What’s the Big Deal With Pixar’s Cars?

Kevthewriter wonders why Pixar keeps making Cars movies when no one he knows seems to like them very much.

Pixar is an animated studio known for their beloved work like the Toy Story series, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo (and Dory to a lesser extent), The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, etc. However, Pixar, like all studios, isn’t always perfect and one franchise they made that everyone seems to hate is Cars.

Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. It seems like, whenever Disney announces a Cars anything, there’s a very vocal minority on the internet that always complains. However, and maybe it’s because I don’t know that many people with kids, it doesn’t seem like most people really care that this franchise even exists. Yet, when any other Pixar movie came out (at least before 2011), I saw many adults, on the internet or not, or whether or not they had kids, raving about the latest Pixar movie. Yet what’s weird is that, despite the fact that those movies felt way more like phenomenons than the Cars movies ever did, Disney seems more willing to push Cars more than those movies, with the exception of Toy Story (though, that’s basically their Snow White, so it makes sense). And it’s not just that there is still a lot of Cars merchandise being produced to this day. [Note from Lebeau: Kev, you may want to visit a Disney Store.  Cars has its own section even when there isn’t a movie coming out.]  No, it’s also that they’ve already made 2 sequels, there are a bunch of short cartoons based off the flick, and it even had a spin-off franchise called Planes at one point. Oh and there was also a Disneyland commercial featuring, of all the popular Disney characters they could’ve used, Mater.

[Note from Lebeau: Well, Disneyland was promoting their new Carsland expansion…]

Why is this? Well, some of it probably has to do with the fact that the toys sell. I’m starting to get the feeling, when it comes to their animated stuff, the movies Disney decides to cash in on nowadays are not the ones that make the most money at the box office but the ones that sell the most merchandise. You might’ve remembered I asked a similar question about Frozen and, thinking back on that blog, I think the reason we see way more things for Frozen than the other modern Disney films is that not only was Frozen a huge phenomenon that the other modern Disney films weren’t but it’s merchandise sold very well therefore Iger’s made it more of a priority than any other animated Disney film at the moment. I kinda feel like Disney thinks that, if a movie sells more toys, that must mean that movie is more popular with audiences than other movies made by the same creative team, therefore they should make more stuff based on that movie. In theory, that sounds like a good idea but, really, it isn’t a good idea in practice because, if they actually bothered to ask people what their favorite Pixar film was or what Pixar movie they’d like to see more of, I don’t think many would actually answer Cars.

If they are adults.

I’m starting to think there might just be a generational gap here. While I haven’t heard that many people personally talk about Cars, again, I don’t know that many people with kids, who are the main target demographic. Perhaps the Cars films are just really popular with children. After all, many children do like to play with toy cars, therefore a film like Cars might be attractive to them and they’ll want to buy their toys so they can play with them. As a result, because children love the Cars franchise so much, Disney’s decided to make a huge franchise out of Cars because they know their main demographic, which is kids, love that franchise, even if it’s not very popular with older Pixar fans.

Of course, the generational gap is only half the reason. See, there is one adult who loves Cars-John Lasseter. From what I’ve heard, Cars is pretty much his passion project and, if nothing else, the Cars sequels and those short spin-offs were probably his idea. Actually, there’s a rumor that everyone at Pixar hated making Cars 2 except for him.

Yet, even if Cars is his passion project, Disney probably wouldn’t be so keen on actually greenlighting more Cars stuff if the franchise wasn’t making them any money, whether it comes from the BO or from merchandise.

Therefore, the reason Cars gets over-exposed isn’t because it makes the most money for Pixar (because it doesn’t at the box office) or because their the most popular Pixar films with both kids and adults (they definitely are not) but because they are a passion project for the owner of Pixar and kids really, really like the franchise, to the point of buying  toys, which in turn leads Disney to produce more Cars stuff. Of course, unfortunately that also means we had to wait 14 years for an Incredibles sequel while Cars already has 2 sequels and a spin-off in the span of 11 years. Oh well.

[Last note from Lebeau: Disney has wanted an Incredibles sequel for ages, but they waited on Brad Bird.]


Posted on April 22, 2017, in Movies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. To be fair, the Incredibles sequel thing at the end was more of a joke than an actual fact. Sorry if I sounded ignorant there, though…


  2. While I definitely place the Cars films very low on my list of Pixar movies, I also think they fill a certain niche that is necessary and it works for me. The Cars franchise is, as you mentioned, a cash cow that relies very little on whether the movies are good or not. But that’s okay. There are lots of movies out there that I don’t have to invest my time in and these are some of those. At the same time, they help to boost a very creative studio financially so they can do other projects. I am very excited to see CoCo based on the trailer that has been released. Could they have made CoCo without making the Cars sequels?…maybe. But for the time being I’m willing to let them make movies I ignore so they can make movies I’ll potentially love.

    That brings in another factor to this…I don’t always want my favorite movies to have sequels. I usually would rather they be left alone to be perfect as they are. Sequels can sometimes poison the well (cough-Pirates of the Caribbean-cough). For this reason, I am more than happy for them to keep pumping out Cars material because it means they’re not working on sequels for Ratatouille or Up or Wall-E. I actively DON’T WANT sequels to those movies and I actively don’t care how lousy any of their Cars material is.

    Finding Dory and Monsters University showed why I don’t want more Pixar sequels, but again, I’m capable of ignoring those movies.

    Go ahead- Sell the toys- Promote the theme park- Make these sequels.

    Then spend the rest of your time making wonderful original stories.

    You’ve got time for those now, right Pixar? CoCo had better deliver.


    • ^That’s true, sometimes it’s better to leave movies alone than making sequels to them. Just look at most of the sequels from last year!


  3. For what it’s worth, if i was a kid, I’d probably like the “Cars” series.


  4. hmm, I cant help but to wonder why the trailer cars 3 (the first one I haven’t seen the new trailer) tries to sell the film as a serious movie? Was it because the comedy of cars 2 turned off a ton of the fan base?


    • Maybe that and the fact that they might be afraid that, in addition to the Planes franchise, audiences might be getting tired of the franchise and their trying to find new ways to get the audience interested


  5. daffystardust

    After seeing Cars 3 last week I have been left with two questions nagging at me:

    1) Why is there a school bus character? Who is riding to school on the school bus in the world of Cars? If she is left over from the time of humans and Cars does exist on a post-apocalyptic Earth, she is likely very old, which doesn’t make a lot of sense considering that cars get old and die in these movies.

    2) The characters make a reference to the Sistine Chapel as a great achievement. If, as posited above, they live in a world that post-dates humanity and Michelangelo’s painting still exists, then it just means they share our estimation of its artistic greatness/importance, which is okay I guess. But if not, I can’t help but wonder what the Cars version of the painting looks like. Is it the same, but with car characters replacing the human ones? Either way, does this mean that Lighting McQueen and friends have a concept of a deity? What form does that take? Do cars from different areas have different ideas about it? Is the Cars universe an argument for intelligent design along the lines of the pocket watch argument? Are the windshield eyes of the cars irreducibly complex? As you can tell, this particular reference was extremely distracting to me.

    Can anybody set my mind at ease here?


    • I have seen similar questions asked about the entire Cars franchise. A lot of animated movies require a pretty high willingness to suspend disbelief. But the Cars franchise keeps pointing out its own faulty logic. My lazy response is that I don’t care enough about Cars to ponder these questions.


  6. I have a Cars franchise question too: is the Gary Numan song “Cars” played in any of the films?


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