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Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Pixar Edition. Cars 3

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: Cars 3

Year: 2017

Source materials : Based on characters from the Cars films and shorts

Budget: $175 million

Box office: $383.9 million

Plot: Lightning McQueen and the other veteran racers of the Piston Cup suddenly find themselves struggling to win against next-generation rookies like Jackson Storm who utilize advanced technology and modern training methods. As Storm’s breakout success attracts other rookies to the series, most of the veterans either retire or are fired to make way for the new generation.


In the final race of the season, McQueen rushes a pit stop and desperately attempts to overtake Storm, but overworks and blows a shaky tire, losing control and suffering a violent crash.


Four months later, McQueen is still recovering in Radiator Springs, isolating himself from his friends and spending his time watching footage of his late mentor, Doc Hudson. After receiving some encouragement from his girlfriend Sally, McQueen decides to return to racing and calls his sponsors from Rust-Eze, Rusty and Dusty, who reveal that they have sold the team to a new owner named Sterling. In a new state-of-the-art training center, Sterling assigns McQueen to train under racing trainer Cruz Ramirez.



McQueen struggles to adapt to Cruz’s modern methods and fails to improve, so Sterling tries to force him into retirement to preserve his reputation and marketability. McQueen offers a deal: if he can win the first race of the season, he can continue racing as long as he wants; otherwise, he will retire immediately. Sterling is worried about damaging McQueen’s marketability, but accepts the deal, and assigns Cruz to join him.


McQueen tries to train on nearby Fireball Beach but ends up spending most of his time teaching Cruz how to drive on the sandy terrain.


McQueen then attempts to join a race incognito at a famous dirt track called Thunder Hollow, but inadvertently enters a figure-8-style demolition derby with Cruz, which she wins, unintentionally humiliating McQueen on TV. McQueen rails at Cruz for wasting his training time, and Cruz reveals that she had been inspired by McQueen to be a racer, but quit when she felt like she didn’t belong. She resigns as McQueen’s trainer and heads back to the training center.


After talking to his best friend Mater, McQueen decides to track down Doc’s mentor Smokey, in Doc’s hometown of Thomasville, and catches up to Cruz and convinces her to rejoin him. In Thomasville, McQueen meets up with Smokey, who reveals that Doc was even happier training McQueen than he was when he raced himself.


After McQueen accepts that he will never be as fast as Storm, Smokey and his friends help McQueen learn new tricks to overcome his speed disadvantage, using Cruz as his sparring partner. However, during the final practice race, Cruz suddenly overtakes him and wins, shaking his confidence.


At the race in Florida, McQueen starts last, but with coaching from Smokey in the pits, manages to advance through the field. Sterling arrives to find Cruz still in her racing trim, and orders her back to the center. Cruz begins to leave, heartbroken. McQueen overhears the exchange, and at his next pit stop, he tells his crew to outfit Cruz in his racing number and sends her out on track in his place.


Cruz is initially slow, overwhelmed by the experience, but Smokey and McQueen help her to focus and remember her training, and she makes her way forward. When she catches Storm, he first tries to intimidate her, then rams her against the wall in desperation, but she uses one of Doc’s tricks to outmaneuver him and wins the race.


As Cruz celebrates her victory, Sterling offers her a role on his team, but she instead takes a counteroffer from legendary owner Tex Dinoco. Sterling reminds McQueen about his bet, but as McQueen started the race that Cruz finished, he gets a share of the win, thus winning his bet. Sometime later, McQueen and Cruz return to Radiator Springs, where McQueen reveals that Tex has bought Rust-eze from Sterling, and McQueen has become Cruz’s crew chief.

Background: Development on Cars 3 began in 2011 after the release of Cars 2 Co-writer Kiel Murray, who also co-wrote the original Cars, said of the return to the series roots: “With these franchises you always want to know who it’s about. The first movie was about McQueen, and the second movie was a sort of off-ramp to the Mater story. We wanted to get back to the McQueen story. When we looked at what would be next for him, we wondered what that would be like both as an athlete, and also for what he was dealing with in the rest of his life.” Director Brian Fee focused on the psychological aspect of athletes dealing with the end of their career.

Director Brian Fee

Animation: The production utilized a new rendering system, RIS, which made scenes like the demolition derby race possible. The system was previously used on Finding Dory. In previous movies the animators had to first do the animation before the rendering, but RIS allowed animation and rendering to take place simultaneously in a process called “hardware shading”, making it much easier for the animators to see what a completed scene would look like when finished.

Music: The film’s score was composed by Pixar’s frequent collaborator, Randy Newman, who previously composed the first film’s score.


