• Apr 1, 2011
Joe Mantegna and Peter Jacobson from Pixar's CARS 2 – Click above for high-res gallery

Earlier this week, we spent the day at Pixar to get a sneak peak at Cars 2. And before you ask, here's what you want to know: The sequel is an order of magnitude more awesome than the original and chief creative honcho John Lasseter drives a Mercedes-Benz SL65. So with that out of the way...

While interviewing one of the feature's principles, we asked about vehicle licensing. When the flick hits theaters June 24, you'll see "Carified" (their term, not ours) versions of everything from Audi to Opel models, but the villains in the film are made up of what the Pixar team contends are the world's worst cars. So there's an assortment of unloved Eastern European metal mixed in with two main antagonists: an AMC Pacer ("Acer" – voiced by Peter Jacobson) and a Gremlin ("Grem" – voiced by Joe Mantegna).

Obviously, it would be a tough sell to go to an automaker and say "We need villains, and your cars are perfect representations for the most loathsome creations on wheels," but the Pixar people came to AMC's owners – Chrysler – at precisely the right time.

When Pixar approached the automaker about licensing the names and likenesses of two vehicles for the film, Chrysler was in the throes of bankruptcy, it was divorcing itself of Cerberus, and it wasn't sure who its next parent would be... if indeed it was to have one at all. Pixar – knowingly or otherwise – took advantage of the situation and managed to snag usage rights to the vehicles for the film just when the automaker was in turmoil and strapped for cash. The results are spectacular, but you'll have to wait for our full story and the animated feature to come to your local cineplex to find out why.

[Images: Pixar]

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