Larry the Cable Guy on Mater backlash: 'As long as John Lasseter's laughing and smiling and thinking it's funny, I'm good' -- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

lightning-mcqueen-and-mater

Image Credit: Disney/Pixar

By any criteria, Cars 2 was a fabulously successful sequel, but that didn’t stop nitpickers from downgrading the Pixar film for its decision to build a spy thriller around Mater, the dimwitted tow-truck voiced by comedian Larry the Cable Guy (née Daniel Whitney). Lightning McQueen’s loyal sidekick’s shift into leading-truck status fueled a $551 million global blockbuster, and LCG isn’t about to apologize for that. “As long as I’m doing the voice and John Lasseter’s laughing and smiling and thinking it’s funny, I’m good,” says Larry. With Cars 2 out on DVD and Blu-ray tomorrow, Nov. 1, the Blue Collar comedian and host of the History Channel’s Only in America talks to EW about how Mater became a star and his reaction to the film’s critical reception. Then, in an exclusive clip from the Cars 2 Five-Disc Combo pack, the filmmakers explain why Mater was the perfect character to keep us laughing in the world of espionage.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Going back to the first film, did it feel like Mater was originally written with your voice in mind?
LARRY THE CABLE GUY:
John Lasseter heard me on the Blue Collar CD and he said, “That’s the voice. That’s the voice of Mater.” I mean, if anyone would know Mater’s voice, it’s John, because he’s the guy who thought him up. But I remember when I was doing some shows in San Francisco, all the Pixar animators came out to watch me and we had a great time after, so I think they pretty much [made the character] from that. I went in for a six-hour voice session, but I think I only had like 25 lines. But they really liked what I had done with the character so they ended up rewriting a bunch of the movie. I just kept going back, seven or eight times, until we finally got it. And then we were at a party afterwards and John went up and said what a good job I did with Mater. It was really cool. I’m very thankful.

At what point during or after the first film did you learn that Mater was potentially the centerpiece of the sequel?
Well that came during the filming — just everybody coming up to me and complimenting me on the job I did on Mater and everybody saying he’s their favorite character and how he’s the heart and soul of this movie. That’s when I knew we really had something going. Then after the movie came out, and you read a lot of the reviews, it was all Mater. Everybody was talking about Mater. So I think just getting to know me — I came to a lot of their wrap parties — they got a pretty good inclination of how Mater is and how he acts, what he would do in certain situations.

Were you surprised when they told you there’s going to be a sequel, that it’s going to be a spy movie, and that it’s going to be built around Mater?
They didn’t really say that it was — they said that McQueen’s going to do all these races and Mater’s going to go and be a fish out of water. John always used to talk about that when he used to travel, because there’s a lot of Mater in John. He’s a regular dude. You know, his wife’s from Arkansas. He’s got boys, and he’s a regular guy, so when he travels overseas, he’s like a fish out of water. There’s a lot of customs that he has to learn and he doesn’t know. So, he’s Mater.

As a voice actor, was the experience any different the second time around?
Yeah, it was. The first one, I had no clue what the hell I was doing. I was just doing the voice and trying to do it the way they wanted me to do it. And the first one turned out so good and it sold a ton of toys. Then, I [voiced] Mater’s Tall Tales and toys, and when you do the toys, you gotta kind of speed up a little bit and my voice was a little higher. So I was just nervous because I wanted to make sure I had the right tone, and I wanted to make sure I recreated this same thing that I did in the first one.

The sequel turned out to be an even bigger global hit than the original, but that didn’t stop some critics from saying it wasn’t as good. Were you sensitive to such comments especially since the criticism often seemed directed towards your character?
No, not at all, and I’ll tell you why: I’ve never gotten a good critical review in anything I’ve ever done. And I keep getting busier and busier and selling more tickets and more tickets and more tickets. So I’ve never really worried what the critics said. As far as these kinds of thing go, you’ve got to look at them freaking kids over there that are playing with the toy trucks. You know, if I look over there and see a critic that’s 50 years old playing with a toy truck, there’s something wrong with them. As long as those kids like it, as long as my kids like it, that’s fine. As far as the critics go… whatever. I can’t control what they do. All I know is I did a good job and it did 550-something million dollars. So if that’s a disaster for Pixar, then I would say, let’s keep the disasters happening.

Your Larry the Cable Guy persona is so huge, and as you do more and more, it makes me think of someone like The Rock, who sometimes is The Rock and sometimes is Dwayne Johnson. Have you given much thought to differentiating between Larry the Cable Guy and Dan Whitney?
I haven’t really given it that much thought. The closest thing I’ve ever done where I’m being myself is the History Channel show that I do. And that’s 50 percent character and 50 percent myself. I guess if you could say that’s me weening myself off it, you could, but I don’t think so. I mean, I like what I do. I don’t really feel a need to find myself. I know who I am. I can separate entertainment from myself. When I’m home, I don’t walk around saying “Get-R-Done!” all the time with the kids.

I’m guessing being Mater gives you some credibility with your own kids.
At first, I don’t think they really got it. But now that they’re getting older, I think they realize it. It’s pretty fun: If they want to see Cars, they’ll say, “I want to watch Daddy,” which is kind of cool. Some little boy [at school] brought a Cars Mater truck in for show-and-tell. ‘Course my little boy is telling everybody, “Hey, that’s my Dad!”

Read more:
20 Actors Who Give Good Voice gallery
‘Cars 2′ Burning Question: Did the cars pull a Skynet?
‘Cars 2′ hot on the heels of ‘Toy Story’ for highest merchandising film

Comments (34 total) Add your comment
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  • JLC

    He’s got a very healthy attitude towards the business and he’s doing well. Good for him. There’s way too much cynicism in show business.

