Cars 2: Guns, Missiles, And Pre-Schoolers?

(Note: I was interviewed by the Associated Press a couple of weeks ago for a story on Cars merchandise. The story was carried in many places, but you can check out an ABC News post here.)

Cars 2 was released last week and I still haven’t decided if I’ll let my four year old son E see it yet.

This is tough, because he LOVES the first Cars movie. We’ve seen it a billion times, he has tons of Cars toys, Cars shirts, Cars bedding.

My biggest concerns, as I said in a post in November, is the use of guns, missiles, and explosions in a cartoon aimed at young children. According to the website Kids In MindCars 2 features ranks 4 out of 10 in the violence category.

Four out of 10 in a G-rated movie?

Clearly Cars 2 is too violent for young children.

Here’s just one of the several entries describing the violence:

A car hanging onto zip-lines above the deck of an oil rig fires two guns at several other cars that fire back and cut the zip-line: the car on the zip-line falls, still attached to one cable, landing safely, several cars chase the car and we see a spray of bullets; the car fires a gun at a stack of oil cans that tumble toward the other cars, and the oil cans explode and flames wrap around a ramp where the other cars are (the cars appear later, unharmed). A truck is cornered by cars with guns, and the truck fires two large Gatling guns at the cars; the cars drive for cover and the truck escapes unharmed.

And there’s plenty of more scenes just like it.

I’m sure there’s plenty of kids out there who see this stuff all the time and maybe it has no effect on them. Saturday morning cartoons in the 70s and 80s (when I was a kid) were full of violent content and I didn’t wind up in a clock tower with a rifle.

If my son were a few years older, this wouldn’t even be an issue. In fact, I’m looking forward to the day we can watch Spider-Man cartoons.

The Cars franchise however, is not aimed at older children.

Need proof? Check out the Cars-related merchandise aimed at toddlers – sippy cups, toddler clothing, toys, and even diapers! Why would they target toddlers if they aren’t the target demographic?

I love Pixar and think they should be able to make any movie they want. But I’m disappointed in this change of direction in the franchise. It’s tantamount to bait and switch. Start off with a simple, family-friendly movie. Follow up with a spy movie where the characters you know and love are suddenly thrust into danger and being shot at.

It’s as if I turned on Sesame Street to see Bert and Ernie in a gang war, popping caps in Big Bird while an explosion just took out Oscar’s newsstand.

Are guns and missiles and mortal peril things that a four, or even five year old should be exposed to? Are they old enough to even understand such things? Or are scenes like this too intense and scary for them? When my son saw the advertisements, he asked me if the Cars got hurt? If the movie was scary. If so, he didn’t think he wanted to see it. He still doesn’t care for the last Toy Story movie because of all the intense scenes of danger.

It’s a shame that Pixar, a company so good at recapturing the magic of childhood is also so intent on destroying the magic for its smallest fans.

As a parent, you know you can’t protect your children from the world forever. But you try, for a little while, anyway, to let them live in a world of innocence, optimism, and safety.

A world where people (and Cars) aren’t trying to kill one another for unknown reasons.

Where people still play together despite their differences.

A world where love and family can change even the most hardened of hearts.

You know, a world like Radiator Springs.


Did you see Cars 2? What did YOU think?



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11 Responses to Cars 2: Guns, Missiles, And Pre-Schoolers?

  1. Lisa says:

    I understand what you are saying, but remember the cartoons we watched as kids… GI Joe, Road Runner, etc… similiar content and we turned out a-ok.

  2. David Wright says:

    WE did, but I can think of some people we knew that I’m still waiting to hear about on the news :)

    And while I remember the Saturday morning and daytime cartoons being violent, I don’t remember shows aimed at pre-schoolers (As Cars is) being overtly violent and that’s the distinction. Well, I know some shows aimed at older kids also aimed at pre-schoolers in some areas, I don’t think the aim was as targeted as it is now. But maybe I’m just not remembering.

  3. Joy says:

    Violence aside, there are a million more reasons not to take your kid to see Cars 2. The movie’s plotline is way too advanced for a four year old, let alone parents. My two year old and his five year old and 10 year old cousin were bored and did not finish the whole movie. Bottom line – this is a James Bond spy-thriller aimed at the initial fans of Cars, who have since aged. I would say two starts out of ten.

