed just as much to adults as to children. Cars 2 felt hollow and overproduced. It was at best on the level of a Disney Channel TV movie. Don't insult your key demo more by feigning ignorance here, Pixar. THe Academy brushed off your film because it stinks.

  • The Cantankerist says:

    Yeah, +1. I love Pixar and had no secret resentment or desire for schadenfreude going into Cars 2 - alright, I thought Cars was the weakest of their previous movies and an odd choice for a sequel, but hey! secret agent territory! I was hoping to be surprised and transported.

    And I so wasn't.

    Pixar films generally breathe character, in the best sense; we get to know what the characters value and that in itself is the engine of the plot. Cars 2 was "And then this happened, and then this happened". None of the trademark wit, just jokes where engine oil equates to urine and the like - the easy, well-trodden option every time.

    Given Lasseter's position, I can't help but think that it's a movie made by a guy with one eye on demographics and self-censorship, who might've forgotten that when you say "this next one's gonna be just fun, escapist entertainment", then that's the one where you have to double down on finding character and genuine emotion. I didn't feel it at all in Cars 2. (By comparison, Jessie's song in Toy Story 2 SCARRED ME FOR LIFE. TS2 is the benchmark for sequels. Does *anyone* working on Cars 2 honestly believe they even *approached* those heights?)

    Rango, too, is in a different league. It might be scary or difficult for kids, but it's just a WAY better film - more adventurous, funnier, better-written, the lot.

  • Neo says:

    Lindsey can spin it however she wants, but two facts remain:

    1. Your movie sucked, no matter how many genuine bones Lasseter has in his body.

    2. Cars merchandise is the Disney's biggest cash cow. The sequel exists to increase merchandise revenue and bring the masses to the Disney parks. Cars Land, anyone? Coming to you summer 2012.

  • SD says:

    I remember when Cars 1 came out everyone said it was the weakest of all the Pixar films to date but it had a lot of heart and despite the Doc Hollywood comparisons it turned out a lot better than many (myself included) expected.

    But Cars 2 took the weakest (and most annoying) character and built the sequel around them.

    I haven't seen Chico and Rita yet but otherwise I still believe Rango to be the best animated film I saw last year and I shall be rooting for it to win.

    However, given the new reports of how John Carter is tracking I think Collins needs to worry about her own film a bit more.

    • KevyB says:

      I agree! I thought Cars was a bit underrated (and actually a bit better than the sitcommy Monsters, Inc and the by-the-numbers Bug's Life), but Cars 2 was just too much Mater and too little plot.

      But to say this year was a good year for animated films? UGH! Kung Fu Panda and Puss in Boots, while both better than Cars 2, were still just middling. And I figure A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita have to better since few people had heard of them before their nominations. I thought the generic Rio was even better than Cars 2. But Rango really was leagues above the other wide releases this year and deserves the recognition.

  • MartiniShark says:

    This was a hollow effort, from the recycled spy plotline, the global settings to appeal to the various release territories, and the shoehorned plotline of the evils of oil (in an automobile-based film?).

    The hard truth is just in licensing the original generated around $2billion annually just in licensed sales. They even made a "Cars 2" Operation game, so tyke will no longer become inspired to be doctors, but Jiffy-Lube techs. There were not only Huggies baby wipes but numerous officially licensed training potties,for fuck's sake. I don't think they really cared if the script was bad or not, as long as they produced anything to justify people wiping their baby's ass with the Pixar branded cheek-cloth.

  • Ed says:

    yup, Cars 2 was a shameless cash-grab, it was simply awful, by even non-Pixar standard. there was no conspiracy why it wasn't nominated.

    • throwdown says:

      Exactly. So disingenous. All the top Pixar brass dove on that Disney stock and now Disney is doing what it swore would never happen to Pixar - dilute their brand, sequelize the output, open a soulless Vancouver direct-to-dvd style operation, and...embalm Pixar.

      Laika, all the way, in 2012

  • Jake says:

    Another unembarrassed Pixar lover here, but I turned off the first Cars midway through. Hated that one. Can't even get my six year old to sit through it. Something about the cars not having drivers or maybe it's the eyes in the windshields instead of as the headlights. Something just feels wrong about it.

    Certainly didn't bother to go to the sequel. I wouldn't mind a sequel to The Incredibles. But really, that's it. The rest of them are stand alones and should stay that way. Not looking forward to Monsters U.

  • Geo says:

    Cars 2 just wasn't very good - no conspiracy theory there. 🙂

  • KMG says:

    There's a reason it wasn't nominated: Cars 2 wasn't very good. I didn't think it sucked, as some did, and I also didn't think it was purely a merchandising ploy. I just thought that after what, 10 top-notch features in a row, Pixar finally made a mediocre film. I love the characters, and the visuals, and the whole Cars world, and there were a lot of fun sight gags and puns. But Pixar has always made entertaining films that told enjoyable stories about interesting characters... that were animated. Cars 2 felt like an animated film about uninteresting characters. It seemed like Cars 2 forgot there were characters, and relied entirely on the gags and puns... so totally unlike Pixar's usual level of work. A film this disappointing didn't deserve an Oscar nod.

