It's been just over eighteen months since I caught my first glimpse of Pixar's seventh feature film, <i>Cars</i>. In the year and a half since, the John Lasseter-directed, Route 66-set, computer-animated flick has been bumped to a summer '06 theatrical release, Disney and Pixar have patched things up (ensuring this won't be their final co-production as once thought), and promotions have begun to kick into high gear with just over a month before this much-anticipated races into theaters.
If you've wandered into any part of the Internet these past 18 months (this site included), you have probably discovered that despite Pixar's critically and financially spotless track record, <i>Cars</i> has been met with some skepticism. Cynics have stated "Wow, it looks like Pixar may have finally made something less than perfect." Those with more faith in the Emeryville, California-based studio have said, "Let's wait until seeing the final film before labeling this a Pixar failure." Personally, I find myself somewhere in between, but closer to the latter. I remember not being overly jazzed by previews for <i>Finding Nemo</i> (despite the always-nice use of Men at Work's "Down Under"), and yet when I saw the film, like most people, I was quite pleased. On the other hand, trailers for <i>Toy Story 2</i>, <i>Monsters, Inc.</i> and <i>The Incredibles</i> had me quite excited and yet my near-impossible expectations were met. From what I've read and seen of <i>Cars</i>, the most attractive thing about the film so far is the "Pixar" name. I've got my faith in the film based on the studio's 1.000 batting average, even if I can't help but be somewhat guarded in my optimism as the premise and plot seem less worthy of a "Brilliant!" remark than any other Pixar film.
Something that does have me revved up is the promotional stuff. What? Like advertising? Yeah, sort of like that. I vividly recall getting a kick out of the "First in Line" <i>Incredibles</i> Internet ads (which were ripped off in that Coca-Cola-honored short film and disappointingly absent from the DVD), Sulley and Mike's "Charades" game ("Harry Flowerpot?"), and even Buzz and company wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving on ABC in 1999. Then there's cereal swag, from which I still have four of the five <i>Toy Story</i> figures, a Flik spoon from <i>A Bug's Life</i>, and a set of concentration cards promoting <i>Toy Story 2</i>'s long-awaited home video release. Imagine my excitement at learning there will be <i>Cars</i> cars found inside the boxes of some truly stellar Kellogg's cereals
! Perhaps I'm a hypocrite, because I was among those who cried foul (or "fowl", if you will) at the marketing blitz Disney let loose for <i>Chicken Little</i>. But as seems to be the case for everything else, Pixar seems to cross-promote better than the rest.
This leads us to the ultimate focus of this ramble. As part of extensive efforts to promote <i>Cars</i>, Disney/Pixar have teamed up with State Farm auto insurance to bring us <b>"CARS Road Trip '06"</b>, in which two of the stars of <i>Cars</i> can be witnessed at full-size as they tour the nation. The real cars were created by Eddie Paul, a movie car creator/customizer who is responsible for John Travolta's hot rod in <i>Grease</i> as well as vehicles seen in <i>The Fast and The Furious</i>.
The road trip began on the day after Easter in Akron, Ohio, and has already included stops in Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Toronto (hey, that's not in the US!), and Chicago. Today, it moves onto Denver. But over the weekend (well, for four hours on Saturday, at least), the tour came to Minneapolis, MN (well, actually, Burnsville, MN). Steady rain couldn't detour the trip, as the life-sized models of protagonist racecar Lightning McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson) and Radiator Springs' blue Porsche Sally Carrera (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) took protection under a tent, while the third member in the automotive party (a Mack Truck inspired by the John Ratzenberger-voiced Mack) kept watch outside.
Here are some pictures from this event:
Lightning McQueen is all smiles.
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there!
UD's own <b>pinkrenata</b> poses with Sally the Porsche, while an adoring fan misses his target by a good seven or eight feet.
More Sally, from a different view.
A look at some of the tent decorations
Renata poses with Mack, illustrating that a little rain never hurt anyone!
One last look at Renata, this time in back of the UD Jam Van, with what is unfortunately not a bumper sticker.
And here's the free poster!
Inside the tent, there was a sweepstakes to get tickets to a free <i>Cars</i> screening and a number of State Farm agents willing to talk about car insurance (I suppose). As you may notice, children and <i>Cars</i> posters were both in great supply, while a customized <i>Cars</i> entertainment center ran a loop of footage from the film's trailers and comments from John Lasseter.
Though it required quite a bit of effort for about 10 minutes of payoff, it was not at all a disappointment. The case for checking it out may be supported by the fact that one does not go away empty-handed. I walked away with a cool 18½" x 27" poster featuring just about the entire cast of <i>Cars</i>, a pack of nine trading cards of the principal characters, and a Limited Edition <i>Cars</i> North American Road Atlas (the cover of which is slickly adorned with Lightning McQueen), and a little bag with candy and assorted State Farm paraphernalia (jar opener, magnet, car emblem, etc.). The Atlas (your choice of a big one or slightly smaller one) required filling out a form to be contacted by a local State Farm agent. Everything else was entirely free.
All in all, I'm still a little more excited by the prospect of getting <i>Cars</i> cars inside my beloved cereal (and also, what I saw in the mall afterwards, the Lighting McQueen toy racecar, which drives around and whose grille moves as he talks!) than actually seeing <i>Cars</i> itself and I guess that's weird. But in spite of the rain, it was a fun day and worth the effort for any Pixar (or car) fan.
Here's the remaining "CARS Road Trip '06" schedule:
May 1 Denver, CO
May 2 Salt Lake City, UT
May 4 DuPont, WA
May 5 Seattle, WA
May 6 Portland, OR
May 7 San Francisco, CA
May 8 Bakersfield, CA
May 10-12 Los Angeles, CA
May 15 Houston, TX
May 17-18 Atlanta, GA
May 20-21 Orlando, FL
May 22-23 Jacksonville, FL
May 24-28 Charlotte, NC -- World Premiere/NASCAR Coca Cola 600
May 30 Charlottesville, VA
May 31 Parsippany, NJ
June 1-6 New York, NY
June 11-18 Los Angeles, CA
June 19 Phoenix, AZ
June 21 San Antonio, TX
June 22 Dallas, TX
June 23-24 Tulsa, OK
June 26 St. Louis, MO
June 27 Erlanger, KY
June 28 Cincinnati, OH
June 29 Lexington, KY
June 30 Columbus, OH
July 5 Battle Creek, MI
July 6 Oakbrook, IL
July 7 Bloomington, IL
July 8-11 Chicago, IL
For Further Information, contact:
Dave Wong, Vice President, National Publicity, Buena Vista Pictures Marketing (818) 560-7291
Mia Jazo-Harris, Media Relations, State Farm (309) 766-5242
More on <b><i>Cars</i></b>
And, in case you need to be reminded, <i>Cars</i> opens on June 9th. Click here
for more of UD's coverage on the film.