Two of the stars of "Cars 2" from Disney/Pixar are Lightning McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson), left, and Mater (voice by Larry the Cable Guy). (Photo ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved)
Two of the stars of "Cars 2" from Disney/Pixar are Lightning McQueen (voice by Owen Wilson), left, and Mater (voice by Larry the Cable Guy). (Photo ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved)
Leaving Radiator Springs behind, "Cars 2" finds adventure in European settings.

Far from Route 66 and the scenic Southwestern desert of the United State, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy, a.k.a. Daniel Lawrence Whitney) travel around the world for the Race of Champions.

The popular race is hosted in five different countries. Involved in the events are the assorted champions representing a variety of racing disciplines, including Formula One and rally driving.

The racing events will take participants to Japan, Germany, Italy, France and England.

In Japan, the race starts at Mount Fuji and proceeds towards the busy downtown district of Tokyo itself. In Germany, the race speeds through the historic Black Forest before moving on to Italy where the race resembles the picturesque Monte Carlo Grand Prix. In Paris, some feel the race there takes on the familiar signatures of the world renowned Le Mans. The race concludes in London, showcasing many of London's major landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and the fashionable Mall. In "Cars 2" the statuesque palace guards appear as rugged Land Rovers.

And speaking of Buckingham Palace, not only is the royal residence seen in the finale of the race, but the eye-arresting, gated structure is also the site of climactic scenes for Mater's own "spy" adventure involving a mistaken identity, a British secret agent Finn McMissile (Michael Caine, voice work) and an evolving caper outside the racing events.

"Cars 2" opened nationwide June 24 with impressive initial weekend box-office receipts of over $68 million. The celebrated animated feature-length motion picture became Number One at box offices and is the latest film triumph from the Disney/Pixar collaboration. "Cars 2" is the 12th film from Disney/Pixar with Steve Jobs, founder of Pixar, and, at the helm, John Lasseter.

Lasseter commutes between the Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif., near San Francisco, and the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., where he serves as head of animation.

At one time, Lasseter himself was employed at Disney as an animation artist. Many who know the awards-bedecked filmmaker agree he closely resembles Walt Disney, the founder of Disney, who also treasured good stories as the springboard to successful motion pictures.

Making his Disney/Pixar co-directing debut with John Lasseter in "Cars 2" is Brad Lewis, producer, along with John Lasseter, of the earlier awards-winning animated blockbuster "Ratatouille," one of our favorites.

"Cars 2" premiered in Hollywood at two of the movie colony's fabled venues, Grauman's Chinese Theatre and Disney's own glittering El Capitan Theatre. The star-studded post-premiere party was hosted a block south of the red-carpeted Hollywood Blvd. on the gated football field of nearby Hollywood High School, the same field used by the late Ricky and David Nelson during their high school days at Hollywood High.

As we've written before, whenever we drive by the famous high school on the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Highland Ave. with the popular animation great Martha Goldman Sigall and her husband Sol in the car, we are serenaded by Sol with Hollywood High's rousing school song. Martha, an authoress and noted pioneer animation artist (Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies), is a 1936 graduate of Hollywood High.

For the post-premiere festivities for "Cars 2" Hollywood High's football field was converted into a 25,000-square-foot World Grand Prix attraction, featuring a Bungee jump and pedal cars. The exhibit from Petersen Automotive Museum, along with many tempting, picture-perfect buffets featuring foods of the five foreign nations represented in the film itself, gave guests an eventful time under the klieg-lighted skies of Hollywood.

Greeting the celebrity guests were Disney president and CEO Bob Iger, Disney chairman Rich Ross and co-directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis. Among the many cast members in attendance were Owen Wilson (Lightning McQueen), Larry the Cable Guy (Mater), who attended with his wife and two children; and Cheech Marin (voice of a 1959 Chevy Impala). We are told, too, that actress Sheryl Crowe, who was featured in the first "Cars" soundtrack, attended with her young son.

Among the other celebrity voice-over talents featured in "Cars 2" are Bonnie Hunt (Sally), Tony Shalhoub (Luigi), Guido Quaroni (Guido), Lloyd Sherr (Fillmore), Michael Caine (Finn McMissile), Emily Mortimer (Holley Shiftwell), Jason Isaacs (Siddeley and Leland Turbo), Eddie Izzard (Miles Axelrod), John Turturro (Francesco Bernoulli), Lewis Hamilton (Lewis Hamilton), Jeff Gordon (Jeff Gorvett), Darrell Waltrip (Darrell Cartrip), David Hobbs (David Hobbscap), Brent Musburger (Brent Mustangburger), John Lasseter (John Lasetire), Tomas Kretschmann (Prof. Z.), Joe Mantegna (Grem), Peter Jacobson (Acer), Franco Nero (Uncle Topolino), Vanessa Redgrave (Mama Topolino and the Queen), Michel Michelis (Tomber), Sig Hansen (Crabby), Cheech Marin (Ramone) and Katherine Helmond (Lizzie).

Disney/Pixar's "Cars 2" is the third Pixar feature in its 25-year history to be presented in 3-D as well as in 2-D. The other two are "Up" and "Toy Story 3."

Pixar has earned more than $6.5 billion since 1986 when Apple's Steve Jobs purchased the computer-graphics division of Lucasfilm Ltd. for $10 million. The new studio shaped by Steve Jobs, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, was named "Pixar." Five years ago The Walt Disney Studios bought Pixar for $7.4 billion.

John Lasseter made his feature directorial debut in 1995 with "Toy Story," the first feature-length computer animated film. He has also directed "A Bug's Life," Toy Story 2" and "Cars." The original story for "Cars 2" is by John Lasseter, as well. Movies on which Lasseter has worked have won a combined 29 Academy Awards.

Rated G, "Cars 2" from Disney/Pixar is now showing in area theaters.