  • Cameron says:

    I have no problem with Pixar making a cash-grab every once in awhile like it does with the Cars franchise. Those films make billions in merchandising to little kids, and, because of that, gives them the freedom to take artistic chances with other films like Up, Wall-e, Ratatouille, and the upcoming Brave.

    • R.B. says:

      Pixar was making its great films without cash grabs before Cars 2. If anything, the Disney desired cash crab pushed Brave's production back.

  • R.B. says:

    I like to think that the producer is putting on a brave face to show support for her studio, rather than really believing that Cars 2 was just as good as any former Pixar product. It is entirely fair to say that Cars 2 was "good enough" in regard to the product that the other animation studios put out, like Kungfu Panda 2. However, it didn't rise to the level of what everyone expects from a Pixar film, and as a result, it suffered from that failed expectation. It tarnished the magic and the aura that Pixar had cultivated with one amazing film after another, especially after the fantastic run of Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3, and Rattatouille.

    Cars 2 wasn't snubbed because critics got angry about a sequel, much less one focused around an automotive Larry the Cable Guy; it got snubbed because Pixar let one out of the stable that simply wasn't up to the Pixar quality it had established for itself with the rest of its films.

  • lucifurious says:

    Honestly, the first one wasn't that great either.

    They should have made The Incredibles 2 instead. That is a franchise with billion dollar potential. Come on Lassetter, get Bird on the horn!

  • ken says:

    This article seems a bit warped. What "anti pixar movement" are we talking about? From what I've seen, America is worshipping this studio and John Lasseter more than ever; so much, in fact, that it's disgusting. This article proves it. Is it so hard to believe that Pixar made a disappointing movie? Why must people try to devise excuses? "Oh, the Oscars are against Pixar!" "Oh! people just don't know what they're talking about!"

    And for the record, I didn't really think UP was all that great; apart from the first 10 minutes of the film (which was brilliant,) the movie was a bit overrated.

    • Jalynne says:

      I personally enjoyed Cars 2 for what it was, so I might not be the best one to respond to your comment, but you've hit the nail right on the head. Pixar has been placed on a pedestal and worshipped. Had it not been, then Cars 2 would not have been as disappointing as people have taken it to be. Now, people are scattering to have a reason to worship Pixar again. Some are making excuses for why Cars 2 wasn't well received. Some are still stuck on why Incredibles should have had a sequel. Some are clamoring for Brave so it can "set the company straight" or whatever else. Basically, Pixar let down the crazy high standards of the elitist fans and now they just don't know what to do. But to say that this has turned to anti-Pixar is ridiculous. They aren't anti-Pixar. They are anti-Cars because Cars reminds them (in their own words) of DreamWorks and they are mainly anti-DreamWorks. Because of their Pixar worship, they seem to refuse the idea that Cars and Cars 2 could have possibly come from the same geniuses who created Up and Toy Story 3 (which is apparently the only worthy franchise in existence or something).

      I happen to agree with you on UP too. With the exception of the first 10 minutes, it was highly overrated.

  • Triple L says:

    Taking the focus off the article..doesn't anyone else here think these comments are disgusting? I mean really, I think most of you are overreacting.

    • Jalynne says:

      YES. Yes, I do think most of these comments are disgusting and over the top. I'm glad somebody else pointed it out.

      • Triple L says:

        I just think it's funny that if Cars was released when Monsters Inc was released and Cars 2 was released when Monsters Inc 2 will be released, the sequel would be welcomed.

        It's the fact that it's Cars that makes people dislike it and I think that flat out stupid.

        Really, if you walked out halfway through the movie, then your opinion doesn't count already. In fact, these comments are the reason this article exists. Good to see an article comes with proof of the blind Pixar fans who hail it to be the God of all animation.

        It was a good Pixar movie, but if you judge it next to Toy Story 3, which came out the year before, of course it won't look as good. Really, this hate is just ridiculous.

    • Jess says:

      I agree with you. people are just sprouting hate right now. Don't bad mouth Disney, don't bad mouth Pixar. How can you say these things and then claim to love everything else about them at the same time. Get over it, not every movie will be the same, not every movie will conect with you. People are different and so are Pixar and Disney movies. Take Cars for what it is, don't try to disect everything, otherwise you're really missing the point of a CHILD'S movie, of any of Pixar's movies.

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  • Luke says:

    I can't believe that people still believe Cars 2 is bad and was made for marketing. Lindsey Collins just said herself that Pixar supported the film, and people still don't believe them.

    Cars 2 is a film that I love and one that I think is excellent. I love all Pixar films but I do have a least favorite, and it is not Cars 2 by the way. If it was really a failure, then John Lasseter would have deserved to have been fired as CCO of Disney and Pixar for directing a bad film. But he doesn't deserve that because he directed a great film, five amazing films and that's why everyone keeps him in charge - because he doesn't release bad movies. Pixar is just the way it needs to be, they have nothing to worry about. Cars 2 was not bad, it was very good. Most people like it, considering it would have bombed if people hated it, it made just as much as any other Pixar film. I think true Pixar fans will really be open-minded to all of their films. We don't have to love them equally, but there a lot of things to like about each one of them.