Is the brain trust at Pixar surreptitiously transmitting conservative social messages encoded within its otherwise innocuously entertaining product? In 2004, The Incredibles told the story of Bob and Helen Parr, two superheroes forced unjustly into suburban conformity and banality at the hands of a litigious society run amok. Locked in a straight-jacket existence, Bob tilted at his profit-obsessed employer, railed against social-leveling and longed for his halcyon days as "Mr. Incredible." Stretched in all directions, Helen attempted to maintain stability, instill a firm sense of morality in her three children and keep her family intact.

In the end, the Parr’s reclaimed their exceptional status, discovered new-found strength in one another and defeated a diabolically heartless global terrorist network. As we watched The Incredibles come together as a family, we came to understand the beauty of family synergy over individual self-fulfillment and the value of encouraging excellence over societal-enforced equality.

Pixar rolled out Cars on Friday, which immediately roared away from the weekend competition at the box-office. The film features qualities that we have come to expect from this brand: funny lines, endearing characters, memorable voice performances and artistry that is simply stunning and unparalleled. And, once again, Pixar offers an entertaining story with some serious overtones. The tale of Interstate 40 and Route 66, in which America carved an interstate highway through the landscape and left a severed community in its wake, serves as a backdrop to the story of success-oriented Lightening McQueen and his personal search for meaning.

Traveling to his all-important rendezvous with ultimate “success,” McQueen, a self-absorbed young race car in a hurry, falls off the edge of the world (in this case the interstate) and lands someplace in the Great Southwest. As he tries in vain to merge back into the fast lane, the “every car” learns that there is more to life than getting where you think you want to go.

Somehow he finds the “true, the good, and the beautiful” along the way in a world he never knew existed. We learn that sacrificing tradition, community and respect for human ecology, while tempting in the short term, has a price: spiritual emptiness. The lesson is clear: effeciency over community is a recipe for moral bankruptcy.

Post Script

Allow me a curious coupling and personal disclosure: I have a recurring nightmare that the MSM will expose C-SPAN, another one of my favorites, and Pixar as agents of the vast rightwing conspiracy. The forces of apathy and decadence will realize that the folks at C-SPAN and Pixar are industriously and insidiously embedding traditionalism in mainstream culture, and the offenders “will be dealt with” accordingly. Some of the reviews of Cars make me wonder if the word is not getting out.

I reassure myself with this comforting thought: Brian Lamb and John Lasseter continue to be welcomed into our homes as inoffensive figures working toward positive change and in alliance with us (no matter who we are). Isn’t that a wonderful thought? Perhaps there is hope for the soul of America. Maybe we are a people united in our desperate search for virtue, community and values bigger than ourselves.