When a jolly pal of mine called J.P.C. de Wit (who just happens to be a noted expert on all things animated around these here parts) first told me that John Lasseter's 'Cars' was basically a remake of Michael Caton-Jones' 'Doc Hollywood', I said to him: "Jolly, ain't nobody in his right mind gonna remake Doc Hollywood". Well, he was right and I was wrong. The latter follows the same plot as the former: big city hotshot takes an accidental detour to Hillbilly country and gets stuck doing community service for destroying local property. They simply replaced Michael J. Fox with the accident prone Owen Wilson and Disney mainstay David Ogden Stiers with Paul Newman. Heck, there's even a scene with a pig! Though this is cleverly disguised as one of Pixar's patented self referential end-credit gags. Now, I'm the kind of person who always checks out the bonus features first on every DVD I get my hands on. So, the first thing that sprang to mind on noticing the featurette called The Inspiration for 'Cars' was: Doc Hollywood. Again, I was wrong. The MJ Fox classic is never mentioned.
Instead, John Lasseter gets to explain that Cars is a very personal story for him (aren't they always). This comes as a welcome surprise, as a lot of people were a tad afraid Pixar might be heating up a leftover when the first teasers were screened (remember, at the time Pixar was on the verge of leaving Disney and 'Cars' was their final obligation to round out their contract). The idea of setting a movie on Route 66 first formed in Lover-of-loud-shirts Lasseter's mind while taking a long deserved break from Pixar in the summer of '99. You see, Lasseter wanted to travel the old routes and bond with his wife and four boys the same way his dad used to do back when Johnny was young. I'm sure that if his father had shot home movies during these trips, they would have been inserted here, but unfortunately we only get to see some still pictures of the previous generation of Lasseters on holiday (we are treated to some home movies of the current Lasseter clan, though).
Next, Lasseter and co-director Joe Ranft contacted Michael Wallis, author of "Route 66: The Mother Road", who took some of Pixar's top collaborators on an inspirational trip across the USA (presumably funded by Disney). During a brief montage, we see the team (I can't tell most of them apart, but my friend J.P.C. would) meeting zany characters (including both the truck and the the guy who's teeth obviously inspired the character of Mater), scraping squashed possums off the road, doing magic tricks and spray painting graffiti on an artistically abandoned car (they are artists, after all). All this is accompanied by a banjo playing Hillbilly (a cliché if ever there was one). But it was the plight of local barber Angel Delgadillo, who explains how all the little towns bordering the Route were bypassed that got incorporated into the script almost verbatim (both versions are featured in this featurette).
Now according to IMDb, this featurette is supposed to last 16 minutes. Not on my disc it don't, the version reviewed here only took up about a third of that. So, perhaps the longer version does give the two Michaels (Caton Jones and J. Fox) their due. Lets hope so, though if the people credited on this page are any indication, the extra minutes only seem to be feature interviews with 'The Real Mater' (who must be the guy with the teeth mentioned earlier), some Racing legends and their offspring (not glimpsed at all).
6 out of 10
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