His dad managed the parts department of a Chevy dealership in Whittier, Calif. And when John Lasseter went there to work as a stock boy at age 16, he became obsessed with the mechanics, the ornamentation, the whole history of automobiles. ''When you hear a gorgeous car rev its engine, it does something to you,'' he says over a hearty breakfast one mid-March morning, during the annual ShoWest convention of movie theater owners in Las Vegas. ''And you know what? It does something to women. I'm not kidding you. They get really turned on by it. That's why guys with hot rods would get chicks.''
Lasseter says that if it weren't for the grounding influence of his wife, Nancy, whom he met in 1985 and with whom he referees a brood of five grade-school-to-postcollege boys, ''I'd have a warehouse full of vintage cars, and nothing else.'' But an even greater passion has ruled him from early childhood. ''On school mornings, you couldn't get me out of bed,'' he says. ''Saturdays? I was up and waiting for the first cartoon to come on. I knew exactly which channels had which cartoons, and I'd watch all morning until Bowling for Dollars
would come on. Even when it was uncool in high school to like cartoons and toys, I still had my G.I. Joes and my Hot Wheels. I would race home after school for Bugs Bunny and his buddies on channel 11 at 4:30. There was no recording it. If you missed it, you missed it.''
He's 49 now, and John Lasseter's life still revolves around great cartoons and cool automobiles — except now he's creating them. This summer, he'll be rolling out a combination of his two loves with Cars
, the seventh film assembled by computer-animation hit factory Pixar. And soon, as an incoming chief creative officer at Disney, he'll be helping retool the company's entire 'toon outfit — but let's take his fast-track career one lap at a time, shall we?