Released in 2006, Cars is an animated adventure set in a world populated by anthropomorphic vehicles. Produced by Pixar Animation Studios, it was directed and co-written by John Lasseter, who had previously directed the animated Toy Story movies.
Cars differed from Lasseter’s earlier animations, such as A Bug’s Life and Toy Story, in that there were no human characters at all. In his other films, people had lived alongside the bugs and the toys, but didn’t know of their existence. In Cars, there wasn’t a human to be seen and it was a planet of vehicles.
Photo Credit: Loren Javier
Critics have likened the premise to that of Planet of the Apes, where humans used to exist in abundance, but have been replaced by another more dominant species! They have pointed to the fact that human landmarks, such as Route 66 to Hollywood, still exist in Cars.
The makers of Cars never offered an official explanation of the mysteries of the setting, such as the question of where the cars came from if there were no humans to make them.
Creative director of Cars, Jay Ward, put forward his own unofficial theory that with the advent of autonomous car technology, cars had grown increasingly smarter, thanks to artificial intelligence – getting so smart that they no longer needed people. He suggested each car took on the personality of the last person who drove it.
This still didn’t explain what had happened to the human race! Some fans accused the critics of over-thinking it – the average four-year-old would probably agree and would accept a world populated purely by talking cars!
Stock car, Lightning McQueen, is preparing for the final race of the Piston Cup championship, to be held at Los Angeles International Speedway in California in one week’s time.
Keen to start training as soon as possible, Lightning persuades his big rig, Mack, to set off driving through the night to California but Mack falls asleep on the journey, accidentally drops McQueen off the trailer through his reckless driving and sets off in a panic to find his friend.
In doing so, he inadvertently wrecks the pavement of the desert town of Radiator Springs. McQueen is arrested and appears before the judge, who orders him to repair the damage as community service for letting his rig run out of control.
He is guarded by a rusty old tow truck called Mater, who tries to point him in the right direction to complete his punishment. It’s a big job and when McQueen finishes it in a shoddy manner, he’s told he must do it again.
While stranded in Radiator Springs, McQueen gets to know many of the local cars. He finds out that the judge, Doc, is the former Piston Cup winner, the Fabulous Hudson Hornet, who has now retired to the backwater of Radiator Springs.
He also finds the town used to be a popular stopover, but the construction of the new Interstate 40 had led to visitors passing it by and it had reached its current rundown state. The longer McQueen stays in the desert town, the more he grows to like its inhabitants, especially the lawyer, Sally, and even Mater, who is quirky, but has a kind heart. They eventually become firm friends.
Helped by his new pit crew from Radiator Springs, McQueen makes it to the Piston Cup championship, but on realising the importance of friends, he returns to Radiator Springs and announces he’s setting up headquarters there. He intends to put the town back on the map to return it to its former glory.
An all-star cast provided the voices for the animated characters, including Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen. Fans thought the character was named after actor Steve McQueen, but he was actually named in honour of Pixar animator Glenn McQueen, who died of melanoma in 2002, at the age of 41.
The character is described as a cross between a Le Mans endurance racer and a stock car. He evolves during the film from his self-centred and rude persona, into a kind-heated character who genuinely cares about others.
Paul Newman voices Doc, who is a 1951 Hudson Hornet, while American comedienne Bonny Hunt is Sally the lawyer. Stand-up comedian Daniel Whitney, better known by his stage name of Larry the Cable Guy, is Mater. John Ratzenberger voices Mack, who is a 1985 Mack Super-Liner.
Lightning McQueen might have been a superfast racing car, but he travels at the speed of a snail compared with a real bolt of lightning, that travels at around 220,000mph!
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