"Cars" is the seventh computer-animated film from Pixar Animation Studio's creative team in Northern California and the fourth from two-time Academy Award-winning director John Lasseter ("Toy Story," "Toy Story 2," and "A Bug's Life"). It's a movie that takes audiences into a fantasy world inhabited only by cars.
In this article, we'll cover every aspect of the 2006 movie, from summaries of all the characters to detailed information on many of the most popular scenes. We'll start on this page with some important background information.
The film's story centers on a hotshot rookie race car who, with an amusing, multi-ethnic cast of "car-acters," embarks on the ride of his life. "Cars" blends comedy, action, heartfelt drama, a driving music score, and unique CGI animation techniques. Taking the wheel as the protagonist is Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), a race car driven to succeed. Along the way he discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. New friends Doc Hudson (a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, voiced by Paul Newman), Sally Carrera (a snazzy 2002 Porsche, voiced by Bonnie Hunt), and Mater (a rusty but trusty tow truck, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) help McQueen realize that there are more important things than trophies, fame, and corporate sponsorship.
Produced by Pixar Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, "Cars" roared into theaters on June 9, 2006 (after a May 26 world premiere at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina) and quickly lapped the competition to become the top film for 13 days. In its first five months, worldwide box office receipts for "Cars" totaled more than $456 million.
The movie yielded a list of tie-in and licensed products, including the "Cars Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" from Walt Disney Records, featuring original music performed by superstars Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, and Brad Paisley; new recordings of road classics by multi-platinum artists Rascal Flatts and John Mayer; and contributions from Academy Award- and Grammy-winning composer Randy Newman.
The driving force behind "Cars" is animation king John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Feature Animation and the principal creative advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering. For this movie, Lasseter returned to directing for the first time since "Toy Story 2." This latest film tapped into Lasseter's personal love of cars and racing, as well as a variety of issues that were near and dear to him.
"Cars" was co-directed by the late Joe Ranft, who also served as story supervisor for the film and voiced several incidental characters. One of the most gifted and respected story artists in modern animation, he had collaborated with Lasseter on all three of his previous directing efforts and had been a key creative force at Pixar for more than a decade. Ranft passed away in a car accident in August 2005, so the film "Cars" was dedicated to him as a fitting tribute.
Serving as the film's producer was Darla K. Anderson, a Pixar veteran whose previous producing credits include "A Bug's Life" and "Monsters, Inc." The film's associate producer was Tom Porter, a technical pioneer in the world of computer animation who has been part of the Pixar inner circle since the studio's start. Lasseter, Ranft, and Jorgen Klubien conceived the original story.
In the next section, we'll show you how "Cars" was conceived.
Behind the 'Cars' Story
"Cars" is a personal story for John Lasseter, the movie's co-director. As a boy growing up in Whittier, California, he loved to visit the Chevrolet dealership where his father worked as a parts department manager. He even got a part-time job as a stock boy as soon as he turned 16.
"I've always loved cars," Lasseter says. "In one vein I have Disney blood, and in the other there's motor oil, so the notion of combining these two great passions in my life -- cars and animation -- was irresistible. When Joe [Ranft, Lasseter's co-director] and I first started talking about this film in 1998, we knew we wanted to do something with cars as characters. Around that same time, we watched a documentary called 'Divided Highways,' about the interstate highway and how it affected the small towns along the way. We were so moved by it and began thinking about what it must have been like in these small towns that got bypassed. That's when we started really researching Route 66, but we still hadn't quite figured out what the story for the film was going to be."
Lasseter packed his entire family into a motor home and set out on a two-month trip with the goal of staying off the interstate highways and dipping his toes into both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The trip brought the family closer together than ever. "Suddenly I realized what the film needed to be about," he says. "That the journey in life is the reward. It's great to achieve things, but when you do, you want to have your family and friends around to help celebrate."
