You can take the stock car out of the small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the stock car.
Even though Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 is set overseas this time—with big oil playing the enemy—the 3D toon did best in America’s heartland, a.k.a., the red states.
The turnout was so strong that the pic roared past expectations to gross an impressive $68 million in its domestic box office debut.
In the sequel, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) travels to Tokyo, Italy and London to participate in the Grand World Prix. He’s accompanied by Mater the tow truck, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, the ultimate hick.
Mater plays more of the lead this time, and is inadvertently swept up in an international espionage case involving big oil trying to squash the alternative fuel movement.
Some conservatives lashed out at Pixar CEO and Cars 2 director John Lasseter over the storyline. The Lonely Conservative, a blog, accused the movie business of trying to indoctrinate children with “left wing propaganda.”
But Cars 2 lost none of its appeal in flyover states, where both Larry the Cable Guy and NASCAR are immensely popular.
As with the first film, Cars 2 overperformed in the South, Midwest, South Central (including Texas) and Mountain states.
But if the big oil vs. alternative fuel wasn’t a turn off for more conservative parts of the country, nor was it a draw for more liberal regions. Cars 2 underperformed on the East Coast, and slightly underperformed on the West.
Reviewers were largely critical of Cars 2, unusual for a Pixar title. Yet moviegoers gave the film an A-CinemaScore. Males made up 53% of those buying tickets for the toon, while 36% of the audience was under the age of 12.
Cars 2 enjoyed a great launch overseas, where it grossed $42.9 million from 18 territories (repping about 25% of the international market).
There’s no doubt that Disney and Pixar tailored Cars 2’s storyline to woo foreign audiences. The first Cars grossed roughly $200 million internationally, one of the lowest showings for a Pixar title.
Cars 2 opened to $9.3 million in Russia and $7.6 million in Brazil, the best showings ever for a Pixar movie. In Mexico, the sequel debuted to a $8.1 million and in Australia, $5.2 million.