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May 18 2020

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Cars is a 2006 animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures and the last film for the Buena Vista Pictures Distribution company and directed by John Lasseter and co-directed by the late Joe Ranft. It was the seventh Disney/Pixar feature film, and the final film by Pixar before it was bought by Disney. The soundtrack of the film features music by Sheryl Crow, Rascal Flatts, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Chuck Berry, and John Mayer. Set in a world populated entirely by anthropomorphic cars and other vehicles, it features the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, John Ratzenberger, George Carlin, Jenifer Lewis, Cheech Marin, Richard Petty, and Michael Keaton as well as cameos by several celebrities such as Jeremy Clarkson.
The movie opens in the final race of the 2005 Piston Cup Season and championship in the Motor Speedway of the South, where a skilled but arrogant rookie racecar, Lightning McQueen, has overtaken his opponents, avoided a huge wreck, and built up a huge lead over the cup’s defending (but soon retiring) seven-time champion, Strip “The King” Weathers, and perennial runner-up Chick Hicks. However, because of his refusal to make regular pit stops and get new tyres, his rear worn tyres burst into flames on the final lap, causing him to skid and ultimately crawl to the finish line, barely managing to tie the King and Chick Hicks in a photo finish by sticking his tongue out at the finish line. Race officials announced that because the three racers are also tied in overall season points they will compete in one final tiebreaker race to be held at the Los Angeles International Speedway in one week to determine the champion.

While traveling down Interstate 40 to California, McQueen becomes separated from Mack, his transport truck, and while trying to catch up becomes lost on U.S. Route 66, catching the attention of the local Radiator Springs Sheriff in the process. A chase ensues, during which McQueen crashes and gets tangled in wires, damaging part of the town’s main street in the process.

McQueen is taken to traffic court, where the town’s attorney, Sally Carrera, pleads against McQueen. He is sentenced to repave the road using “Bessie”, an asphalt-laying machine. Only interested in leaving and extremely furious, he makes an escape attempt before being hooked up, only to figure out his gas tank was siphoned. McQueen rushes through his first day of paving and the new road surface is so bumpy, unusable, uneven, and poor that he is told he must scrape it off and start over again.

When Doc Hudson offers McQueen a deal ― beat Doc in a race around Willy’s Butte and he is free to go ― McQueen eagerly accepts. He leaves Doc in the dust at the starting line, but loses control on the loose dirt turn and crashes into a cactus patch. While the town’s tow truck, Mater, hauls McQueen out of the cactus patch in which he landed, Doc effortlessly cruises to the finish line after informing McQueen that he races like he fixes roads. McQueen is compelled to scrape off the botched pavement and start over again.

As the ensuing days pass, McQueen is disturbed by nightmares of Chick Hicks winning the Piston Cup and landing Dinoco. He starts to befriend the town’s residents and learn more about the town in the process: how Radiator Springs was once a thriving town until completion of the nearby interstate bypassed the little town, depriving it of its business traffic and visitors (and ironically, depriving those passing visitors of the natural beauty found in the scenery along the old highway); how Sally left behind her rich but unhappy life as an urban lawyer; what “tractor tipping” (a parody of cow tipping) is; and how Doc Hudson was once a famous racecar himself (the “Hudson Hornet”) ― and 3-time Piston Cup champion ― until a horrible crash in 1954 ended his racing career.

Doc bitterly refuses to reveal much about his past (despite McQueen witnessing him expertly drifting through the loose dirt of Willy’s Butte where McQueen crashed), labeling his old trophies as “a bunch of empty cups”.

By the time McQueen finishes repaving Radiator Springs’s main road, he has formed a bond with the town and its residents. Rather than immediately leaving for California (as he had initially been eager to do), he spends the day touring the town’s businesses, receiving a fresh coat of paint and new tires in the process and participates in a cruise party that night. But he is suddenly found, then whisked away in his truck, Mack, without even a chance to bid farewell to Radiator Springs. The town’s residents are sad to see him leave, and Sally is angry to learn that it was Doc who ultimately informed the media of McQueen’s whereabouts.

