WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Cars 3
The storytellers of Pixar have offered up Cars 3 as their latest box office bit of family entertainment, and while the series may be better known for its commercial success than critical acclaim, that doesn't mean it features any fewer easter eggs, inside jokes, hidden details, and subtle references to other Pixar properties and creators. And we're not just talking about the repeated themes and messages involved when you use Cars 3 to bring the Cars series full circle. These are more of the celebrity cameos, in-universe reimaginings of our human world, and the obligatory nods to Pixar's company history.
Unfortunately the team's idea of having Lightning McQueen meet different Batmobiles didn't pan out in the final cut. But if you're looking for nods to the history of NASCAR as well as the standard checklist of Pixar goodies, then look no further. And needless to say, there will be some major SPOILERS in our look at Cars 3 Easter Eggs & Pixar Connections.
12. Sleep Well Motels
In the world of Pixar, it's always a safe bet that corporations and business names are going to be an easter egg or secret reference f some kind, and Cars has been downright filled with them, thanks to the NASCAR branding on the racetracks and cars themselves. In the case of Cars 3, fans should keep their eyes peeled on the highways billboards seen as Mack drives he and Lightning past them. And the advertisement for a nearby Sleep Well Motel should ring bells for the Pixar historians in the audience.
We'll skip right past exactly what car motels do and do not include, but the chain Sleep Well was first seen in Toy Story of Terror! The short film was aired as a Halloween special on ABC back in 2013. It follows the events of Toy Story 3, with the hero toys accompanying their new owner Bonnie on a trip with her mother. When the car blows a tire, the pair get a room at a Sleep Well Motel... before their nightmare begins.
11. TripleDent Gum
With the return of the cast of Piston Cup racers comes a whole host of returning voice actors, and plenty of new NASCAR recruits as well. One of the new additions seen trailing Lightning McQueen when he's got the lead in hand is named Terry Kargas, driving-- sorry, being the #31 car, noticable by its light blue color scheme. But its chief sponsor is the real key detail: TripleDent Gum.
The name or logo may not jog the memory on its own, but its jingle definitely should. It was introduced in Inside Out, with a few workers in Riley's brain deciding it's time - once again - to throw the jingle for TripleDent back into the spotlight. It enraged Anger at the time, and seeing it carried over into the world of Cars 3 is par for the Pixar course. Again, what an automobile would need gum for, or whether it would be the same product in Riley's world... these are the Cars mysteries we shall never see solved.
10. Wild Bill's Racing Cones
It's a safe bet that each and every one of the dozens of advertisements both on the cars and the surrounding marketing in the tracks is a nod to something, and a shot-by-shot breakdown will be needed to puzzle them all out. Fortunately, at least one easter egg is easy to spot in the Cars 3 trailers - specifically the section in which Lightning (in disguise) tries his hand at a bit of Crazy 8 racing in the mud. In the background as he starts his race is a large blue and orange billboard for "Wild Bill's Racing Cones," your "one stop cone shop."
Fans can let their imagination run wild (pun intended) on exactly what kind of cones, given the many uses they've been put to in the Cars universe. But no matter what, it's all a nod to production designer Bill Cone. An even more fortunate name, given his work on the Cars film and a number of Mater-focused shorts to follow (as well as Cars 3).
It just wouldn't be a Pixar film without the mandatory reference to "A 113," the easter egg guaranteed to pop up at least once. It's a reference to Room A 113, the classroom in which the earliest groundbreakers of Pixar learned their trade at the California Institute of the Arts. The good news is that this time around, audiences won't need to be scanning every inch of the frame just to spot one such inclusion.
Just keep your eyes peeled on the door to Sterling's office before Lightning is ushered in for his meeting with the Rust-eze bigwig. It's dead center in the middle of the frame so you're sure to see it, but the number of times it appears elsewhere in the film is still up for debate. That's what repeat viewings are for, right?
8. Cinderella's Carriage
The easter eggs continue once the film movies into the office as well. Fans will need to prey their attention away from Nathan Fillion's charming Sterling to get a glimpse of his trophy wall, but there's no telling how many secrets and references are actually included. There's a set of photographs almost impossible to decipher, but focus on the right side of the trophies, and one shape should stand out to the devoted Disney fans.
Since the universe of the Cars series is one in which human beings have apparently stepped aside to let machines run things, it only makes sense that one of the biggest cameos should be a famous Disney vehicle, not a character, per se. The scale model replica of Cinderella's golden pumpkin carriage is easy to make out thanks to its massive wheels, but whether it's a harmless nod or evidence that the carriage's future was lucrative in its own rite... we can't say for sure.
7. Coco, Pixar's Next Movie
The nods to films that came before are a sure thing, but it's just as certain that a Pixar movie will include a few teases of the films still in development. In the case of Cars 3, it's a tease of Coco, Pixar's upcoming Day of the Dead musical that gets some clues concealed within this car-focused adventure. First off, when Cruz is training her new crop of recruits on digital simulators, she urges them to think of their hometowns. For one racer, that means conjuring an image of the very same town in which Coco is set.
