Cars looks like another Bug's Life--which is to say, better than Shrek, but far below The Incredibles in the animation pantheon. But who knows? Maybe we'll all be pleasantly surprised.
But in the run-up to release, Cars has given us one very unpleasant surprise: the worst promotional tie-in in the history of movies.
After selling their souls back to Disney, Pixar went on a promotional-partner spree with Cars, signing up 17 corporate sponsors for the movie. Seventeen is a garishly large number, but what's really striking is how few of these corporate tie-ins--Hertz, Goodyear, Porsche, State Farm Insurance, Georgia Pacific, Valvoline--have anything to do with the movie or its intended audience.
Yet all of that pales in comparison to Pixar's least attractive partner: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Cars actually has a promotional tie in with the NHTSA's Click It or Ticket campaign.
Surely you've seen the hectoring TV spots for Click It or Ticket. Somber state troopers pull over rambunctious young men (no female offenders are ever featured in these ads) and hand out tickets not for speeding or running red lights or any other actual traffic violations--but simply for not wearing a seatbelt.
I'm all in favor of seatbelts. They save lives and I wear mine every day. But, like red-light cameras, this is pure revenue-generation for the state gussied up as concern for public safety. It is the worst of the Nanny State: Instead of catching actual criminals, the police turn their attentions to the habits of law-abiding citizens.
The Click It or Ticket campaign is maddening in its own right, but it's almost unfathomable as to why Pixar would allow the that sort of busy-body, nagging message to get mixed up with Cars.
Update: I should have added earlier that those interested in defending red-light cameras should read Matt Labash's excellent series on them which explodes much of the junk science about how they promote safety. Labash argues, convincingly, that red-light cameras cause more accidents than they prevent. But they do gin up a lot of money for local municipalities.
52 minutes ago