The final race among McQueen, The King, and Chick opens with what the race’s commentators call the “biggest race in history.” McQueen is distracted by his memories of Radiator Springs, losing time to The King and Chick Hicks, and begins to fear he will simply lose. To his surprise, Doc Hudson has arrived at the race, with Mater and a few others from Radiator Springs who will serve as his pit crew; Doc, once again wearing his original “Hudson Hornet” racing stripes, takes over as McQueen’s crew chief. With Doc’s coaching, a record-fast pit stop for new tyres, and a few tricks learned from the small town’s inhabitants, McQueen is not only able to overtake his opponents but has built a considerable lead by the final lap.

As McQueen approaches the finish line, Chick sideswipes The King in a desperate attempt to avoid finishing behind him yet again, sending The King into a terrible rollover crash. McQueen, fearing that The King’s racing career will end in the same way as did the Hudson Hornet’s, comes to a full stop right before the finish line. After Chick gleefully crosses the finish line, McQueen then backtracks to push the veteran racer across the finish line ahead of him, saying that “I think The King should finish his last race”. Although Chick Hicks has officially won the Piston Cup, he begins to learn that it’s a hollow victory as he is jeered and despised for taking out The King, while McQueen is cheered as a hero for his good sportsmanship. Tex from Dinoco, The King’s sponsor company, offers to support McQueen as his new sponsor; but McQueen, having now had a change of heart, respectfully declines, saying that his current sponsor Rust-eze gave him his “big break,” and he wanted to continue with them.

Two days after the race, McQueen returns to Radiator Springs, announcing that he will establish his racing headquarters there. This helps to revitalize the town and draw back visitors and tourists, with the once-abandoned Route 66 being reclassified as “Historic Route 66.”

  • Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, described by John Lasseter in the LA Times as “A hybr >Production

Cars is the last film worked on by Joe Ranft, who died in a car accident in 2005. The film was the second to be dedicated to his memory, after Corpse Bride. This is also the last (non-documentary) movie for Paul Newman before his retirement in 2007 and his death in 2008. It turned out to be the highest-grossing film of his career.


The original script (called The Yellow Car, about an electric car living in a gas-guzzling world), some of the original drawings and characters were produced in 1998 and the producers agreed that Cars could be the next movie after A Bug’s Life and would be released in early 1999, particularly around June 4. However, the movie was eventually scrapped in favor of Toy Story 2. Later, production resumed with major script changes, like giving Mater, Doc, and a few other characters a bigger part.

John Lasseter has said that the idea for Cars was born after he took a cross-country road trip with his wife and five sons in 2000. When he returned to the studio after vacation, he contacted Michael Wallis, a Route 66 historian. Wallis then led eleven Pixar animators in rented white Cadillacs on two different road trips across the route to research the film.

In 2001, the movie’s working title was Route 66 (after U.S. Route 66), but in 2002, the title was changed to prevent people from thinking it was related to the 1960 television show with the same name. In addition, Lightning McQueen’s number was originally going to be 57 (Lasseter’s birth year) but was changed to 95 (the year Toy Story was released).

For the cars themselves, Lasseter also visited the design studios of the Big Three Detroit automakers, particularly J Mays of Ford Motor Company. Lasseter learned how real cars were designed.

Unlike most anthropomorphic cars, the eyes of the cars in this film were placed on the windshield (which resembles the Tonka Talking Trucks, and the characters from Tex Avery’s One Cab’s Family short and Disney’s own Susie the Little Blue Coupe), rather than within the headlights. According to production designer Bob Pauley, “From the very beginning of this project, John Lasseter had it in his mind to have the eyes be in the windshield. For one thing, it separates our characters from the more common approach where you have little cartoon eyes in the headlights. For another, he thought that having the eyes down near the mouth at the front end of the car feels more like a snake. With the eyes set in the windshield, the point of view is more human-like and made it feel like the whole car could be involved in the animation of the character. This decision was heavily criticized by automotive blog Jalopnik. The characters also use their tires as hands and feet, the exceptions being the various tow truck characters that sometimes use their tow hooks, and the various forklift characters, which use their forks. Some cars are shown shuffling sideways by moving their wheels about on their suspensions.

Computers used in the development of the film were four times faster than those used in The Incredibles and 1,000 times faster than those used in Toy Story. To build the cars, the animators used computer platforms very similar to those used in the design of real-world automobiles.

