As you may be aware, I’m very interested in the rich, complex world Pixar has created for the Cars series of movies. Maybe a little too interested. The movies, while enjoyable as simply fun animated movies about cars, nevertheless bring up a great deal of complex issues when given greater scrutiny. Now I’ve finally had my chance to address these issues with the creators themselves, right at Pixar.
Thanks to a press day at Pixar and the remarkable candor, openness, and formidable bullshit-tolerance of the people who work at Pixar, I was allowed to address in great detail all my questions and theories and conundrums with the man in charge of the whole Cars franchise, Jay Ward.
In the extraordinarily unlikely event that you, somehow, haven’t been keeping up with my (and, I promise, many other people’s) painful, intense scrutiny of these delightful children’s films, I guess some sort of explainer is in order.
The Cars universe is one populated entirely with sentient cars, who seem to live in a world and culture very much like our early 21st-century human world, except, you know, everyone is a car.
The world, as richly realized as it is, is nevertheless full of difficult issues, once you start looking, the biggest of which is the fact that the Cars universe suggests the total elimination of humanity.
It’s not like the cars just live in some other, fictitious world; the fingerprints of humanity are everywhere, from languages to the presence of food to the very design of the cars themselves, which have windows, doors, and designs that inherently suggest their design as vehicles for human transportation.
For example, how else can you explain the design of a school bus if not for the existence of human children?
So what happened to those children? What happened to people? Why do the cars use written languages their clumsy tires could never write? Why do they eat? What’s going on, really?
I could go on and on. In fact, going on and on is exactly what I did, right in front of, as I said, Jay Ward, the man at Pixar in charge of Cars.
I’ve spoken to Jay before, and he’s a true gearhead and a genuinely great guy. A while back I got his response about the popular ‘Pixar Theory.’ I like Jay a lot, and I have to say I’m really impressed with how willing he was to be a good sport about this.
Along with Jay was Ray Evernham, former Jeff Gordon crew chief and NASCAR legend who was consulting for the film. I think I probably owe Ray an apology and a fruit basket.
Both men listened gamely to my questions and theories, with a mix of confusion, disgust, good-natured humor, and, I suspect, some pity. For some questions they were able to provide clear, considered answers, such as how the more dextrous forklifts can handle much of the fine motor skills and tool manipulation that a regular, rubber-tired car could never provide.
Other times, they simply reminded me that the Cars franchise is fictional, a series of movies made for simple entertainment, and I should just shut up and enjoy it.
The thing is, I can’t just stop. And all this scrutiny doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the series, because I am. Probably more so thanks to all the difficult questions.
Not content to just ask questions, I also proffered some theories of my own, in the vain hope that Jay would look at my inane ramblings and say, “yes, yes, you do understand!” Which he didn’t. I even trotted out my flagship theory, the Homunculus Theory, which rationalizes many key questions—what happened to humanity, how are new cars made, why do they eat, why all culture is derived from human culture—by suggesting that a small, stunted human is symbiotically, cyborg-edly, part of every car in the Cars universe.
Spoiler alert: Jay did not say “yes, yes, you do understand!” to me. At all.
I also did go into what the new Cars 3 movie is about and like a bit at the end, after some eye-rolling and cajoling from Jay. I should probably have talked more about that to keep Pixar happy, but I was a bit overexcited about all my inane questions. Sorry about that.
Here’s the full, unedited interview for your edification. I suggest keeping a paper handy to take notes:
By the way, at one point Jay references a painting that’s shown in a courthouse in the original movie. I believe he’s referring to this painting:
As you can see, that appears to be a factory. The factory is painted in a manner and context we humans may use for a religious painting, suggesting that there’s some quasi-religious “creator” factory that is possibly prayed to by the Cars-universe population.
This idea, of course, brings up other sort of cosmological issues: who’s running that factory? Is it all automated? Where do its resources come from?
Anyway, I believe these questions deserve answers, and on behalf of all of us seekers of truth, I’ve brought our issues to the very source. I hope their answers help you find the peace you so richly deserve.
Let me again thank Pixar for being such great sports, especially Jay and Ray. Based on some calls we got from Disney/Pixar PR after I got back, I suspect they’re nervous about this. So, everyone please go see Cars 3 when it comes out. I’m sure it’ll be great.
And I’m sure it’ll be full of new questions to ask.