The story took off from there, with Lightning McQueen being focused on nothing other than being the fastest car in racing. "He was the perfect character to be forced to slow down, the way I had on my motor home trip for the first time in my professional career," Lasseter says. "The unique thing about Pixar films is that the stories come from our hearts. They come from things that are personal to us, and that move us. This gives special meaning to the films."
The Roadmap to Radiator Springs
Central to the plot and themes of "Cars" is the iconic Route 66, along which much of the story takes place. A great believer in research and first-hand experience, Lasseter returned to the road -- this time with his key creative team -- to help them prepare for their assignment.
Lasseter, Ranft, producer Darla Anderson, production designers Bob Pauley, and Bill Cone, along with four other key members of the production team, flew to Oklahoma City and headed out from there in a caravan of four white Cadillacs on a nine-day trip along Route 66. Author Michael Wallis -- a Pulitzer Prize-nominated historian who has explored Route 66 for more than 60 years -- led the expedition and provided a running narrative via walkie-talkies.
"Route 66 is a mirror held up to the nation," says Wallis. "This highway is the most famous in the world, and it represents the great American road trip. It's a chance to drive from Chicago, through the heartland and the Southwest, past ribbons of neon, across the great Mojave, to the Pacific shore at Santa Monica. Every road has a look based on where the road goes. The look of Route 66 is everything from the licorice-colored soil of Illinois to the desert sands of the Mojave. It's the all-American look."
The team soaked up the atmosphere, even taking soil samples to color its animated scenes with the patina of the Southwest. Careful studies also were made of rock and cloud formations and the variety of vegetation. Painted advertisements on the sides of buildings, weathered and overlaid, were of particular interest. In addition, the crew went to small cafes, mom-and-pop shops, and motels, talking to hitchhikers, cowboys, waitresses, and mechanics.
One of the most meaningful moments occurred in Arizona on the side of a road. "It was a beautiful road that wound perfectly around the environment, right next to the interstate that went right through a beautiful butte," recalls Pauley. "As we were sitting there, a truck pulled up with an older Native American and his grandchild. He asked us, 'How do you like our land?' We told him how beautiful it was, and he told us that he was out here when they blasted the cutaway for the big highway through his ancestor's sacred land. It was a powerful moment. We saw how the interstate sliced through the land without any care or respect at all."
In the next section, we'll find out how Pixar's creative team used this research to come up with the production design.
'Cars' Production Design
From the thrilling opening night race to the dusty, faded facades of Main Street, Pixar's production designers and artistic team went into overdrive to capture the various moods and settings of "Cars" in a stylish way. The "Cars" landscape is dubbed "cartoon realism" by production designer Bill Cone, who created the look of the film's environments, including the five-mile stretch of road that leads in and out of the town of Radiator Springs.
"The forms are a little whimsical," he says. "You see car shapes on the cliffs, and the clouds are stylized. I reached the conclusion that humans in a human universe would see their own forms in nature, which they often do. So in a car universe, they would have car-based metaphors for forms. So the cliffs look very much like the hoods of cars, or a hood ornament. Great American artists like Maynard Dixon also had a big influence on us with their landscapes of the Southwest and the clouds that they painted."
To add to the authenticity of the desert location, modelers in the sets department dotted the landscape with thousands of pieces of vegetation, including cactus, sagebrush (in browns, greens, yellows and tans), and grass. Rocks of varying formations complemented the scenery. To enhance the richness and beauty of the desert landscapes surrounding Radiator Springs, the filmmakers created a department responsible for matte paintings and sky flats.
"Digital matte paintings are a way to get a lot of visual complexity without necessarily having to build complex geometry, and write complex shaders," says technical director Lisa Forsell. "We spent a lot time working on the clouds and their different formations. They tend to be on several layers and they move relative to each other. The fact that so much attention is put on the skies speaks to the visual level of the film."