The track on which the opening race (Motor Speedway of the South) takes place is based on an enlarged version of Bristol Motor Speedway. The venue for the Piston Cup tiebreaker race (the Los Angeles International Speedway) is a conglomeration of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena where the Rose Bowl is located, as well as the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The Scoring Pylon (showing numbers 43, 86, and 95) is taken from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The sign “City of Emeryville – Closed for the race” is a nod to Pixar’s headquarters in Emeryville, California in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Radiator Springs and vicinity

The setting for the fictional town of Radiator Springs is situated between Gallup, New Mexico, and the Sonoran Desert in California. However, the physical location of Radiator Springs in relation to I-40 is similar to that of Peach Springs, Arizona.

Lasseter told film critic Joel Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that much of the story is based on the recollections of barber Angel Delgadillo in the Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona, where business withered soon after the opening of I-40.

Willy’s Butte resembles the landmark of Mexican Hat, Utah, but also resembles a classic Pontiac hood ornament. There is an “Ornament Valley” (a reference to Monument Valley).

The epilogue shows a map of the area of Arizona around Radiator Springs, including car-related place names such as “Carburetor County” and “Cadillac Range”. The latter is a large north-to-south mountain range with many fin-backed jagged peaks, a reference to the famous Cadillac Ranch sculpture in Amarillo, Texas. Where the main road crosses the Cadillac Range is marked “Tailfin Pass 5942” (i.e. feet altitude, = 1.8111 kilometers).

Lizzie’s Curio Shop in Radiator Springs resembles the crazy Route 66 jumble of memorabilia and knick-knacks at Hackberry General Store in Hackberry, Arizona, and the Sand Hills Curiosity Shop, aka the City Meat Market building in Erick, Oklahoma.

The bridge that McQueen sees Sally driving on resembles several bridges on Route 66, including the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge in Tulsa, the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, California, and the now-closed bridge over Diablo Canyon at Two Guns, Arizona. Flo’s V8 cafe is designed to look like a V8 engine head on, with a circular air filter, tappet covers, spark plugs, pistons, and connecting rods as the supports for the shelter. The blinking neon lights on the spark plugs blink in the firing order of a Ford flathead V8.

The railroad grade crossing at which Lightning McQueen outruns a passenger train on his way to Radiator Springs is protected by a pair of antique “upper-quadrant” wigwag crossing signals which accurately depict those once made by the Magnetic Signal Company in both appearance and start-up. Few are left in actual operation in the United States, and many have been replaced with modern crossing gates, red lights, and bells.


During the closing credits, the characters are at a drive-in watching clips of the Pixar films “Toy Car Story” (Toy Story), “Monster Trucks, Inc.” (Monsters, Inc.), and A Bug’s Life, whose characters have been rendered as vehicles in the style of Cars. Mack the red Mack Super-Liner comments that “they’re just using the same actor over and over”, an in-joke referring to John Ratzenberger, who voiced Mack and characters featured in the clips. There are a few sights of the front page of a newspaper named The Daily Exhaust.

Many characters and places in the movie are directly inspired by real Route 66 places and people. To quote the Pixar crew:

“As we traveled on Route 66, we were privileged to visit many places and to meet a number of people who live and work alongside ‘The Mother Road’. The following is a list of the places and people we wanted to honor by including their names in our ‘Special Thanks’ credits at the end of the film. Among the many references to Route 66 landmarks and personalities:

    The Cozy Cone Motel’s design is based on the two Wigwam Motels along Route 66, in Holbrook, Arizona and Rialto, California. These were once two out of seven built motels, with indiv >Cameo

The group of small birds from the 2000 Pixar short film For the Birds made a cameo appearance in Cars. As Mack is en route to California at 17:44 in the film, the group of small birds can briefly be seen (and heard) sitting on their familiar telephone wire. In addition, the Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story also makes a cameo outside of the race track, at the final race in the movie.


The Cars soundtrack was released by Walt Disney Records on June 6, 2006. Nine tracks on the soundtrack are by popular artists, while the remaining eleven are score cues by Randy Newman. It has two versions of the classic Bobby Troup jazz standard “Route 66” (popularized by Nat King Cole), one by Chuck Berry and a new version recorded specifically for the film’s credits performed by John Mayer. Brad Paisley contributed two of the nine tracks to the album, one being “Find Yourself” used for the end credits.

