by John

What if cars, trucks and tractors started talking and displaying emotions? Welcome to the world of Cars, an alternate universe where anthropomorphic vehicles speak with each other and behave just like we do.

In 2006, Pixar Animation Studios produced its seventh feature film Cars, a computer-generated comedy directed and co-written by John Lasseter, who is also the chief creative officer of Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios and DisneyToon Studios. The animated film marked Pixar’s 20th anniversary, and was the studio’s final independently-produced motion picture before its purchase by Disney in May 2006.

Cars 2 was released in 2011, with a second sequel aptly named Cars 3 in 2017. The first two Cars movies have made more than USD 1 billion at the box office worldwide. Thanks to franchising (you must have seen the toys, stationery, school bags and other countless products in the market), over USD 10 billion have been made. Elsewhere, DisneyToon Studios produced a 2013 spin-off movie Planes and a 2014 sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue.

Before watching Cars 3 in theatres, let’s reacquaint ourselves with some of the characters in the Cars universe, and also get to know who’s appearing in the latest instalment of the movie franchise.

1. It’s Not Over Until Lightning Strikes

Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is the protagonist of the Cars universe. A red race car sponsored by fictional brand Rust-eze Medicated Bumper Ointment, McQueen is a 2006 hand-built stock racing car. Being one of its kind, he was initially cocky, selfish, and rude to everyone. After a series of unfortunate events, McQueen landed up in Radiator Springs, a rundown desert town where he wrecks further trouble. Eventually, his personality changes and he learns how to care for others instead of just himself. In Cars 2 and Cars 3, McQueen has become less obnoxious, while learning a few important life lessons along the way.

2. Tuh-mater, but Without the “Tuh”

Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) is Lightning McQueen’s best friend and sidekick. His adorable introduction to McQueen will make any cold-hearted Scrooge chuckle: “My name’s Mater, like ‘tuh-mater’, but without the ‘tuh’!” Inspired by a 1951 International Harvester tow truck, Mater is a big-hearted farm boy (who else would step out to befriend the smug McQueen?) who has lived in Radiator Springs all his life. Speaking with a thick Southern accent and sporting a set of signature buck teeth, Mater is a friend any car can count on. 

3. Call Me Fabulous

Doc Hudson (voiced by the late Paul Newman) is a retired race car who also takes on the roles of medical doctor and judge in Radiator Springs. A respected car who speaks very little about his private life, no one knows much about Doc before he came to town. Little did the townsfolk know that the 1951 Hudson Hornet was once a famous race car who won three Piston Cups, and was known as The Fabulous Hudson Hornet. Doc’s life changed when he got into a terrible crash during the final lap of the 1954 race: hoping that the world would forget him, he moved to Radiator Springs. Doc eventually became McQueen’s trainer and friend. After Newman’s passing, the filmmakers decided that Doc would pass away prior to the events in Cars 2. As a homage to Newman, there are references to Doc in the movie.  

4. Gal, You’re Lookin’ Porsche

Sally Carrera (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) is Radiator Springs's town attorney and McQueen's love interest. After getting tired of the hustle and bustle of city life in Los Angeles, Sally started life afresh in Radiator Springs. Her charming, smart and witty personality was a fit for the town. The 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera also owns the Cozy Cone Motel, a refurbished tourist stay-over spot with each motel room constructed as a traffic cone. Sally also has an affectionate nickname for McQueen – Stickers (instead of having real headlights, he sports stickers that look like headlights).

5. An Intelligent British


In Cars 2, Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) is a British Intelligence spy who mistook Mater for an American spy and recruits him to prevent the World Grand Prix from being sabotaged. With cool gadgets like a missile launcher, deployable magnetic explosives and a holographic disguise emitter, McMissile is a geek’s dream come true. The British-made Peerless GT is eloquent and suave, but always ready to embark on the next mission to save the world from evil. McMissile is one spy you can trust your life with.  

6. Ciao, McQueen!

Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro) is a Formula One character in Cars 2. Helming from Porto Corsa in Italy, the self-centred car is talented but arrogant. When MCQueen and Mater first meet Francesco at a party in Tokyo, the boorish race car showed the duo a bumper sticker which reads: "Ciao McQueen" – how rude! For some reason, it’s always funny to hear Mater pronouncing his name wrongly as “Mr San Francisco”. Although McQueen and Francesco were not friends, they acknowledged each other's abilities on the race tracks.

7. Let’s Go Cruz-in’

Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) is McQueen’s trainer and technician in Cars 3. The Hispanic female car is known for training elite rookies through unconventional methods (imagine racing in a simulation machine), and has 656 rigging controls (360 for her body and 296 for her face). The optimistic and friendly 2017 CRS Sports Coupe has idolised McQueen since she was young, and has always wanted to be a racer like him. Everyone needs a Cruz in their lives to brighten up the day!

8. Who’s Smokin’?

In Cars 3, we meet Smokey (voiced by Chris Cooper), who is a former Piston Cup team owner. The respected veteran is also Doc's old mechanic and crew chief. When McQueen and Cruz visit him at the abandoned Thomasville Speedway, they find out that Doc found a greater joy than racing during his days in Radiator Springs. Smokey also acts as McQueen’s crew chief at the Florida 300, before helping to coach Cruz when she enters the race. The 1940s Hudson pickup truck is based on Smokey Yunick, a famous NASCAR mechanic.

Cars 3