How Pixar Brought "Cars" to Life
For "Cars," more than 100 unique car characters were created, and director John Lasseter insisted that they look as real as possible. Having a film in which the characters are metallic and heavily contoured meant coming up with resourceful ways to accurately show reflections. As a result, "Cars" was the first Pixar film to use "ray tracing," a technique that allows the car stars to credibly reflect their environments.
The addition of reflections in practically every shot of the film added tremendous render time to the project. The average time to render a single frame of film for "Cars" was 17 hours. Even with a sophisticated network of 3,000 computers and state-of-the-art, lightning-fast processors that operated up to four times faster than they did on "The Incredibles," it still took several days to render a single second of finished film.
"It took many months of trial and error, and test animation, to figure out how each car moves and how their world works," says Lasseter. Supervising animators Doug Sweetland and Scott Clark, and the directing animators, Bobby Podesta and James Ford Murphy, worked with the animation team to determine the unique movements for each character based on his or her age and car type. "We also wanted the animators to put some of themselves in each character and give it their own spin."
One of the biggest decisions affecting the design and animation of the car characters was the placement of the eyes. "From the very beginning, we knew the eyes would be in the windshield," says production designer Bob Pauley, who oversaw the design of the car characters. "It separates our characters from the more common approach, where you have little cartoon eyes in the headlights, and having the eyes down near the mouth at the front end would make the character feel more like a snake. With the eyes set in the windshield, the point of view is more human-like."
For the design of "Cars'" central character Lightning McQueen, the team used a standard stock car as its starting point then studied what made racing cars so cool. "We pared down all our ideas and did a bunch of drawings that we felt were good," says Pauley. "From there, a clay sculpt was made just like they would do in Detroit, and our star modeler Andrew Schmidt took it from there. McQueen was a blast to do. It was also a major challenge to make a car that reads as a character and has a strong face on screen, yet doesn't look derivative."
Animating car characters had its share of challenges for the team. Supervising animator Scott Clark explains, "Getting a full range of performance and emotion from these characters and making them still seem like cars was a tough assignment, but that's what animation does best. You use your imagination, and you make the movements and gestures fit with the design. Our car characters may not have arms and legs, but we can lean the tires in or out to suggest hands opening up or closing in. We can use steering to point a certain direction. We also designed a special eyelid and an eyebrow for the windshield that lets us communicate an expressiveness that cars don't have."
The director had some very specific words for the designers, modelers, and animators who were responsible for creating the film's car stars: "Truth to materials." Starting with pencil and paper designs and continuing through the modeling, articulation, character shading, and animation, the production team worked hard to have the car characters remain true to their origins.
Characters department manager Jay Ward says, "John didn't want the cars to seem clay-like or mushy. He told us that steel needs to feel like steel. Glass should feel like glass. These cars need to feel heavy -- when they move they need to feel as if they weigh three or four thousand pounds -- not light and bouncy like rubber toys."
Although the Pixar car models were built so they could be moved into any position, Lasseter kept reminding the team that the characters were made of metal and therefore couldn't stretch. He even showed them examples of very loose animation to illustrate what not to do.
To ensure authenticity in its car designs, the production design team conducted research at auto shows, spent time in Detroit with auto designers and manufacturers, went to car races, and made extensive studies of car materials.
"Research is a big thing for John," says Pauley. "It's also the most fun part of the job because we got to go to car shows and races, and other neat stuff. One of the things we did was to visit Manuel's Body Shop near the studio. He gave us a lot of detail and helped us understand how they apply layers and coats of paint on a car."
Shading art director Tia Krater adds, "While we were at Manuel's one day, we found this old beat-up chrome bumper and we asked if we could have it. He started to clean it up, and we said, 'No! No! Don't clean it!' It was exactly what we were looking for. We loved how dirty it was and the patina. It had a little bit of everything we were looking for -- pitting, scratches, milky blurriness, rust, and blistering -- all in one bumper. One of our technical guys, who ended up shading Mater, took it out in the sun, and spent a lot of time staring at it and taking lots of pictures to analyze the textures and surfaces."