Cars was originally going to be released on November 4, 2005, but on December 7, 2004, the movie’s release date was changed to June 9, 2006, with Chicken Little taking over its original release date. Analysts looked at the release date change as a sign from Pixar that they were preparing for the pending end of the Disney distribution contract by either preparing non-Disney materials to present to other studios, or they were buying time to see what happened with Michael Eisner’s situation at Disney. When Steve Jobs made the release date announcement, he stated that the reasoning was due to wanting to put all Pixar films on a Summer release schedule, with DVD sales occurring during the holiday shopping season. It was released on Disney DVD in two different editions: full-screen and widescreen.

Critical reception

Cars opened on June 9, 2006 to positive reviews. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer praised it as “one of Pixar’s most imaginative and thoroughly appealing movies ever” and Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called it “a work of American art as classic as it is modern.”

Some critics expressed that Cars did not hold up to the standard of other Pixar films due to its lengthy story, especially after the acclaim received by The Incredibles, Pixar’s previous film. “The movie is great to look at and a lot of fun,” wrote critic Roger Ebert, “but somehow lacks the extra push of the other Pixar films.” Laura Clifford of website Reeling Reviews wrote that the film’s “only real drawback is its failure to inspire awe with its visuals and to thoroughly transport with its storytelling.

Rotten Tomatoes gave Cars a fresh 74% with an average rating of 6.9/10 based on 196 reviews, yet no other Pixar film, until the releases of Brave, Cars 2, and Monsters University, has ever scored less than 92% (Brave has a score of 78% and Monsters University with 78%, whereas Cars 2 ranked 39%, the lowest ever attributed to a Pixar film) Despite this, it still received a “Certified Fresh” rating. It earned a 73/100 on Metacritic, making it the third lowest ranked Pixar film on that site.

Box office

In its opening weekend, Cars earned $60,119,509 in 3985 theaters in the United States, ranking number one at the box office. In the United States, the film held onto the No.1 spot for two weeks before being surpassed by Click and then by Superman Returns the following weekend. It went on to gross $461,981,604 worldwide (ranking number 6 in 2006 films) and $244,082,982 in the United States (the third highest-grossing film of 2006 in the country, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Night at the Museum). It was the highest-grossing animated film of 2006 in the United States but lost to Ice Age: The Meltdown in worldwide totals.

Cars had a highly successful run during the 2006 awards season. Many film critic associations such as the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review named it the Best Animated Feature Film of 2006. Cars also received the title of Best Reviewed Animated Feature of 2006 from Rotten Tomatoes. Randy Newman and James Taylor received a Grammy Award for the song “Our Town,” which later went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song (an award it lost to “I Need to Wake Up” from An Inconvenient Truth). The film also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to Happy Feet. Cars was also selected as the Favorite Family Movie at the 33rd People’s Choice Awards. Perhaps the most prestigious award that Cars received was the inaugural Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Cars also won the highest award for animation in 2006, the Best Animated Feature Annie Award.

The film was also nominated for AFI’s 10 Top 10 in the “Animation” genre.

Academy Awards

  • Nominated: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song – Randy Newman for “Our Town”
  • Nominated: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year – John Lasseter

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films

  • Won: Best Animated Film

Annie Awards

  • Won: Best Animated Feature
  • Won: Best Music in an Animated Feature Production – Randy Newman
  • Nominated: Best Animated Effects – Keith Klohn
  • Nominated: Best Animated Effects – Erdem Hamsi Taylan
  • Nominated: Best Character Animation in a Feature Production – Carlos Baena, Bobby Podesta
  • Nominated: Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production – John Lasseter
  • Nominated: Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production – William Cone
  • Nominated: Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production – Dan Fogelman

Austin Film Critics Association

  • Won: Best Animated Film

BAFTA Awards

  • Nominated: Best Animated Feature Film – John Lasseter

Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

  • Won: Best Animated Feature
  • Nominated: Best Soundtrack

Central Ohio Film Critics Association

  • Won: COFCA Award Best Animated Film

Golden Globes

  • Won: Best Animated Film

Golden Trailer Awards

  • Nominated: Golden Trailer Best Animation/Family
  • Nominated: Best Voice Over

Grammy Awards

  • Won: Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media – Randy Newman for “Our Town”
  • Nominated: Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media – Chris Montan, Randy Newman

Hollywood Film Festival

  • Won: Hollywood Film Award Animation of the Year – John Lasseter

Kids’ Choice Awards

  • Nominated: Blimp Award for Favorite Animated Movie

Motion Picture Sound Editors

  • Won: Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue, and ADR for Feature Film Animation – Tom Myers, Michael Silvers, Jonathan Null, Bruno Coon, Teresa Eckton, Shannon Mills, Dee Selby, Steve Slanec, Christopher Barrick, Jana Vance, Dennie Thorpe, Ellen Heuer


