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A Teachable Moment? Cars in the Crosshairs Could Lead to a Life Lesson

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My son loves Lightning McQueen. He sleeps with a stuffed Lightning McQueen. He wakes up to a Lightning McQueen alarm clock. He wears a Lightning McQueen helmet on his bike and scooter. We have not had a moment in his four years with us where he has said, 'I've had enough Lightning McQueen.'

And my wife and I have had no trouble with this. We saw the first Cars movie before he was even a concept. It is a sweet movie about friendship, fame and keeping promises. Nothing wrong with that, right?

So I was a bit surprised when I sat down with him to view the latest trailer for Cars 2 on iTunes. I saw gunfire, explosions and Lightning's lovable sidekick Tow Mater in the crosshairs of a would-be assassin.

I can hear the groans from Emeryville (home to Pixar's studios) already, but hold on for a moment. I'm not going where you might think.

I can tell you that I will take my son to see Cars 2 as soon as I can. After it is over, we will buy him new Cars toys, books and clothes. I'm not going to boycott, protest or withhold in order to demand anything from Disney/Pixar.

For you see, my son is exposed to violent images all the time. I can't sit down and watch a baseball or football game without having to ask him to cover his eyes during a violent video game commercial. He sees the pictures on the front pages of the newspapers on our doorstep. He sees other children playing with toy guns and it looks fun.

So I do the only thing I can, I try to explain it to him.

I tell him that the movies are make-believe. That guns and bombs can hurt people, much worse than what he sees. I tell him that using a gun is a serious matter, and in the real world, it is rarely funny.

But I am not going to tell Disney or Pixar that they are bad people or that they are wrong to take the Cars franchise in this direction. The young boys who saw the first movie in 2006 have a different expectation now -- I get it. That's why I won't ask you to change, delete or water down this movie in anyway. My request is much different:

Disney & Pixar -- help me.

Help me share this message with my son -- responsible gun use is a serious matter. I'm hoping you can touch and move the hearts and minds of a generation. You were smart enough to come up these terrific movies with powerful messages (The Incredibles is actually my favorite -- and that has some rough patches too). So perhaps you've already thought of something -- and there is a pleasant surprise waiting for me on June 24. But if you haven't put in some kind of brief explanation or disclaimer for kids, could you just consider it?

Let me be clear -- I'm not asking for something 'pro' or 'anti' anything, just an appeal to children to think and ask questions before they act. I have learned valuable lessons from sportsmen and law-abiding gun owners who've taught children what is right and what is wrong. In fact, their wise counsel could be useful to any parent.

If I had a funny idea, believe me I'd love to get a credit, but you're much better at getting and holding the attention of children then I ever could be -- and that's why I am asking. You can do this in a way that will touch and entertain people without sounding preachy and overprotective. You have the ability to reach my son and the millions of boys bombarded with violent images with a message that could resonate with them through high school, college and their adult years. You will never know how many lives such a thing could touch, but I am sure you such a message could make a difference in just one -- and isn't that worth the effort?

I know that with my son my voice is the one that matters the most, but a little help from Lightning McQueen wouldn't hurt.

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