Cars is a 2006 American computer-animated comedy-adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed and co-written by John Lasseter, it is Pixar's final independently-produced motion picture before its purchase by Disney in May 2006. Set in a world populated entirely by anthropomorphic cars and other vehicles, the film stars the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman (in his final acting role), Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Michael Wallis, George Carlin, Paul Dooley, Jenifer Lewis, Guido Quaroni, Richard Petty, Michael Keaton, Katherine Helmond, and John Ratzenberger. It was followed by two sequels: Cars 2 and Cars 3 in 2011 and 2017, respectively. The now-defunct DisneyToon Studios produced the spin-off films: Planes and Planes: Fire and Rescue in 2013 and 2014, with Lasseter as the executive producer for both films.
While traveling to California to race against The King and Chick Hicks for the Piston Cup Championship, Lightning McQueen becomes lost after accidentally falling out of his trailer in a run down town called Radiator Springs. While there, he slowly befriends the town's odd residents, including Sally, Doc Hudson, and Mater. When it comes time for him to leave for the championship, it is no longer his top priority.
Why It Rocks
- The premise is quite interesting because the film is about a race car who becomes lost in a run down town after falling out of his trailer.
- It has very solid and appealing animation, as well as nice visuals.
- Incredible world-building that is built around cars, even though everything else doesn't make any more sense.
- The opening race scene is very exciting and fun to watch.
- Likable and funny characters like Lightning McQueen and Mater.
- Top-notch vocal performances. For example, George Carlin did a good job voicing Fillmore, despite the fact he had fewer lines than in his other films.
- Well-delivered life messages. In the final race, where Chick wrecks The King, and Lightning doesn't win the Piston Cup, he goes back to help The King finish his last race and says, "It's just an empty cup."
- Proper character development: At first glance, Lightning McQueen is a selfish jerk who only cares about winning until he learns that there's more to life than winning and that the biggest victories are the people and friends we met during the ride.
- Great soundtrack, with notable songs such as "Real Gone", "Life is a Highway", "Sh-Boom", and "Find Yourself".
- The backstory of the downfall of Radiator Springs is a really heartbreaking scene, especially with the song, Our Town.
- The scene where Mater tells McQueen that he considers him his best friend is quite heartwarming.
- The storyline gets boring and is very similar to the movie Doc Hollywood, almost to the point of outright ripping off its plot. In fact, Pixar actually got accused of plagiarism a few times.
- There are a few errors. For example, in one scene, Snot-Rod was missing next to Mack, but suddenly appears in the next scene.
- Confusing premise that raises more questions than answers.
- This film is the last Pixar movie released on VHS on November 2006. In February 2007, it became a Disney Movie Club exclusive.
- Strip "The King" Weathers' crash at the end of the movie is a virtual frame-by-frame recreation of racing legend Richard Petty's crash in the 1988 Daytona 500.
- Originally, Lightning McQueen was given number 57, the birth year of director John Lasseter. It was changed to 95 in reference to the year Toy Story was released.
- In inspiration, John Lasseter looked back on his childhood road trip vacations for this movie. When he recreated one with his family during a summer vacation, he felt inspired. He realized that there were many towns on the old routes that people missed out on once the freeways were built, and wanted to pay homage to these sleepy, long-forgotten places.
- The animators drew more than 43,000 sketches for designs of the cars.
- Developers even stopped people on roads to take photos of their cars for early character sketches.
- Each frame of the movie took an average of seventeen processor hours to render.
- To build the cars, the animators used computer platforms very similar to those used in the design of real-world automobiles.
- A "City of Emeryville" sign briefly appears in the movie. Emeryville is where Pixar's offices were formerly located.
- In the sky scenes, all the jet trails look like tire marks.
- The hill at Radiator Springs (with the white letters RS) resembles the top of a car radiator with a cap.
- The hills around Radiator Springs resemble the back ends of Cadillacs. They are even known as Cadillac Range.
- One of the bumper stickers on Fillmore reads "I Brake for Jackalopes", a reference to the Disney/Pixar short Boundin'.
- The tires are named "Lightyear" which is a word play on tire brand Goodyear and Buzz Lightyear's name.
- The animation was apparently going to be more rubbery and cartoony.
- The movie was originally going to be called The Yellow Car. Also, there were originally no race cars, and the main car was a foreign yellow electric car trying to win approval from the gas-guzzling small town folks in the movie.
- Mater's name was originally Zebb. John Lasseter changed the name after visiting the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina and meeting an employee, Douglas Keever, whose nickname was Mater. Keever and his friend Larry Benton recorded voice cameos in both the opening scene and the scene at the Los Angeles Motor Speedway.
- Mater was also originally a much more minor character, but John Lasseter loved Larry the Cable Guy's performance so much that he wrote new scenes for him.
- Fillmore's original name was Waldmire, after Route 66 resident Robert "Bob" Waldmire. However, upon learning that toys of the character would be featured in McDonald's Happy Meals, Waldmire, a vegan, didn't want his name to be used.
- Operation Lifesaver requested that Disney edit a scene of the Pixar film Cars in which the character of Lightning McQueen races a train to a grade crossing while the crossing lights are flashing. Disney/Pixar has removed the scene in question from theater showings, but the DVD, Blu-Ray, and Disney+ releases of the movie still include the scene.
- Chick Hicks' racing number is 86. 86 is a slang term for getting rid of someone in a forceful way, which is what Chick does when he cheats on the track. It's also a reference to 1986, the year that Pixar's first short film Luxo Jr. was released.
- Chick also has many sponsor tags on him due to him being a sellout.
- It was initially titled Route 66. It was changed to Cars to avoid any mix up between the movie and the television show Route 66.
- Bob Pauley, one of the Cars production designers explained "We took the best of our favorite things, from GT40s to Chargers, just sketching them out, we came up with what McQueen looks like... the most prominent design choices for McQueen are drawn directly from the Chevrolet Corvette C6."
- Jay Ward (Pixar Studios' art director for all things related to the movie Cars) stated in 2016 that he originally thought Sally was a Mustang, because we thought about the song 'Mustang Sally'. The problem with the Mustang is, it has a very thick grille in the front that looks like a mustache on a female car. People say, "Why did you guys use a Porsche for Sally? That's kind of a guy car." A Porsche has a rear engine and no radiator grille in front, perfectly smooth, like you want a female shape to be."
Cars received generally positive reviews from critics, with a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it was considered the weakest film from Pixar until Cars 2 was released five years later, which received much worse reviews than the first movie, and is the only Pixar film to have a "rotten" rating.
Cars grossed $462 million at the box office against its $120 million budget, making it a box office hit.
Awards & Nominations
Cars was nominated for an Academy Award for best animated feature, but lost to Happy Feet, but it won the Golden Globe award for best animated feature, becaming the first animated movie to win that award.