Raising the level of your leadership

Two Hard Lessons From Cars 2

“Papa, we are going to see Cars 2 this afternoon!” My three grandson buddies were “some more pumped.” The 2006 version of Cars is one of their—and my—all-time favorites, so we had been looking forward to Cars 2 for weeks. Lightning McQueen and Mater (my hero) would be racing in Tokyo, Italy and London against the arrogant trash-talking Italian, Francesco Bernoulli. How could it get any better than that? When we walked out of the theatre at 6:00pm, $56 poorer, the answer was: it could get a lot better than that.

The Disney/Pixar partnership has had a stunning track record of success bringing animated stories for all ages to the big screen: Toy Story (1, 2 and 3), A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up and WALL-E. The stories were compelling, simple enough for children, creative enough for adults, and action packed. Up and Toy Story 3 were actually nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. My three buddies (4, 7, and 9 years old) have watched these movies over and over and aren’t tired of them yet. However, Cars 2 won’t make it to the DVD shelf. What happened? Disney/Pixar completely missed their target audience.

Cars 2 has a convoluted story line of broken relationships, lemon cars like the Hugo and Gremlin, spies, alternative fuels, the world’s largest untapped oil field, and…get the idea? Do you think my grandsons have any idea what a Hugo is? Though the animated action was spectacular, the plot was so complex and disjointed that the adults could barely figure it out and my buddies were lost completely. We walked out thinking what was that all about?

There are a couple of hard leadership lessons from the Cars 2 fiasco:

◊  Past success does not guarantee future success. Reputation may fill up the theatre, or worship center, or store aisles the first weekend, but they can be near-empty after that. (There were less than 50 people watching Cars 2 with us on a Saturday afternoon, holiday weekend.)

◊  Be clear about your target audience, customer, etc. I doubt if Disney will make this mistake again. Their next animated movie will be one that 7-year-olds can understand.

I hope there is a Cars 3. I want to see my hero Mater again with one of my buddies sitting in my lap, and both of us understanding and enjoying what is happening on that huge screen a few yards in front of us. I want to hear to them ask, “Papa, can we see it again?”

© Copyright 2011 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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4 responses to “Two Hard Lessons From Cars 2”

  1. Matt Austin says:

    Don’t you love it when Hollywood inserts their agenda in movies? It always messes it up. They usually expose their foolishness and naive view of the world and then we’re left cold and uninspired. Agreed on the ‘Be clear about your target audience, customer, etc.’. They didn’t meet your expectations and that’s deadly in business.

    • Dick Wells says:

      In your business, target audience is a really big deal. The media world can make two big mistakes: (1) Not know what their target audience is or (2) know it, but miss it. I’m not sure which fits Cars 2; I suspect it was (2).

  2. David VanderMeulen says:

    I didn’t see the film, but I like your analysis. Can I ask, was the film in favor of developing alternative fuels, but not the large untapped oilfield?

    • Dick Wells says:

      It was a very complicated plot, but the “bad guy” was all for the oil field. So…I suppose the film was in favor of alternative fuels. However, it wasn’t a highly political film.

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