Cars 2 Tokyo PosterThe international adventures of Lightning McQueen and the gang start in Japan and it’s by far my favorite city in the movie.  It’s a vibrant, neon-filled city that’s visually stunning in the film.  The filmmakers were excited to showcase the vibrant colors that illuminates Tokyo at night. “The Ginza signs and super-rich colors there were extraordinary,” says Harley Jessup (Production Designer).

Both John Lasseter (Director) and Jessup had visited Japan many times so they wanted to bring the Radiator Springs gang into this culture that was new to them.  In doing so, it leads to some fun.  In fact, my favorite scene is the Japanese bathroom scene.  As Lasseter noted, “Anybody who’s been to Japan and has walked into a Japanese bathroom knows that the toilets tend to do a lot more than what Americans are used to. We kept thinking, ‘How would Mater react?’ and ‘What would a bathroom be like for a car?’ Let’s just say we had a little fun with that.”


As part of a small production team who visited Tokyo in October 2009 Sharon Calahan (Director of photography for lighting) noticed some changes. “Tokyo had changed a bit since the last time I’d been there,” says Calahan, “but it was really nice to get into some areas of town that I hadn’t seen before — places off the beaten path. It provided an intriguing contrast with the bigger, brasher, bolder neon section. We were able to explore freely to really get inspired. The [World Grand Prix] opening party sequence was set in a museum, and the National Art Center in Tokyo was just below our hotel. We hadn’t planned on using it for inspiration, but we saw it and thought, ‘Wow, look at this beautiful building.’

“It lent itself to fairly quick car-ification,” says Lewis. “It was beautiful and modern, and it felt like the right place for us to have this kickoff party for the World Grand Prix.”

The production team was able to actually follow the film’s street-race course, inspired by the Formula 1 nighttime race that takes place on the streets of Singapore, and the production team watched race footage for reference. “During the race, you see this brilliant halogen white light throughout the tracks,” says Brad Lewis (Co-Director, Original Story By). “It’s really gorgeous. John and I thought if we could get the Tokyo neon and make it a night race with that brilliant halogen white light, it would be a great kickoff for the movie. It’s such a juxtaposition to Radiator Springs, the ultimate in Americana  —  to have this high-tech, neon bright-light center is the perfect cultural contrast.”

The Japan race sequences as well as spy tale are thrilling.  There is so much going on visually that I missed much of it until the second time I viewed the movie.  The signs have all been car-ified with the names of people who worked on the movie and there’s so much going on in the spy scenes that it’s going to be fun to watch it again to see what additional things I missed.


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