  4. LIsa says:

    Chilly WIlly, Droopy, Speedy Gonzalez…. all have violent content. Peanuts Gang… violent content…. those are aimed at very young kids… I think you are being an overprotective dad, which is completely natural… I am not saying I agree with all the violence in games, movies, tv shows geared towards kids but its hard to escape from it. Just explain it to your child that its make believe… not real… not right… or whatever. Thats what I would do with my nieces when they would see something bad on tv… BTW, my two youngest nieces went with my mom to see Cars2 and I asked them how they liked it and they were NOT impressed or excited. I asked if it was violent and they said no. So they must be conditioned by now! :)

    • David says:

      Yeah, and I don’t let my son watch any of those shows, either. Basically, if there’s guns, violence with weapons, or murder, I’m drawing the line.

      I think it depends on the child and how sensitive they are. Obviously, my son is sensitive – he got scared by Toy Story 3. I’ve already gotten emails from a few parents who said they took their kids out of the movies crying because of the fact that two characters were killed.

      Two of my friends also took their kids, and said it was too intense and scary, and one of those people has typical rough and tumble boys.

      As for your nieces, I doubt anything short of Faces of Death would shock them given the things I’m sure they’ve seen their dad watching. :)

  5. ariane says:

    I went to see that movie with my 4 years old son. I had not see any images of it or heard anything about it. We just decided to go to the movie and since my son loves the first movie cars, I thought why not!
    I should have check it before!
    The violence suprised me a lot!! Not only the guns, etc, but also the rythm of the images… and I think the story is to complicated for a 4 years old.
    I’m very desapointed…

    PS: sorry for my english…

  6. Sumit says:

    I took my 4 year (to be five this month) to Cars 2. He had fun in the movie but me and my wife were thoroughly disappointed by the story line. If you have shielded your kid(s) from guns and violence of all sorts, Cars 2 is not the movie to go to.
    My kiddo, like most is a Cars fanatic too and even the first movie kind of queered his ideas of how cars actually drive on the road. Anytime he played with cars he would emit all the screeching and skidding sounds he heard in the movie (Cars 1). We had to ‘work’ hard to get him to realize the difference between movie and real world. Cars aside, guns are a big no-no at house and he doesn’t even have a water pistol at home. He understands we don’t appreciate any shooting action of any imaginary kind. But he goes to Kindergarten and day care so he does have external influence. Expression of disapproval at home is enough to deter him from playing shooting games.
    After the movie he played for a couple of days making exotic ‘missiles’ that would turn from one ‘imaginary’ thing into another, but nothing more than that. Everytime he cooked up a missile with his Legos he got the warning ‘missiles are bad’, ‘they blow things up’. A week afterwards he’s grown out of it.

    So yes, it’s SAD to see Disney/Pixar falling so much. In the first movie inspite of ‘Chick-Hicks’ shenanigans the underlying factor of ‘goodness’ comes through. The movie has a heart and soul.

    Cars 2 is just cashing in on the franchise…

  7. George says:

    The reason you did not go up into the clock tower with a bag of rifles is because it was locked afterwards in 1966. It is open now for escorted tours.

    Be forewarned: I am sending your picture to security at U. of Texas in Austin. And don’t try any of your clever disguises, such as a happy blogger. We know you rooted for the coyote every time.

  8. christieo says:

    Oh migod. I ABSOLUTELY AGREE on every single point you made. You literally pointed out every.single.thing that I thought myself. I reviewed the movie too and it was a shame to me that Cars, and it seems Pixar in general, “grew up.” (And oddly, the marketing did not!) I miss the innocence of Cars 1. Winnie the Pooh retains that innocence, go see it (July 15). The family will love it.

  9. Seattledad says:

    I couldn’t believe they would put torture and death in this G rated movie. Won’t be taking my son to see it.

  10. HON says:

    Absolutely agree. I wish I had done some online reading before I brought my 5 year old to see it. He and I both loved Cars 1…so it seemed like it would be a great pick for his very first movie theater experience. He loved it, of course. I was incredibly disappointed by the violence. Machine guns and suicide bombings? Really?

  11. Amanda says:

    Just saw this last night…with my 2.5 year old. Sadly, it didn’t occur to me to look into it first, as my son recently started watching cartoons and saw the first Cars movie and loved it. I assumed this would be along the same lines and wouldn’t need previewing first, guess I won’t make that mistake again. We won’t let our son have toy guns or expose him to gun play on tv or film, but I had no idea we had to protect him from a Disney cartoon aimed at toddlers. Not sure what they were thinking, hope Monsters Inc 2 comes out knife-fight free.