DISNEY•PIXAR’S “CARS 2” REVEALS WORLD’S SAVVIEST SECRET AGENTS:Finn McMissile, Holley Shiftwell… and Mater!

Posted: May 12, 2011 by TME (thats my e) in Movies
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Mater is known for tall tales, superior backwards driving, tractor tipping and uncompromising loyalty. 

            He’s also a secret agent… though unwittingly.

            “Cars 2” sends the affable tow truck overseas, along with his best buddy Lightning McQueen, who’s competing in the first-ever World Grand Prix – a race through Japan, Italy and the U.K. to determine who is the world’s fastest car. 

            Mater’s intentions are good.  He wants to lend a helping tire to Lightning and be there to see his best friend win the race and get the glory. Never having been overseas, Mater is a bit naïve to life outside Radiator Springs.

Then he meets Holley Shiftwell.  She’s sleek, smart and sophisticated, and she’s interested in him!  Mater is smitten with this rookie field spy who’s been sent to rendezvous with an American agent.  Her colleague, master British spy Finn McMissile, is the best in the business with all the gadgets and savvy moves to prove it, but even he’s impressed when he meets Mater and finds his rusty undercover disguise particularly admirable.

Indeed, Mater fuels this fast-paced tale of international espionage, but it was Finn McMissile who sparked the story more than five years ago.

A SPY IS BORN

Disney•Pixar’s 2006 release “Cars” featured a blossoming romance between Lightning McQueen and Sally. Filmmakers storyboarded a date scene at a drive-in theater and pondered what movie might be playing. “I love spy movies,” says director John Lasseter, “and I thought it would be so much fun to see what a spy movie would look like in the car world. We came up with this character named Finn McMissile, who was going to be starring in this little movie-within-a-movie.”

Instead, says Lasseter, Lightning and Sally went on the picturesque drive on Route 66. “I never forgot the idea of Finn McMissile and the spy movie,” adds Lasseter. “I thought, ‘There’s a lot of potential there.’”

“Cars 2” took off with vast, global backdrops and an unprecedented multi-location race. But, says Lasseter, “That’s just the setting, the real story is this spy conspiracy.”

Finn McMissile evolved, of course. “He’s a British supercar,” says Jay Ward, art manager for “Cars” and now the “Cars” franchise guardian at Pixar Animation Studios, “and he’s a serious agent in the field.”

And serious agents come with some really serious gadgetry. Finn McMissile has a missile launcher in one headlight, and sports a spy cam in the other.  He’s armed with deployable machine guns and an undercarriage-mounted quad harpoon gun, plus surveillance probes, grappling hooks and a rear turn signal oil blaster. His side mirrors feature digital read-outs and a deployable glass-cutter and his front wheel hub is equipped with a magnetic explosives launcher.  He has several modes of transportation: drive, hydrofoil for overseas transportation and submarine mode for underwater escapes.  And there’s always his roof-deployed holographic disguise emitter for particularly sticky situations. “He has steel magnets on his wheels so he can climb up the side of a steel wall,” adds Ward. “He’s a really cool car.”

But if the audience is in the market for a sixties spy car with Finn’s sharp, British looks—a car that gives new meaning to “fully loaded”—they’re out of luck. “He’s an in-house design,” says Ward. “We looked for British cars with fins, and guess what? They didn’t put a lot of fins on their cars.”

The 1958 Peerless, a British sports car, did feature tailfins, which served as partial inspiration, but the team studied a number of cars—British cars, Italian cars. “We wanted him to be a really elegantly designed English sportscar from the sixties,” says character art director Jay Shuster. “We did this really deep search into that kind of car from that era. We took everything from all the cars we love and baked it into Finn.”

Meanwhile, Holley Shiftwell is assertive, yet refined—and she’s fresh out of the academy. “She’s a really smart, up-and-coming British agent who hasn’t spent a lot of time in the field,” says producer Denise Ream.

“She’s basically a logistics agent,” adds Ward. “She’s not somebody who’s usually out there beating up the bad guys. But in this film, she gets pulled into that world for the first time.”

Holley is sharp and capable, with expertise in computers and logistics. She’s also young, cool and quite fetching (just ask Mater). Like Finn McMissile, she owes her good looks to the team at Pixar who created her design in house.  “Holley developed really quickly,” says Shuster. “I came in on a Sunday afternoon and was doodling and sketching based on what John said he’d like Holley to look like. She’s new-school. I referenced the modern supercar from all the makes of the world. There’s a whole new breed of supercar that all these little private manufacturers are putting out in limited runs. I drew this sketch and the next day John saw it and said, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’”

Of course, Holley, too, comes well equipped with state-of-the-art mechanisms, including headlight cameras, a concealed gun and electro-shock device and a telescoping utility arm. “She can fly, actually,” says Shuster. “She’s got wings that protrude from her rocker panels and her rear deck lid becomes a horizontal stabilizer of a rear wing that has a jet intake. She’s got afterburners that appear in her exhaust.”

The spy business is a serious one. Missions pop up around the world, so a good transportation system is key, even for the four-wheeled spies in “Cars 2.”  With twin jet engines and a speed of mach 1, Siddeley the spy jet can get them where they need to go faster than anyone—and he can do it completely undetected with cutting-edge cloaking and stealth technologies. 

The question remains: is Mater a spy sporting the best disguise Britain’s secret agents have ever encountered? 

That’s classified, of course. 

Michael Caine lends his voice to Finn McMissile, Emily Mortimer is the voice of Holley Shiftwell, Jason Isaacs voices Siddeley, and both Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy once again brings Lightning McQueen and Mater, respectively, to life.  Directed by John Lasseter, Disney•Pixar’s “Cars 2” hits the track on June 24, 2011 (U.S.), and will be presented in Disney Digital 3D™ and IMAX® 3D in select theaters.

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