What will Cars 2 do now that Paul Newman is gone?

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Cars was a modest hit by Pixar standards, topping out around $200 million instead of the more typical $300 million-plus, and critics and fans were lukewarm about it, but it was John Lasseter's baby, so he's doing another one. But with the recent passing of Paul Newman, the proposed Cars 2 faces a tough choice.

Newman provided the voice of Doc Hudson, the patriarch of all the cars in Radiator Springs. Lasseter is faced with the dilemma of repurposing earlier recordings of Newman to keep him in the sequel or just letting him go out of respect.

"We haven't really [addressed it yet]," Lasseter said in a group interview today in Beverly Hills, Calif., after a press conference for the upcoming animated release Ponyo. "We're still working on that."

Cars centers on hotshot racer Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), who has detoured to the small town of Radiator Springs. He learns to take his time instead of racing to the finish line. For Cars 2, the whole Radiator Springs gang will hit the open road.

"It's Radiator Springs, and then the characters go to other places as well," Lasseter said.

Pixar rocked Comic-Con last weekend with the announcement that famous male doll Ken would join the cast of Toy Story 3. Lasseter, who directed the first two installments, sung Ken's praises.

"He makes it," Lasseter said. "He's fantastic, and Michael Keaton's doing the voice for him."

By part three of the successful family franchise, one would expect toy manufacturers would be lining up to license their characters for Toy Story adventures. With the promise of many more new characters to be announced, Lassster kept the focus on Ken for now.

"With Ken, we're really excited about that one," he said.

Toy Story 3 opens June 18, 2010. Cars 2 is scheduled for 2011.