Thoughts on Cars 2

Deviating on my usual knitting and crafty-ness blogging for some thoughts on Cars 2 that we saw tonight:

Dear John Lasseter (and the rest of the Pixar team) -

First of all, I want it on record that we're big, no, HUGE, Pixar fans at our house. We've had all the movies, first on VHS (yes, we're dating ourselves) and later on DVD and BlueRay, and that was before we had our son. And not just because my husband works in the 3D animation industry either. We've always loved your movies.

I remember seeing Luxo Jr. in front of Short Circuit when I was 11 years old and thinking it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen - I had no idea it was made with a computer! Years later I was delighted to see Toy Story while blowing off steam finishing my fourth year of university (in film, no less). I still get choked up at the emotion that emanates from Up when we watch it on DVD. And the original Cars is on pretty much every mobile device we own - a staple for doing daycare runs with our son on public transit. For my husband Jordan, I think Pixar is pretty much *the* reason he went into the 3D animation business.

So we're a bit conflicted in our house tonight, and it's with a heavy heart that I'm writing this letter.

You see, our son Harrison is almost 4. And he loves Lightning McQueen. Movies and movie events have always been a big deal in our house so when we realized Cars 2 was opening today, we got our tickets in advance and told the little guy we were going. Sort of like an initiation - that milestone of going to your first big movie "event". He's been excited for days. This morning on the bus Harrison seemed to notice McQueen pictures everywhere (there were pictures in the entertainment section - one of the regulars on our bus ripped them out of his paper for him), and was thrilled to look at pictures of himself on Jordan's iPhone with the large, remote control McQueen that he'd seen at TIFF at the Sprockets Festival. Even more exciting was that mommy and daddy left work early and *both* picked him up from daycare to go see this special movie.

I'm not sure if you know Toronto very well, but we went to see it at the AMC theatres at Yonge & Dundas. Which of course meant that a special movie couldn't be seen without going to the Disney Store at the Eaton Centre, since it was "on the way". New red McQueen t-shirt in tow (and the well known fact that Cars has made more money from merchandising than even Star Wars wasn't lost on us since before even walking into the Disney Store we were already carrying our son's Lightning McQueen backpack with two Lightning McQueen cars tucked carefully into the side pockets), we were off to the show.

I think we're pretty good parents. We vet our son's movies, 'cause hey, he's a little guy. But I never would have thought I'd have to vet a Pixar movie. Heck, we didn't even read any reviews because we were all so excited about it! Full disclosure: I did see one headline on Rotten Tomatoes ("Critics Consensus: Cars 2 is Stuck in Neutral") while I was looking up another film but I purposely avoided it. I thought, well hey, critics never like *everything*. And in less than the first 20 minutes Jordan and I both had a sick feeling in our stomachs.

It wasn't so much the explosions, but the guns and the shooting. I think we visibly recoiled at the use of the word "kill" - multiple times. It's not that we want our son to grow up thinking there's no violence in the world, but that we really don't think that's a necessary thing to learn when you're not even four years old. Yes, he plays "good guys" and "bad guys" with his friends, but we strongly discourage weapons and shooting games with a firm, "we don't play guns" because we're pretty sure that he doesn't have the full understanding of consequences, especially of that kind of violent behaviour. And we're okay with that!

Don't get me wrong, there are truly some lovely moments in Cars 2 - Jordan gasped at the complexity of the aerial shot of Paris and the cars moving in the arondissement around the l'Arc de Triomphe (nice leveraging of the Ratatouille assets, by the way) and I know I sighed at how beautiful the lighting was in the wide shots of the Italian coastal town. In terms of visual delights and showing off true 3D animation prowess, Cars 2 pulled out all the stops. The teachable moment - about being true to yourself and loving who you are and who your friends are, regardless of yours and their differences, was pretty great too. It was just unexpected to also have a teachable moment on the way home from the movie that "kill" is a "bad word" and that to want to "have someone killed" isn't very nice either.

Luckily, in Harrison's world, nothing seems amiss. He had a terrific family date night with mommy and daddy, got kisses and cuddles and a story before being tucked into his red, racecar bed. It's just Jordan and I who are deflated, like when you've opened that present on Christmas morning that you were so excited about and couldn't wait to tear into and then it wasn't that super, cool, amazing thing you were hoping that Santa would bring you, but socks and underwear instead.

I'm sure you guys will do better next time, and again, we're really big fans here. But we were so disappointed, we couldn't in good conscience let you off the hook without telling you know how we felt.

Just thought you should know.


Allison & Jordan