The Cars franchise may not be Disney/Pixar’s most beloved animated property, but it’s certainly one of the most lucrative in terms of its combined box office gross and tie-in merchandise sales. Cars protagonist Lightning McQueen (voiced again by Owen Wilson) returns to the big screen this year in Cars 3, a sequel that already has moviegoers buzzing thanks to its teaser trailer: a dramatic promo that shows Lightning getting into the terrible crash that sets his journey in the film in motion.

Directed by Cars 1 & 2 storyboard artist Brian Fee and co-writen by Daniel Gerson (Monsters University, Big Hero 6), Cars 3 follows Lightning as he struggles to get back into the racing game after his mid-race crash provides him with a harsh reminder that he’s no longer a young up-and-coming racer himself. A full-length trailer for Cars 3 is now right around the corner and may not only offer more story details for the film, but also introduce one of its new key players: Cruz Ramirez, the fresh-faced race technician who helps Lightning to get back on his feet wheels after his accident.

ESPN has now revealed that it will debut the next Cars 3 trailer on January 9th, 8pm EST, during the 2017 college football playoff national championship. A recording of the announcement promo confirming the Cars 3 trailer premiere time and date has popped up online on multiple YouTube channels now, too. You can check it out, above.

cars 3 trailer lightning mcqueen Cars 3 Trailer Announcement; Full Trailer Next Week

It seems as though the more emotionally-challenging and “dark” teaser trailer for Cars 3 is a reflection of the film itself, based on previous comments made by those working creatively behind the scenes on the Cars installment. The new Cars 3 trailer will no doubt offer plenty in the way of colorful characters and humor in the vein of Pixar films past, but the indication is that Cars 3 itself could be to the Cars film franchise what Toy Story 3 is to the Toy Story movies: an installment that deals with more mature themes, allowing the series to further “grow up” along with the kids who have been watching Lightning and his friends on the big screen, on their way to young adulthood.

Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter has likewise confirmed that Cars 3 will explore how Lightning is affected by the memory of his mentor in the first Cars movie, Doc Hudson, and allow the studio itself to pay its respects to the actor who voiced him (the late Paul Newman), in the process. The animation studio has long succeeded at blending complex emotional subject matter with playful animated storytelling, so there’s (more than) fair reason to believe that they will succeed again here and possibly deliver the best Cars movie to date, at the same time.

NEXT: First Look at Pixar’s Animated Film Coco

Source: ESPN [via YouTube]

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