  • “Run that Race”- Dan Auerbach
  • “Kings Highway”- James Bay
  • “Truckaroo”- Brad Paisley
  • “Thunder Hollow Breakdown”- Brad Paisley
  • “Glory Days”- Andra Day
  • “Ride”- ZZ Ward featuring Gary Clark Jr.
  • “Drive My Car”- Jorge Blanco
  • “Freeway of Love”- Lea DeLaria

Voice Cast: Owen Wilson, Larry the Cable Guy, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, 1 Tony Shalhoub, Bonnie Hunt, Bob Costas, Darrell Waltrip, Guido Quaroni, Lewis Hamilton, Lloyd Sherr, Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Cheech Marin, Jenifer Lewis, Paul Dooley, Katherine Helmond, and Jerome Ranft all reprise their roles from the previous films. Unused archive recording from the first film were used for the late Paul Newman’s lines. Nathan Fillion, who previously appeared in Monsters University, plays Sterling. Bob Peterson takes over the role of as Chick Hicks, previous voiced by Michael Keaton in the first film.


Cristela Alonzo as Cruz Ramirez. She is a stand-up comedian who created and starred in the ABC sitcom Cristela. 2 Chris Cooper as Smokey. He is well known in for appearing in American Beauty, October Sky, The Bourne Identity, Seabiscuit, Capote, Syriana, The Kingdom, The Town, The Muppets, Lonesome Dove, Adaptation,  Breach, The Company You Keep, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.


Armie Hammer as Jackson Storm He is known for his portrayal of the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, the title character in The Lone Ranger, Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mike in Mine, Oliver in Call Me by Your Name, and Martin D. Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex. Lea DeLaria as Miss Fritter. DeLaria is credited with being the first openly gay comic to appear on a late-night talk show with her 1993 appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. She is best known for her portrayal of inmate Carrie “Big Boo” Black on Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black.


Margo Martindale as Louise “Barnstormer” Nash. In 2011, she won a Primetime Emmy Award and a Critics’ Choice Television Award for her recurring role as Mags Bennett on Justified, and was nominated for an Emmy Award four times for her recurring role as Claudia on The Americans, winning the award in 2015 and 2016. She has played supporting roles in several films, including The Hours, Million Dollar Baby, Dead Man Walking, The Firm, Lorenzo’s Oil, …First Do No Harm, Eye of God, Win Win, Marvin’s Room, Forged, Orphan, The Savages, Hannah Montana: The Movie, August: Osage County, and Paris, je t’aime. She was also nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in 2004 for her performance in the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Kerry Washington as Natalie Certain. She is best known for starring as Oliva Pope in Scandal. 3She is also known for her roles in Ray, The Last King of Scotland, Fantastic Four, Django Unchained, Our Song, The Dead Girl, Mother and Child, and Night Catches Us. In 2016, she portrayed Anita Hill in the HBO television film Confirmation, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie.

Other voices include Kyle Petty, Junior Johnson, Ray Evernham, Shannon Spake, Madeleine McGraw, Mike Joy, Angel Oquendo, Diedrich Bader, Daniel Suárez, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, Chase Elliott and Andra Day

Where in the World is John Ratzenberger? John reprises his role as Mack

Pizza Planet Truck: Pizza Planet truck is seen sitting in the grass in the Cinemark connections trailer.

A113 It can be found on Sterling’s office door, but it also appears on Shannon Spokes’ right side and Mater’s license plate.

Critical Reception:

  • Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote, ” Cars 3 is a friendly, rollicking movie made with warmth and dash, and to the extent that it taps our primal affection for this series, it more than gets the job done. Yet in many ways it’s the tasteful version of a straight-to-DVD (or streaming) sequel.”
  • David Fear of Rolling Stone gave the film a positive review, saying: “There’s an emotional resonance to this story about growing old, chasing glory days and the joy of passing the baton that leaves the other two films choking on its digitally rendered dust. The end goal this time out isn’t just to sell a few more toys and Lightning McQueen lunchboxes. It’s actually tapping into something deeper than a corporate bottom line.”
  • Mike Ryan of Uproxx called the film ‘ The Rocky III Of The Cars Franchise,’ and wrote “There’s a hint of sadness that seems to be present throughout Cars 3 that gives it a little more weight than the previous installments.”

Video game: Cars 3: Driven to Win was released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. As Disney no longer develops and publishes video games after the release of Disney Infinity 3.0, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment published the game.


My take: Obviously, this is a much better film than Cars 2. Best to move on that film entirely. I enjoyed how the film focused on the end of someone’s career, a subject that doesn’t get a lot of fleshing out in film. It reminded me of the climax of A Chorus Line: “What do you do when you can’t dance anymore? ”

Next Week: We visit the land of the dead.