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April 14, 2008
Cars Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
8/6/200612/3/2008DisneyJohn Lasseter / Joe Ranft
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4PCM 5.1 6.9Mbps
Dolby Digital 5.1 640kbps
GOwen Wilson (voice)


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OK time for a lineup...
To date Pixar have done no wrong. While so many movie studios have more duds then hits with CG movies, Pixar have never missed a beat and every one of their movies to date (which includes Toy Story, Monsters Inc and A Bug's Life to name a few) has turned a massive profit. Indeed Cars took a whopping $461 million worldwide - well below the $US864 million of Finding Nemo, but still enough to have the movie among the top 10 computer animated movies of all time.

Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson), a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed, discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. On route across the country to the big Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros, McQueen gets to know the town’s offbeat characters – including Sally (a snazzy 2002 Porsche voiced by Bonnie Hunt), Doc Hudson (a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, voiced by Paul Newman) and Mater (a rusty but trusty tow truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) – who help him realise that there are more important things than trophies, fame and sponsorship.

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Racing scenes are superbly animated.
To be brutally honest I wasn't keen on seeing Cars. Talking cars just didn't make sense to me and for that reason, and despite my love of Pixar, I avoided the cinemas when it came out. When it hit DVD though it was an instant purchase, and I realised how foolish I was. While not up there with my favourite Pixar movies (Ratatouille, Toy Story and Finding Nemo hold that crown - or crowns) Cars is another fantastic movie from Pixar which not only tells a wonderful storyline, but manages to impress with stunning visuals and some great comedic moments. Indeed it's fair to say to say that visually Cars is the most impressive Pixar title ever put to celluloid. The lighting, the effects, the animation have set new benchmarks and your jaw will hit the floor on many occasions during the movie.

At just under two hours, there are multiple moments of genius littered through this movie. The cars that take off 2 Fast 2 Furious are classic, the racing scenes are absolutely engrossing and certainly attest the level of detail Pixar go to in order to capture the 'feel' of racing while the tractor cows, well, hilarious. Of course the one area where animated typically sink or swim is the voiceovers, and Cars is certainly among the best casts we've ever encountered. Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen is brilliant. He brings such a vibrancy to the movie that few other actors could have pulled off.

Despite my beliefs that this is one of Pixar's 'weaker' movies I must point out that I would still take this any day over almost every other non-Pixar CG movie. There is plenty of heart and soul in this movie as well as plenty of humour, jaw-dropping action and intelligence. Not just one for the kids, this will keep everyone entertained.

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Graphically this is easily Pixar's best yet.

We've already mentioned just how glorious this movie looks in terms of animation and this Blu-Ray transfer is absolutely pristine and a technical stunner. Taken directly from a digital source there isn't a hint of dirt or grain present (except for the intentional grain in select scenes such as the advertisements). Likewise there isn't a hint of any compression issues from start to finish during the films near 2 hour runtime. The film has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1.

As with most Pixar movies Cars is filled with vibrant scenes, glorious textures and impressive lighting effects while the detail in shadows remains impressive throughout. It's the smallest details that really astound though. Reflections in the cars polished surfaces, smoke and sparks from the cars, background objects and in-jokes. All these are improved considerably over the already visually stunning DVD release due to the increase in resolution which Blu-Ray provides. Indeed Cars probably shows the benefits of High Definition over Standard Definition more then most other movies. You won't be disappointed with the visuals in this release.

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Looks like the road needs some repairs!

This Blu-Ray release of Cars includes two different English audio tracks - Dolby Digital 5.1 at 640kbps and a Linear PCM 5.1 track at 6.9Mbps. At the very least the step from 384kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on the DVD release to 640kbps on this Blu-Ray is impressive. Indeed both audio tracks are sure to impress however if you have the means, the PCM track offers a much more lively sound field with a little more crispness to the audio.

Pixar are geniuses when it comes to integrating audio into their movies - naturally without a practical set in sight they have become masterful in the sound stages and studios to provide a lively, engrossing experience. The sound mix has a solid use of sub-woofer and the surround sound channels, particularly during the race scenes are heavily used.

Cars on Blu-Ray only comes with one subtitle track - English for the Hearing Impaired. From our sampling throughout various sections of the movie it is accurate to the dialogue on screen.

Cars comes loaded with a tonne of extras on Blu-Ray, but there is one disappointment which we must mention; the menu system. While we applaud Disney for the efforts they have gone to to make this disc look as slick as possible the menus came across as confusing. Finding the animated shorts can take a bit of effort, and the extras are also a bit all over the place. Sometimes less is more. Still, let's get to the details of the impressive list of extras on this disc shall we...

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Stuck in a thorny situation.
Car Finder: A rather entertaining game in which you have to point out all the cars as they appear in the movie. There are 217 different "car-acters" to find in total, and finding each will then allow you to read their story. Quite entertaining, however some of them are only on for a couple of seconds so you're going to have to be quick.

Cine-Explore : Now this is one of the best features we have ever seen on Blu-Ray. While the bulk of this feature is an audio commentary it also includes overlaid visuals such as production stills and images about topics being discussed. At certain points in the movie Cine-Explore will even branch off to making of clips (these are also available separately). This is a brilliant featurette and a perfect example of how Pixar, despite a movie aimed a younger market, still caters to adults in their releases. If there is one slight criticism it's that the images sometimes take up a little too much of the screen, or are placed too far in the center.

Animated Short: One Man Band (4:33/HD): A very entertaining short movie which was nominated in the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. Presented in High Definition this is an impressive picture and a great inclusion on this disc.

Animated Short: Epilogue (4:20/HD): An Epilogue to the events in this movie the highlight are the comments by John Ratzenberger as the truck towards the end. Classic.

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Some gorgeous scenery from Cars.
Animated Short: Mater and the Ghost Light (7:09/HD): A great short movie created for the DVD and Blu-Ray release of Cars. Certainly worth a watch as it is quite amusing, but has visuals that match those in the feature movie.

Animated Short: Boundin Cars (0:46): Disappointing compared to the three other short movies, this was actually an Easter Egg on the DVD release which appeared after the menu repeated several times. It is the only short presented in Standard Definition.

Movie Showcase (8:34/HD): Basically a series of four clips from the movie that showcase the stunning audio visual quality - consider them 'jaw dropping' reference quality sections! A nice inclusion if you want to show off the Blu-Ray format to your friends, but not really a 'behind the scenes' type extra.

The Inspiration for Cars (16:02): A great featurette which looks and the inspiration behind the movie with plenty of interviews including director John Lasseter.

Deleted Scenes (14:00): A series of deleted scenes with a brief intro presented in storyboard form with voiceovers. Obviously Pixar pulled the plug on these prior to animating, but it's great to have them included. At the very least they demonstrate the brilliant storyboarding when developing Pixar movies.

We've seen some impressive Blu-Ray releases, but Cars has set new benchmarks. Both the audio and visual side of this release is impressive beyond words, and despite the clunky menu system the extras are also worth your time. If you love animated movies, and have a Blu-Ray player then this is an essential addition to your collection.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Disney. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.