    • lancy

      My best friend ,she just has announced her wedding with a millionaire old man Ronald who is the CEO

      of a MNC ! They met via —-Agé Min glé.CòM–.- ..it is the largest and best club for men

      date with rich and beautiful women and their admirers to chat online. …you don’t have to be rich

      there ,but you may meet one ,maybe you wanna check it out or tell your friends !

    • Marcus Fenix

      A terrible Pixar. Lowest common denominator garbage for rednecks and little kids only.

      • Jerry

        Wow Marcus, must be lonely being so awesome…elitest jerk!

  • Chad

    I hate his character and find his brand of humor t be awful/low brow in the worst way. BUT if others like it and it makes them happy, he should keep doing what he does.

    • Steph

      Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the msaesge home a little bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog. A fantastic read. I’ll certainly be back.

  • John48221

    Regardless of how much money it made it still wasn’t that great of a movie. My son enjoyed it but kids just aren’t that critical but it still was weak.

    • sarCC

      Yeah. It actually made less than the original Cars domestically. And it’s the lowest-grossing Pixar film this decade. So, yeah. It wasn’t THAT successful a sequel.

  • Jeff from Jersey; yes New Jersey

    How can anyone be mad at a vintage Dodge Pilothouse tow truck who gets into comical adventures? I didn*t hear any complaints when a cameo by Captain Sig of Deadliest Catch was made in the picture. Nor when the sophistication of Michael Caine was installed in an Aston Martin. When it*s funny, it*s funny. In fact, I didn*t know who was protraying Mater in the original film until I heard those words,” Git er Done!. That was him???Who knew?

  • Jeremy

    I don’t care who you are that’s funny right thar! Cars 2 was weak but the kids liked it. The 1st movie’s storyline was more believable and enjoyable. Oh well, I like Larry in just about anything he does. Git-R-Done!

  • nunya

    God Bless Larry!

    But too many guns in sequel. Next time, keep it light and fun like the first.

    • Lyna

      My kids would love Tshirts, toy cars, or coloring books. We just saw it last night, and mine are 5, 7, and 9 and they LOVED it! Thanks;)kpuleski at gmail dot com

  • Just Someone

    Children really love the Mater character so ultimately he was a good choice for the main character of the sequel. If the story would have centered around McQueen the sequel would probably have just been the same story all over again-the critics are never satisfied.

  • dlauthor

    The first Cars was the only Pixar movie that my daughter lost interest in partway through. Can’t see why I should subject her to Larry’s comedy stylings when they bored her to tears the first time around.

  • jpratm

    mater was not the problem with CARS2 it was its distancing from the simple- family heart that was CARS.

  • amy

    The first Cars was great! Cars 2, had some funny moments, but wasn’t half as good as the first! They changed it too much! Love Larry though, he’s hillarious! Perfect voice for Mater!!!

  • Julian

    Both Cars movies were awful. Their proof that kids will watch anything and that John Lasseter is capable of putting blinders on when it comes to his pet projects.

  • Todd

    Cars 2 had some clever, fun moments, but Mater being the star really does sink the whole movie. He was fine in the original movie, but he’s unfunny and obnoxious in the sequel. And the lesson that everyone should just accept him for being himself is a bad one, seeing as he was being an obnoxious jerkwad the whole time. He should get called out on it.
    .
    The movie would have been much better, and perhaps even more successful, with Lightning McQueen as the main character. Kids may like Mater, but they play with Lightning McQueen toys, not Mater toys.
    .
    Yes, I realize I put too much thought into Cars 2.

  • Chris Price

    “By any criteria, Cars 2 was a fabulously successful sequel”

    Surely you can’t be serious, Shirley. Let’s take a look at the facts:

    Cars 1: $244 million domestic box office (not adjusted for inflation mind you, would be closer to 300 million if we adjusted)

    Cars 2 : $191 million domestic box office

    Cars 1: 74% on RottenTomatoes

    Cars 2: 38% on RottenTomatoes

    So, to recap, it made less money and was unanimously ill-recieved by critics. How do we call this a success? If you bring foreign box office into the picture it technically made a little more money than the first, but that’s only if you don’t adjust for inflation. If you do, its basically a wash. Considering that the film Pixar released RIGHT BEFORE this one made a billion dollars, was 99 PERCENT on RottenTomatoes and ultimately nominated for BEST PICTURE, I’d say “By any criteria, Cars 2 was an unfortunate failure”.

    • Sean Elliot

      So if you had made the movie Chris and it made $191 million would you not hav ebeen happy with that. How about if they said you can pocket 0.002%; that doesn’t sound like a lot of money? Perspective, people.

  • wg

    Larry is awesome. And so is Mater.

    • Camilla

      I don’t know about whether it helps with winnnig or making friends, but both of my boys love “Cars Cars”. We have watched the movie many times and their collection of all the different cars (with all their faces) is impressive, even compared to their other collections of cars. My eldest son has been known to tell me quite seriously, “No Dad, the deal was that you fix the road.”

  • Laura G

    My sons (5 & 3) love the first Cars movie and I think it is an enjoyable fun and light family film. We saw Cars 2 this past weekend at the Budget theatre. While the boys liked it, my eldest son said on the way out “I liked it best when they were in Radiator Springs.” They both kept asking why their favorite characters were not in most of the film and the plot was very confusing for kids. Cars 2 was okay, but not that great of a movie even for kids that LOVED the first movie.

    • AT

      This is pretty much what I heard from most parents. Their kids that do like Cars liked the first one much better. I don’t know about other little boys, but mine much prefers the ‘race’ cars (McQueen, Francesco, King, etc) to Mater. We haven’t seen Cars 2 yet because I’m not big on taking a 2 1/2 year old to a movie theater, but I have a feeling he will probably prefer the first one to the second.

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