In the next section, we'll talk about some of the technical hurdles the Pixar team had to jump over in order to make the movie come to life.
'Cars' Challenges and NASCAR Connection
Over the past 20 years, Pixar Animation Studios has pushed the limits of computer-animation to new heights. "Cars" posed some of Pixar's greatest challenges to date.
Creating the metallic and painted surfaces of the car characters was the biggest challenge. An algorithmic rendering technique known as "ray tracing" was used for the first time to give the filmmakers the look and effect that they wanted. "Given that the stars of our film are made of metal, [director] John [Lasseter] had a real desire to see realistic reflections, and more beautiful lighting than we've seen in any of our previous films," says supervising technical director Eben Ostby. "In the past, we've mostly used environment maps and other matte-based technology to cheat reflections, but for 'Cars' we added a ray-tracing capability to our existing Renderman program to raise the bar."
Ray tracing has been around for many years, but it was up to Pixar's rendering team to introduce it into nearly every shot in "Cars." Jessica McMackin was responsible for rendering the film's final images, while Tony Apodaca had to figure out how to minimize the rendering time. In addition to creating accurate reflections, they used ray tracing to achieve other effects, like shadows from multiple light sources, occlusion (the absence of ambient light between two surfaces, such as a crease in a shirt), and irradiance (glowing casts of light).
Another big accomplishment was the ground-locking system that kept the cars firmly planted on the road. Characters supervisor Tim Milliron managed the group in charge of modeling, rigging, and shading the characters, and wrote the code for this program. "The ground-locking system is one of the things I'm most proud of on this film," says Milliron. "In the past, characters have never known about their environment, but on 'Cars,' this system is built into the models themselves, so as you move the car around, it sticks to the ground. It was one of those things that we do at Pixar where we knew going in that it had to be done, but we had no idea how to do it."
Milliron's group was also responsible for the stadium car crowds during the film's opening and ending race sequences. With 120,000 cars in the stands, they were the biggest crowd scenes ever done at Pixar (far surpassing the milling ants in "A Bug's Life"). Complicating the situation, all of the crowd vehicles were animated.
Steve May, the effects supervisor for "Cars," brought that same level of scrutiny to nearly half of the film's 2,000 shots. Among the numerous effects created for the film were dust clouds trailing behind cars, tire tracks, skid marks, water, smoke, and drool (from Mater's front end).
The NASCAR Connection
Delivering authenticity to the cast for "Cars" are vocal performances from some of the greatest names from the racing world, including Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, Dale Ernhardt Jr., Darrell Waltrip, and Michael Schumacher. Veteran Olympic and sports commentator Bob Costas lends his seasoned voice to the character of Bob Cutlass, the colorful host at the film's racing events. Tom and Ray Magliozzi (known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers), hosts of the popular NPR program "Car Talk," weigh in as the not-so-desirable sponsors Rusty and Dusty Rust-eaze.
To help capture the thrills and excitement of the film's racing scenes, Jeremy Lasky, the director of photography and the man responsible for camera and layout, and his team visited many car races, and had extensive talks with the camera experts who photographed such events. Veteran Fox Sports director Artie Kemper, a pioneer in televising car races, proved to another valuable information source.
Says Lasky, "Artie gave us really great notes about where he would typically place his cameras on the track. He also talked about shots that he wished he could get. We were able to do a lot of things that were impossible for him to do. We could put a camera under the car, place one on the middle of the track, set up a crane shot that comes down and have the cars race right over the top of the cameras. Artie told us that he wished he had those toys.
"The camera placement in 'Cars' allowed us to put the audiences right in the middle of the excitement. We put them into a world they were familiar with, and then we hit them with shots that they've never seen. The film has these spectacular moments where the cars are ripping two millimeters past the camera lens, which is impossible in live-action, and we set it up for them to believe it's possible."