  • Won: Ten Best Films for Family Audiences

National Board of Review

  • Won: Best Animated Feature

Online Film Critics Society Awards

  • Nominated: Best Animation

PGA Awards

  • Won: Motion Picture Producer of the Year Award, Animated Motion Picture – Darla K. Anderson

People’s Choice Awards

  • Won: Favorite Family Movie
  • Nominated: Favorite Movie

Rotten Tomatoes

  • Won: Golden Tomato Award for best reviewed film, animation

Satellite Awards

  • Nominated: Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
  • Nominated: Best Youth DVD

Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards

  • Won: Best Animated Feature

Visual Effects Society Awards

  • Won: Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture – Larry The Cable Guy (actor), Michael Krummhoefener, Tom Sanocki, Nancy Kato for “Mater”

World Soundtrack Awards

  • Won: Best Original Song Written for Film – Randy Newman (music/lyrics), James Taylor (performer) for “Our Town”

Home media release

Cars was released on DVD in both wide-screen and full-screen editions on October 25, 2006 in Australia and New Zealand, on November 7, 2006 in the United States and Canada, and on November 27, 2006 in the United Kingdom. It includes DVD-exclusive short film Mater and the Ghostlight and the film’s theatrical short One Man Band, as well as Inspiration for Cars, a 16 minute long documentary about Cars featuring John Lasseter, the director. It also had a version of the Pixar short Boundin’ as an Easter Egg. The first DVD release was the last Disney DVD to be THX-certified.

According to the Walt Disney Company, five million copies of the DVD were sold in the first two days it was available. In its first week it sold 6,250,856 units and 15,370,791 units in total ($246,198,859).

Unlike previous Pixar DVD releases, there is no two-disc special edition, and no plans to release one in the future. According to Sara Maher, DVD Production Manager at Pixar, John Lasseter and Pixar were preoccupied with productions like Ratatouille. Additional extras not seen on the DVD have since been released on the official DVD website.

In the US and Canada, there were bonus discs available with the purchase of Cars at Walmart and Target. Walmart featured a Geared-Up Bonus DVD Disc that focused on the music of the film, including the “Life Is A Highway” video, The Making of “Life Is A Highway”, Cars: The Making of the Music, and Under The Hood (a special that originally aired on the ABC Family cable channel). There is an extremely rare VHS that was released on February 19, 2007 that has no previews, and it’s 2 hours long. Target’s bonus was a Rev’d Up DVD Disc that featured material that was mostly already released as part of the official Cars podcast and focused on the inspiration and production of the movie.

Four deleted scenes from the movie were featured in the bonus features menu, “Top Down Truck Stop”, “Lost”, “Community Service”, and “Motorama Girls.” Cars was also released on Blu-ray Disc on November 6, 2007, marking it the first Pixar film to be released on Blu-ray, and was re-released as a Blu-ray Disc and DVD combo pack and DVD only edition on April 2011.

Similar films

Marcus Aurelius Canônico of Folha de S. Paulo described The Little Cars series (Os Carrinhos in Portuguese), a Brazilian computer graphics film series, as a derivative of Cars. Canônico discussed whether lawsuits from Pixar would appear. The Brazilian Ministry of Culture posted Marcus Aurelius Canônico’s article on its website.

It has also been noted that the plot of Cars bears a striking resemblance to that of Doc Hollywood, the 1991 romantic comedy which stars Michael J. Fox as a hotshot young doctor, who, after causing a traffic accident in a small town, is sentenced to work at the town hospital, falls in love with a local law student and eventually acquires an appreciation for small-town values.

A sequel to the film, titled Cars 2, was released on June 24, 2011. It was directed again by John Lasseter, who was inspired for the film while traveling around the world promoting the first film. In the sequel, Lightning McQueen and Mater head to Japan and Europe to compete in the World Grand Prix, but Mater becomes sidetracked with international espionage.

Another sequel titled Cars 3 was released on June 16, 2017.

Although this movie was rated G in the United States, it was rated PG in the United Kingdom. The reason for this change is because of some frightening scenes, rude behaviour, and two uses of mild bad language.


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