Later in the movie, set in a musically-slanted scene, viewers should be able to spot the signature guitar to be used in Coco as well. Another remnant of the human world that was crushed to allow the Cars to rise? We can't confirm that theory yet... but the evidence continues to pile up.
6. Jocko Flock's Party Supplies
While Lightning McQueen can rely on a layer of mud to conceal his identity, things aren't so easy for Mack - clearly branded as Lightning's associated semi. So to apply a disguise of his own, Mack is treated to a tarp or two proclaiming his occupation to be a party supply hauler, for the company "Jocko Flock's Party Supplies." The name sounds suitably clown-ish, but the motorsport fan know the real bit of stock car history being alluded to.
It's a nod to Jim Flocko - or more specifically, the monkey he raced with at his side as part of marketing campaign in the days before NASCAR was bogged down with things like "regulations" or "rules against driving with a live Rhesus monkey in the car with you." The monkey was tossed when he cost Flocko a win, but his place in history was guaranteed: Jocko Flocko, as his driver came to call him, is the stuff of driving legend.
5. The Pizza Planet Truck Cameo
Not every easter egg needs to be cloaked in secrecy - a point proven by Cars 3's appearance of the infamous Pizaa Planet truck, which was revealed before the film even hit theaters. In a scene following Lightning as he gets tossed into the muddy Crazy 8 race, it's revealed that the former pizza delivery truck has turned to a life of dirt track racing.
Keep your eyes sharp as soon as the race officially begins, and you'll spot the Pizza Planet truck rocketing across the frame. It can also be glimpsed in wider shots of the entire collection of racers, but the side-eye it throws while screaming across the screen may rank it among the best cameos it's ever had. Fans have seen enough of its pedestrian deliveries or time spent motionless after hours... but it's the thrill of competition that keeps this truck fueled.
4. Pixar Ball Goes Two Dimensional
The Luxo Ball has its roots in the earliest days of Pixar, when their very first short film included two desk lamps coming to grips with the physics of the children's inflatable rubber ball. The lamp would go on to become the mascot of the entire studio, and the ball would be sure to get a supporting role in every single film they released. Well, if not a physical cameo, then at least it would see its signature blue, yellow, and red star pattern make the leap.
With Cars 3, the Luxo Ball is once against taken from three dimensions down to just two. The yellow circle with a red star on a blue background can now be seen on the hood of one of Lightning's muddy competitors. It's not quite as easy to spot as the Pizza Planet truck, but go in looking for it, and it should be caught.
3. A Magic School Bus?
Of all the new additions to the Cars universe, it's safe to say that the one most audiences members will remember is Miss Fritter, the former school bus turned demolition destroyer, complete with horn-like exhaust, and scrapes of paint and license plates to show the many cars that have been blown to pieces in her wake. But the name seems like a playful reference to a fictional universe distinctly outside of Pixar's - by the name of Magic School Bus, and its one of a kind teacher.
While unforgettable in a different way, 'Miss Frizzle' holds her place among the hall of fame fictional teachers turning every lesson into an incredible adventure. Miss Fritter may not have the same love of knowledge or dislike of physical violence, but it seems to close to be coincidence. Could this be the sign of a crossover in the future? Most definitely not... but we can still dream.
2. W. Cutting Blvd
After Miss Fritter has been introduced, its worth putting as many looks toward her decorations and trophies as possible. They'll also need repeat viewings or some insights from the artists to know just what ties each of the license plates have to real life stories or loactions, but one memento stands apart. We're talking about the green street sign stuck in Fritter's window, which looks to be a sign for W.Cutting Blvd.
The address is also an important onto Cars and Pixar history, as the very first offices of Pixar were located on W. Cutting in the Richmond, San Francisco. They've moved upward and onward since then, but haven't forgotten their roots. In fact, this same street sign previously stood over Andy's bedroom door, last seen in Toy Story 3.
1. Doc Hudson's Return
Of all the motorsport and Hollywood cameos and bit parts in the film, the most heartwarming (and heartbreaking) is the return of Paul Newman's Doc Hudson, since the actor passed away in 2008. Nevertheless, when Lightning is in need of some extra encouragement, he thinks back to his time spent learning from Doc in the first Cars movie. Eventually taking the number and title of his idol and mentor as he returns to racing.
What's so astounding is that those flashbacks actually include new audio, unheard in the first Cars. Aside from lines of recorded dialogue that simply didn't make the first movie, the makers of Cars 3 turned to the hours of Newman discussing cars and life in between takes. Which means the wise words of Hudson in Cars 3 are, in some cases, simply the wise words Newman was passing on to those present.
There you have it, Pixar fans: every Cars cameo, secret, and connection to Pixar franchises both past and future. We know that when it comes to these films, more and more secrets and references are discovered by the day, so be sure to sound off in the comments if there are any ones you spotted that we missed.
- Cars 3 (2017) release date: Jun 16, 2017