Cars has proven itself to be one of Pixar’s most successful franchises, earning billions in merchandising and integrating itself into the lives of many young viewers, who easily connect with the property’s talking vehicles. The first Cars movie remains popular eleven years after its release and its sequel, Cars 2, is also a film that fans keep coming back to, despite it being considered one of Pixar’s weaker offerings. Cars 3 is set to arrive in theaters this June, but the short teaser trailer released back in November suggests that the franchise might well have taken a darker turn.
In fact, the Cars 3 teaser prompted complaints from parents since it shows Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) crashing hard. It goes without saying that this isn’t the end for Lightning but even so, this was a scene that proved to be quite upsetting for a number of younger viewers. Many guessed at the time that this teaser sets up a storyline in which Lightning feels sidelined by newer, faster cars moving up the racing ranks, and that appears to be the case, based on the new information that we have.
Cars 3 is being directed by Brian Fee, his first time at the helm of a movie. He has previously served as a storyboard artist on both Cars and Cars 2, though, so he approaches the movie from an experienced standpoint. In the same EW article, Fee offers more insight into the movie, confirming that Lightning McQueen is struggling to keep up with the younger race cars on the track:
“He’s in the middle of his life, and as an athlete, that’s getting up there. You have your whole life ahead of you, yet your career is starting to show its age. He’s looking in the mirror and realizing, ‘I’m 40 years old,’ and dealing with the fact that the thing that you love more than anything else, you might not be able to do forever.”
It’s an issue many of us face, be it in sport, or work, wherever, and there’s always the younger generation coming up behind, ready to take over. In this case, it’s Jackson Storm who’s eager to prove himself as number one. Voiced by Armie Hammer, Jackson represents the millennial generation, and he is infinitely more technologically advanced than Lightning, a true reflection of how much the world of Motorsport has moved on since Cars made its debut in 2006. According to Fee:
“Jackson was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Everything comes easy to him, and everything about him says he’s faster, so much so that we’ve designed him so that even when he’s standing next to McQueen, McQueen looks old.”
“He thinks the future of racing and the high-tech ways they train and what they can do means they’re taking the sport to a new level, and the older guys had their day, and it’s done, and they have no place in the future of racing.”
On the other side of the track in Cars 3, as it were, is Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo). She represents the altogether kinder, more considerate side of a younger generation. She respects McQueen and his contribution to the sport, and she’s determined to see him back at the top where he belongs. “She’s the most optimistic person in the world and wants to do anything to help,” Fee says.
As is evidenced from the gallery above, McQueen does get something of a makeover, presumably coming after he spins off the track. Fee says that the end of Cars 3 is only the beginning for Lightning McQueen, and describes the movie as the “most human” Cars film yet, in keeping with John Lasseter’s previous comment that it’s “very emotional.” A new trailer set to drop soon will hopefully reveal more of these characters and go some way toward reassuring younger viewers that Lightning McQueen will always be number one.