How the Sound Works
To underline the racing tie-in, director John Lasseter knew he needed a great score. He hired longtime collaborator Randy Newman, a 2002 Oscar winner for his song "If I Didn't Have You" from "Monsters, Inc." For "Cars," Newman worked in the studio with a 110-piece orchestra and recorded side sessions with mandolin, guitar, and harmonica to give the sound a bluegrass quality.
"Every Randy Newman score is unlike the one before it," says Lasseter. "He can write the most emotional songs, and he can write some of most humorous songs you've ever heard. He's incredibly funny and smart. Randy's score for 'Cars' reflects the two distinct worlds -- the modern world where it's all about being fast; and Radiator Springs, where the one commodity they have is time. Everything is slower there, and Randy uses a combination of bluegrass, jazz, and pure Americana to capture that. The racing world has a heavy dose of rock 'n' roll."
In the next section, we'll introduce you to all of the cars that make up the movie's world.
The characters are what drives Pixar-produced movies, and "Cars is no exception.
"When they write these movies at Pixar, they start with the heart of the character first," says Bonnie Hunt, the actress who serves as the voice of Sally Carrera. "Once the heart is there, it doesn't matter what's on the outside so even a car becomes a character and a personality. [Director] John Lasseter and the artists at Pixar provide the imagination that is the gold mine of their storytelling process. Anything that you can possibly visualize in your mind, they bring to life."
Here's a look at each of the "Cars" characters:
Poised to become the youngest car ever to win the Piston Cup Championship, this hotshot rookie race car has just two things on his mind: winning and the perks that come with it. Actor Owen Wilson ("Bottle Rocket," "Shanghai Noon," "Meet the Fockers," and "Wedding Crashers") is the voice of the brash race car who learns that life is about the journey.
"John would walk me through the storyboards and sometimes show me some rough animation to get me up to speed," says Wilson about the dialog recording sessions. "You get a good idea of what's going on from the script, but a lot of times it involves using your imagination. It kind of felt like when you were a kid, and you would do funny animated voices. You're dreaming the stuff up and creating a character."
The car design visuals were inspired by numerous sources. "To get some insights into McQueen, we studied famous cocky characters who are also charming," says directing animator James Ford Murphy. "We looked at guys like Joe Namath, Muhammed Ali, and even Kid Rock. All these guys are super cocky but you still like them. Owen was really able to get that across, where he says something cocky, but he says it in such a charming way that you almost don't hear what he's saying."
McQueen was fondly named after actor Steve McQueen, the "king of cool" and an avid car racer who starred in films like "Le Mans."
As McQueen's trusted driver, he is willing to push the limits of his own sanity and sleep requirements to accommodate his celebrity employer, even if it means falling asleep at the wheel and losing his boss. The back of Mack's truck is McQueen's luxurious bachelor pad, and it's fully loaded with the best in fiber optics, TVs, massage chairs, and more.
No Pixar film is complete without a vocal performance by John Ratzenberger of "Cheers" fame, and in "Cars," the character actor takes on the voice of the 1985 Mack Super-Liner. Having provided voices for all six of Pixar's previous films, he's known as the studio's good luck charm.
"I'm the lucky one," says Ratzenberger. "Pixar creates history with each one of their films and I feel lucky to be a part of it. 'Cars' really took my breath away. At first you're struck by the detail, and then you forget you're watching an animated feature about cars. It really tugs at your heart strings."
Otherwise known as Strip Weathers, this 1970 Plymouth Superbird is a racing legend who has won more Piston Cups races than any other car in history. Despite his fame, he's a down-home guy who knows it takes more than trophies to make a true champion. He believes in hard work, team playing, and making time for his wife, Mrs. The King. Racing legend Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship winner, lends his voice to this classy champ. His wife, Lynda, provides a cameo voice as The King's car-mate.
