John Lasseter is officially sitting shotgun – at least when it comes to the Cars 2 director’s chair.

It has been long-rumored that Lasseter, the chief creative officer for Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, was performing double-duty managing the studios as well working directly on the Cars sequel.

According to Jim Hill, Disney announced Lasseter’s co-director status at Disney’s Holiday Showcase, a few days back – as well as reassured fans, who might be weary of Cars 2 getting bumped from 2012 to 2011 as well as uncertainty around directorial responsibilities, that the second chapter in Lightning McQueen’s story will be a worthy follow-up. Lasseter will share the director’s chair with Brad Lewis, who produced Ratatouille.

In case you’re new to the Cars films or haven’t been following Cars 2 up until now, here’s the official synopsis from Disney:

“All the world’s a racetrack as racing superstar Lightning McQueen zooms back into action, with his best friend Mater in tow, to take on the globe’s fastest and finest in this thrilling high-octane new installment of the “Cars” saga. Mater and McQueen will need their passports as they find themselves in a new world of intrigue, thrills and fast-paced comedic escapades around the globe.”

The Cars films are certainly near and dear to Lasseter (who directed Toy Story 1 & 2, A Bug’s Life, and the first Cars film). In the late 90s Pixar had been considering a ‘car’ film about an electric powered automobile but the movie was abandoned when the studio decided to make Toy Story 2. Lasseter would later return to the idea, after taking a cross-country road trip with his family – shifting the focus from an electric car t0 a race car, as well as establishing Route 66 as the primary setting.

Lasseter found similar inspiration with regard to Cars 2, developing the story following an international promotional tour for Cars.

“I kept looking out thinking, ‘What would Mater do in this situation, you know?’ I could imagine him driving around on the wrong side of the road in the UK, going around in big, giant traveling circles in Paris, on the autobahn in Germany, dealing with the motor scooters in Italy, trying to figure out road signs in Japan.”

Due to the phenomenal track-record at Pixar, it’s easy to get nervous when we hear this many rumors, as well as this much speculation, about what’s going on behind the closed doors of an upcoming project. However, the team at Pixar, not to mention Lasseter himself, are extreme perfectionists. Fortunately, they’ve also created an environment where the team helps the artists, directors, producers, voice-actors and everyone else keep honing their craft until the product is at it’s absolute best.

It’s not the first time that a Pixar film has needed a bit of shaping, both Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille were dramatically restructured in a relatively short period of time. Not to mention, we don’t even know that Brad Lewis was struggling in the director’s chair. It could just be that, given Lasseter’s connection to the Cars franchise, the man just wanted a chance to have a more direct impact on the final film.

Considering the quality of Pixar’s most recent sequel, Toy Story 3, I’m going to go ahead and trust them.

Are you glad to hear Lasseter is returning to the director’s chair for Cars 2? Is the international tour story enough to bring you back for another lap with Lightning McQueen?

Cars 2 power-slides into theaters on June 24, 2011.

Source: Jim Hill