Pixar Animation Studios has a glorious line up of critically praised hits to its credit, and one of the most popular Pixar movies is ‘Cars.’ This is the story of a snobbish race car called Lightning McQueen who discovers that life is not just about racing. Typical of Pixar, this film also depicts a highly detailed world, inhabited by cars, totally about cars and at the same time providing the viewers with relatable, humanity kind of characters and brooding plot.
Cars was released over ten years ago, and a lot of the kids who were fascinated by the film in 2006 are now adults and they are able to identify the various layers such as humor, references, and at the same time, some of the weird and offending things about the world of ‘Cars.’
It has a lot of adult humor
It is not as if there are straightforward dirty jokes, but, Cars has a lot of suggestive elements which were beyond the comprehension of kids.
For one, Lightning McQueen is a renowned race car, and he has a team to prove it. After the big race seen at the start of the film, two red cars called Mia and Tia claim that they were his “biggest fans” and then they suggestively flash him (using their headlights that is). Later at the central location of the film, the obscure town called Radiator Springs, Lightning met Sally, who had a “tribal” style “pin-striping tattoo” barely above her bumper, which is the Cars version of a “tramp stamp” lower back tattoo.
There is another scene, where Lightning bursts at Doc Hudson at his office, where the Sheriff had been elevated to get his undercarriage examined. Sheriff asked Lightning whether he had “a good look.” At the time when Lightning told Mater about having found out that Doc Hudson was a three-time winner of the famous racing championship called Piston Cup, Mater astonishingly exclaimed, “He did what in his cup?” there is that odd visual gag as well, for example, a roadside advertising sign “Top Down Truckstop” a place which had “convertible waitresses.” (A topless equivalent in the world of Cars).
The clever choice Of Character names and people who voiced them
Characters’ names and the choice of actors/filmmakers roped in to play them, provide a lot of references which only well-informed parents, old film fans, and car lovers would be familiar with. Such as Radiator Springs’ old town doctor Doc Hudson was voiced by legendary Hollywood star Paul Newman, who was also a professional racer. Famous comedian and counterculture legend George Carlin voiced Fillmore, a hippie Volkswagen bus, the car that scores of hippies had driven. (Fillmore also reminds of Fillmore West, a cinema hall in San Francisco which was venue to 60s bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead). The champion race car ‘The King’ was voiced by Richard Petty, NASCAR legend who is also famous as “The King.” In fact, Tom and Ray Magliozzi (Click and Clack), the hosts of the National Public Radio’s Car Talk, played cameos as owners of Rust-Eze, the ‘bumper ointment’ firm sponsoring Lightning McQueen.
The races are glamorized track and field events
Just like the real human world, car racing is a famous sport in Cars. However, cars don’t drive cars the way we humans do. They simply run around a track, using their own bodies. Therefore, it is obvious that the auto racing in Cars is basically a much faster, much competitive track and field event. It has a lot at stakes and is extremely competitive as Cars hit each other and try to get the top position at high speeds, often hurling each other in dust or slammed into the wall. That is how it would be if Carl Lewis or Usain Bolt bumped each other out of the way while running. It could be that violence which made the Cars style of “running” a way more popular sport for viewers than the real world’s running competitions.
The races are full of violence
It is usual to see spinouts, crashes and accidents take place in the real-world vehicle racing events. However, the cars are so beefed up with protection that it is rare for the drivers to get hurt. The vehicles bear the brunt, but, fans don’t mind it much because those cars don’t cry in pain.
However, they do get hurt in Cars. Even a minor racing accident is often a terrible injury. A car crash damaging some part of a car’s body would be similar to a human runner losing a limb in the middle of a race. A blown tire would be equal to a broken foot. From this perspective, the cruel racing style of the villainous Chick Hicks, which compelled the King to spin repeatedly, is akin to the gladiatorial battles which aim to hurt or kill.
The Pizza Planet truck as a living being
Pixar is renowned to fill its movies with secretive jokes and Easter eggs, and Cars wasn’t any different. Right from its first appearance in Toy Story, the beat-up yellow Pizza Planet pizza delivery truck has been a part of almost every Pixar film. It was logical to see it in Cars, a film based entirely on motor vehicles. The P.P. truck is seen only as part of a crowd scene before a big race of Lightning McQueen. Only in Cars do we see the Pizza Planet truck to be a living being with eyeballs and a mouth. (Since there is a Pizza delivery truck in Cars, it means that cars eat pizza).
The Mack/Lightning McQueen thing doesn’t work out
While building the Cars world, almost every aspect of human world had to be reshaped into the car equivalent. “Cow tipping” was replaced with “tractor tipping,” and the Flo’s V8 Café has gas and oil on its menu rather than food items. However, there are some things which are not a straightforward corollary, leading to some weird moments.
A major example is the way Lightning McQueen travels from one race to another. Just like a real-world race car, he travels in the back of a custom-built truck. In Cars, it is shown to be akin to a hybrid between a private jet and a limo, full of amenities that provide maximum comfort to Lightning. However, this is the world of living vehicles, and that truck is also a living being. (He is called Mack, “Mack Truck.”). So what we see is basically Mack driving on the freeway with Lightning McQueen resting inside his stomach. Isn’t that insane?
Does it exist in a parallel universe or some completely different place?
Kids can enjoy watching Cars on the surface level: cars do things, they learn lessons and cars race. Grown-ups might wonder though as to how and why is the Cars world this way? It is a place closely resembling our 21st-century world, the only difference being that everything caters to cars here instead of humans. However, they also enjoy the human things fashioned after the real-world. Radiator Springs is located on the abandoned Route 66. Fillmore apparently lived through the 60s. Comedian and talk show host “Jay Limo” was there. They spoke English, barring Guido, who was an Italian.
What exactly was going on there? Is Cars based in an alternate reality where cars are the inhabitants, and humans don’t exist or is it a weird post-apocalyptic, post-human world where cars evolved to become living beings and simply got used to the world left behind by the now extinct humanity?
Cars had sex
Although it is not yet clear how the cars in Cars existed, but, logically it has to be done biologically. A mommy car and a daddy car spend time with each other, and after some time, a brand new car is born. After all, the Cars world is an exact adaptation of the human world, and there are clear indications that this is how things were in Cars. Lightning McQueen flirted with Sally, and they were clearly in love with each other. Mater and Holley Shiftwell had a thing going in Cars 2. Ramone and Flo of Radiator Springs are a married couple. Everything is a clear hint that some of the cars do get into a physical intimacy which leads to the creation of younger cars.