This racing veteran is a ruthless competitor, who has bumped and cheated his way into more second-place finishes than any other car. Forever living in The King's shadow, he's the consummate runner-up and will stop at nothing to win the Dinoco sponsorship. Actor Michael Keaton ("Mr. Mom," "Batman," and "Herbie: Fully Loaded") gets down and dirty as the voice of this hard-driving road warrior.
The Cars of Radiator Springs
A seemingly quiet country doctor with a mysterious past, this 1951 Hudson Hornet is the cornerstone of Radiator Springs. Respected and admired by the townsfolk, Doc is a car of few words and is unimpressed by the town's newest arrival: Lightning McQueen. Oscar winner Paul Newman gives a winning performance as the voice of this venerable vehicle.
"The vocal aspect of Doc's character came very quickly," says Newman, an actor as well as a serious race car driver. He's listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records" as the oldest driver to win a professionally sanctioned race, a feat he accomplished at the 24 Hours of Daytona race in 1995 when he was 70. "[Doc] was southern, he was old, he was tired, and he was smart. Doing a voice for an animated film is so different from making a live-action film. You bring nothing physical to the role. You don't bring your appearance or your physical mannerisms; you don't bring anything except your voice. That's the only instrument that you have. I took a lot of the stuff he said, and tried to give it to the director exactly as he wanted, and then I tried to augment and exaggerate it."
This sporty Porsche from California grew tired of life in the fast lane and made a new start for herself in Radiator Springs. As the proprietor of the Cosy Cone Motel, and one of the town's most optimistic boosters, she has high hopes that Radiator Springs will one day return to its former glory and wind up "back on the map." She takes an instant shine to Lightning McQueen and helps to steer him in the right direction. In her third assignment for Pixar, multi-talented actress/filmmaker Bonnie Hunt ("A Bug's Life," "Monsters, Inc.," "Cheaper By the Dozen") gives a premium performance.
This good ol' boy tow truck may be a bit rusty on the outside, but he has the quickest towrope in Carburettor County and is always the first to lend a helping hand. Sweet and loyal to a fault, Mater befriends McQueen. Stand-up comedy sensation Larry the Cable Guy gives a "tow-de-force" vocal performance that's both funny and touching.
"Mater is a little bit like me, actually," says Larry. "He's grown up in a small town his whole life, and I'm from a town of 1,200. And what he thinks is fun and exciting, somebody in the city would go, 'That's stupid. Why would you do somethin' like that?' But in his world, it's the most exciting thing he's ever done. If you ever wanted a friend, you'd want Mater. He's McQueen's buddy to the end, and he'd do anything for that guy. There's not a mean bone in his rusty body."
Mater was an audience favorite who was just as popular with the animators. "In a way he became the centerpiece of the movie," says Doug Sweetland, supervising animator. "Animators loved to work on the character because he was so physical and gave them a lot to sink their teeth into. The model provided a little more freedom because the truck had a separate cab and bed, and then there was the tow cable that you could incorporate as a tail, or even twirl like a helicopter. Mater does all sorts of stuff with it. And Larry the Cable Guy gave us a lot to work with, too. He's so funny and yet his performance has so much heart. To me, it's one of those incredibly perfect voices, like Sterling Holloway with Winnie the Pooh."
"Mater is the definition of true friendship," says director John Lasseter. "Joe [Ranft] and I loved this beat-up rusty tow truck that was always there for his friends. More than any other character that we've created at Pixar, I'm probably proudest of Mater."
The resident hippie is a 1960 VW bus who brews his own organic fuel and preaches its many benefits. His conspiracy theories, unkempt yard, and electric-guitar renditions of the "Star-Spangled Banner" don't sit well with his patriotic neighbor, Sarge, but despite their frequent disagreements, they can't live without one another. Comedy legend George Carlin -- the creator of the stand-up character The Hippy-Dippy Weatherman and other hippie-era favorites -- gives a far-out performance as the voice of this peace-loving bus.
