More and more, studios have been showing off brand-new 3-D projects and, every single time, I have the same reaction. “That’s the best 3-D I’ve ever seen!” I’ll proclaim and each time it happens to be true. That’s just been the nature of the technology. It’s growing with leaps and bounds and what’s showing up onscreen (or, rather, popping out through-screen) tends to offer no small amount of marvel. That said, Pixar’s brand-new short, “Tokyo Mater” (click the exclusive images below for bigger versions!) may very well the last chance I have to echo this sentiment because, quite frankly, I’m not sure that it gets any better than this.
Hitting theaters across the country on December 12, “Tokyo Mater” is the first Disney Digital 3-D short film and will be screened with Bolt (no technological slouch itself) as the full-length adventure enters its fourth week in release. The strategy harkens back to earlier days of Pixar when A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 were re-released theatrically with alternate “blooper reels,” designed as a “thank you” to repeat viewers.
This time, John Lasseter takes the director’s chair for the first time since 2006’s Cars, bringing the automotive characters back to the big screen as part of an ongoing series of “Cars Toons,” the first three of which have already aired on the Disney Channel, Toon Disney and ABC Family. This time, the Cars characters mark Pixar’s first step into the third dimension, a rather wonderful first example of what we’re going to be seeing from the studio in the years to come.
The film features the return voice of Larry the Cable Guy as Mater the tow truck and, like the other three shorts, is presented as one of “Mater’s Tall Tales,” a conceit that sets Mater up as an unreliable storyteller, allowing for some welcome over-the-top adventures. This time, we find Mater telling Lightning McQueen about his adventures in Japan and a misunderstanding that leads to him being challenged to a drift-racing competition straight through the heart of downtown Tokyo.
“Tokyo Mater” runs about six minutes and every frame oozes with style, humor and just plain awe. The neon advertising of 3-D Tokyo verges on sensory overload and Lasseter has riddled the skyline with subtle in-jokes, everything from WALLE Buy-N-Large signs to a brief cameo by Monsters, Inc. (Or, rather “Monster Cars, Inc.”) stars Mike and Sulley. Add to that mix anime-styled Japanese eyes on Tokyo cars, a number of great automotive puns (especially one bit set in a donut shop) and even a battle against ninjas and you’ve got a short that — to put it in car terms — fires on every cylinder.
With Up in 3-D next summer and a theatrical 3-D re-release of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 making way for the third 3-D chapter in 2010, “Tokyo Mater” is the first sign of great things to come, leading ultimately to the return of the Cars characters in 2011 with the internationally-set Cars 2. Between now and then, who knows what changes 3-D will bring to the regular cinema experience? It’s safe to say, however, that whatever happens, Disney/Pixar is going to be standing at the forefront.
Check out “Tokyo Mater,” screening exclusively with Bolt in theaters, beginning December 12th.