This patriotic 1942 WWII Willy's Army jeep runs the army surplus store, Sarge's Surplus Hut, and is seen manicuring the lawn in front of his Quonset hut into a precise flat-top. Although he likes to complain about his VW bus neighbor, he knows that life is more interesting with Fillmore around. Actor Paul Dooley ("Breaking Away," and "Desperate Housewives") sounds off as this regimented vehicle whose bark is worse than his bite.
The proprietor of Ramone's House of Body Art, this 1959 Impala low-rider is a true wizard with paint and metal, but he hasn't had anyone to customize in years. While waiting for a paying customer to come along, he re-paints himself daily and hopes that McQueen will let him add a few new flourishes. Comedian/actor Cheech Marin delivers a colorful vocal performance.
Married to Ramone and the owner of Flo's V-8 Cafe, Flo is a sassy, no-nonsense 1950s show car. Offering the "finest fuel in 50 states," Flo's is a popular gathering spot for the locals to sip some oil, share some gossip, and listen to a little motherly advice from Flo herself. It was love at first sight for Flo and Ramone when they met while she was traveling across country as a glamorous Motorama girl. Jenifer Lewis goes with the "flo" as the voice of this spirited character.
Big-hearted, gregarious, and excitable, this 1959 Fiat 500 runs the local tire shop, Luigi's Casa Della Tires, which is the "Home of the Leaning Tower of Tires." With his forklift pal, Guido, by his side, Luigi is an avid race car fan (with a bias toward Ferraris) who is always eager to please. Business hasn't been good in years, so any car can count on a bargain for a new set of wheels from this merry merchant. Tony Shalhoub ("Monk," "Big Night") puts the accent on comedy in this tireless performance.
Route 66 expert and author Michael Wallis provides the voice of this 1949 Mercury Police Cruiser, sworn with upholding the peace in Radiator Springs. Always on the prowl for would-be speeders who might want to barrel through his town, Sheriff enjoys telling stories about his beloved Mother Road and taking the occasional nap behind the town's billboard.
In the final section, we'll give you a scene-by-scene breakdown of the movie and let you know what the future holds for 'Cars.'
'Cars' Scene Guide
One thing that makes the "Cars" DVD enjoyable is the ability for fans to repeatedly watch their favorite scenes. Download a comprehensive roadmap to the scenes of "Cars" with our "Cars" scene guide here. We show you the highlights below.
Scene One: "Dinoco 400" [9:26]. This title sequence introduces rookie race car Lightning McQueen as he psyches himself up for a big race in which he's set to challenge the current champion, The King, and Chick Hicks, who has long raced in the champ's shadow. McQueen enters the Motor Speedway racetrack to the cheers of a packed arena and effortlessly passes the competition.
Scene Two: "Victory Lane" [4:10]. McQueen maneuvers his way through a bad pile-up on the track to take the lead while The King and Chick Hicks make pit stops. McQueen decides not to enter the pit, against the advice of his own pit crew. McQueen says he doesn't need his crew and ends up blowing two tires just before he reaches the finish line, giving The King and Chick a chance to catch up. The big finish is too close to call.
Scene Three: "Rust-Eaze" [2:30]. While judges replay film footage to determine the leader, McQueen dreams of victory, and fantasizes about winning the rich Dinoco sponsorship and leaving his original Rust-Eaze sponsors in the dust. But judges announce it's a three-way tie that will be broken in a winner-take-all race in California the following week.
Scene Four: "Life Is a Highway" [3:33]. This is a montage of McQueen riding in the back of his fancy car-carrier driven by loyal Mack, the only pit crew member who hasn't deserted the pompous McQueen. They leave the speedway and hit the highway to California, with Mack driving day and night while McQueen rests in luxury. Mack gets weary, but McQueen refuses to let him regroup at a rest stop.
Scene Six: "Into Town" [2:53]. Looking for Mack and Interstate 40, McQueen mistakenly turns onto old Route 66, speeds, and is pursued by the local sheriff. As McQueen tears into the town of Radiator Springs, he makes a huge mess of things and is caught.
"Traffic Court" [4:15]. Mater tows McQueen to traffic court to face sentencing by the town judge, Doc Hudson. Sally, the sultry Porsche who left a big-city law firm for small-town life, persuades the court to sentence McQueen to community service to repair the road he wrecked.
Scene 12: "Doc's Challenge" [4:05]. McQueen announces he's done and is going, until the town discovers he's done a horrible job that makes the road worse than it was before. Doc orders him to scrape it off and start again. They make a deal: If Doc can beat McQueen in a dirt race around the butte, he'll stay and redo the road. The race is on. Doc starts confidently, but McQueen doesn't know how to drive off-road and spins out on a turn.
Scene 13: "A New Road" [2:44]. Having lost the bet, McQueen goes back to work on the road, working all night to scrape the sloppy asphalt he laid. In the morning, the town awakens to find a beautiful, smooth blacktop running through half of the town.
Scene 16: "Tractor Tipping" [3:06]. After nightfall, Mater invites McQueen tractor tipping for some country fun. McQueen tries it by revving his engine, causing the entire tractor herd to bolt and fall over. This alerts a giant thresher that comes to chase McQueen and Mater back into town.
Scene 17: "Backwards Driving" [3:41]. Now friends, Mater and McQueen drive back to town. McQueen reveals his crush on Sally, and Mater demonstrates his skill as "the world's best backwards driver" and dreams of flying in a helicopter someday.
Scene 19: "Doc's Piston Cups" [2:00]. On the fourth day stuck in Radiator Springs, McQueen is desperate to leave and looks for Doc at his garage. Doc's not there, but three Piston Cups are, revealing Doc's big secret: He's really the Hudson Hornet, the record-holder for the most championship race wins until his big crash. Doc is aggravated by the discovery and worries that McQueen will reveal his past.
Scene 21: "Drive With Sally" [2:00]. McQueen has never gone for a pleasure drive before. He's soon charmed by the gorgeous Southwest scenery and Sally's playful flirtation.
Scene 27: "A New Customer" [2:36]. McQueen happily spends the whole day giving new business to everyone in town -- he gets new tires, organic gas, a paint job, and even a touristy bumper sticker.
Scene 28: "Cruisin'" [2:32]. Having helped out everyone in Radiator Springs, McQueen has one last surprise for Sally: He fixed the old neon signs just like they were in the town's heyday. Everyone in town celebrates by cruising the main street.
Scene 29: "McQueen Is Found" [5:05]. Suddenly, police helicopters and TV news camera crews swarm the town. They've found McQueen. With mixed emotions, he says goodbye to Sally, who thanks him for bringing the town back to life. McQueen is reunited with Mack, who quickly drives him away. Sally discovers it was Doc who selfishly tipped everyone off to McQueen's location.
The Future of Cars
The theatrical release of "Cars" coincided with the celebration of Pixar's 20th anniversary, and the company's 2006 acquisition by Disney. Since Disney purchased Pixar with plans to expand its slate of sequels for Pixar film titles, it's highly likely that a new cinematic model, "Cars 2," is already revving its motor on the start line.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Vicki Arkoff is entertainment editor for Sweet 16 magazine, and is one of MAD Kids' and MAD Magazine's "usual bunch of idiots." She also writes for Nickelodeon Magazine, Disney Adventures, Tiger Beat, Bop, Sugar (UK), Girlfriend (Australia), and TV Hits (UK, Australia & Germany), and is an authorized biographer and co-writer for such youth-market superstars as Hilary Duff, Jesse McCartney, The Cheetah Girls, Raven-Symone, Emma Roberts, Drake Bell, JoJo, Carrie Underwood, and Kelly Clarkson.