A series of computer-animated films from Pixar and directed by John Lasseter, who also directed Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life. True to the title, the stories take place in a world entirely populated by anthropomorphic cars and other vehicles — aside from plants, there are no organic life-forms of any sort. Just about everything else is reinterpreted into automotive counterparts, such as insects becoming Volkswagen Beetles and rock formations in the shape of car bodies.
"I... am speed."
The first film centers around Lightning McQueen, an arrogant up-and-coming hotshot stock car racer whose only driving concern is winning. The film opens with McQueen vying for the Piston Cup, a coveted prize which assures the winner of a lucrative sponsorship. Despite a valiant effort, McQueen ends up in a three-way tie with retiring racing veteran Strip "The King" Weathers and perennial runner-up Chick Hicks. A tie-breaking race is scheduled a week later in California, and McQueen urges his driver Mack to get them there immediately.Along the way, McQueen gets lost, ending up in Radiator Springs, a quiet rural town in a forgotten segment of Route 66. After accidentally tearing up the town's main road, McQueen is sentenced to repairing it as community service. As he toils to finish his service and get to California, McQueen makes friends with the locals, including Tow Mater and former big-city hotshot Sally Carrera, and learns that there's a lot more to life than just racing to the finish line.
Cars 2 (2011)
When You're In Over Your Headlights, Who Do You Trust?
Cars 2 is the Actionized Sequel to Cars, released in June 2011. Oil Baron-turned-electric-vehicle Sir Miles Axlerod has discovered Allinol, a new clean alternative fuel source. To promote it, he creates and sponsors the first ever World Grand Prix, where the best racers compete to see who's the fastest car in the world. One of the finalists is Piston Cup winner Lightning McQueen, who brings along his friends from Radiator Springs as his pit crew, along with first-time team member Tow Mater.Unfortunately, when an intelligence exchange goes awry, Mater gets mistaken for a master American spy. When he accidentally screws up Lightning McQueen's competition against Formula One racecar Francesco Bernoulli, Mater ends up getting recruited by British espionage agents Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell to help them stop the machinations of international weapons developer Professor Zundapp. Now, while McQueen struggles against his guilt, Mater must balance his duty to save the world and his efforts to save McQueen, who is quickly being targeted...It currently holds a 39% on the tomato-meter, thus being by far the least well received Pixar movie showing that, yes, sometimes the company can trip every now and then. Not to say that the movie isn't watchable however.
Feather Fingers: They're cars, and yet they manage to write, paint, and hold microphones.
Five-Temperament Ensemble: McQueen (sanguine/choleric), Sheriff (choleric), Doc Hudson (melancholic/choleric), Red (melancholic), Sally (phlegmatic), Mater and "The King" Weathers (sanguine), and Mack (leukine).
Licensed Game: Four in total; Cars: The Video Game, Cars Mater-National, Cars Race-O-Rama and Cars 2: The Video Game.
Pretty much averting The Problem with Licensed Games since they have all gotten at least decent reviews and from all reports are actually pretty fun and represent a lot of the racing "feel" of the movies. Then again, how hard can it be to make a game based on movies about race cars?
McQueen's name gets some confusion though as people believe he's based on a famous race car legend. He's actually named after Glenn McQueen, a Pixar worker who died during Finding Nemo's production.
Merchandise-Driven: Four years and five new Pixar movies later, you still can see an ad for a new Cars toy once in a while, and they still take up a good portion of shelf space in stores. A study conducted in 2010 found that 50% of American boys aged 5-13 had at least one Cars shirt in their wardrobe. This is probably the reason that justifies Disney's Executive Meddling in getting Pixar to make a sequel.
No Celebrity Cars Were Harmed: Many characters are in-universe automobile versions of real celebrities, voiced by the same people they were based from. See the individual movie entries below for details.
Odd Couple: Lighting and Mater (worldly/naive), Sarge and Fillmore (army/hippie), Ramone and Flo ("gangster"/showgirl)
Or Was It a Dream?: How almost all of Mater's Tall Tales end. Even though McQueen is in all of them despite a)him not remembering any of it, and b)the events taking places years before the two met.
Pimped-Out Car: It was bound to happen, when you have a "Body Paint" store at Radiator Springs.
Punny Name: Done with many of the characters who are automotive versions of their real selves, like Jay Limo, Darrell Cartrip, Jeff Gorvette, David Hobbscap, and Brent Mustangburger. Averted with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s cameo as his #8 DEI Chevrolet Monte Carlo: he is called "Junior", which is used often by NASCAR broadcasts.
Befitting its globetrotter plot, the sequel expands the puns to places and things, such as Petrodilly Circus and Big Bentley in London, the Republic of Rearendia, and mentions about the Running of the Bulldozers in Pamplona.
The "Life Is a Highway" segment from the first film is especially noteworthy.
The sequel shows us beautiful scenes of Italy, France, Japan and England!
Shown Their Work: Watch the DVD extras to see the amount of work that went into even minor details that virtually nobody will notice.
This is especially noticed in the second film. Especially when many of the Mooks turn out to be Lemons and Mater's spiel about car parts.
The Smurfette Principle: The male-to-female ratio is 9:3. In the first film, the racecar sponsoring RevNGo is actually the only female competing in the Piston Cup, and in the sequel, Carla Veloso, the Brazilian racecar is the only female competing in the World Grand Prix.
Mater: Here she comes! McQueen: Okay, places, everybody! Hurry! Act natural. [McQueen hides and everybody else gets in a perfectly straight line as Sally approaches] Mater, Ramone, Flo, Luigi, Sarge, Fillmore: Hi, Sally! Sally Carrera: All right, what's going on?
The King is voiced by Richard Petty, and is also modelled and painted after Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird. He is described as having won seven Piston Cups - which is also the number of Winston Cup Championships that Petty won in his racing career (he is also the only seven time winner of the Daytona 500). And his wreck at the end of the film appears to be nod back to Petty's wreck in the 1988 Daytona 500.
In the US version, Jeremy Piven is the voice of McQueen's agent Harv. Piven is known for his role as Hollywood superagent Ari Gold on the HBO series Entourage. Meanwhile, the UK version uses Jeremy Clarkson, known for his part in the BBC series Top Gear.
Don't forget Mater's "I don't care who you are, that's funny right there", and "Git-r-done!", both of which are Larry The Cable Guy's Catchphrases. It's so much that Mater's Voice is actually credited as "Larry the Cable Guy", not "Daniel Whitney".
A variant of this: Chick Hicks goes to victory lane after he intentionally crashes the King on the last lap of the final race (which would lead to him being black-flagged in real life) and is pelted with old tires and booed off stage.
It's similar to backlash that was made against Rusty Wallace after he spun out Darrell Waltrip on the last lap of the May 21, 1989 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and sent Waltrip into the grass. As Wallace claimed the victory and the $200,000 prize, fans booed, gestured rudely and pelted the track with beer cans, while a dispute on pit road quickly escalated into a twenty-five person fistfight, to which Waltrip said, "I hope he chokes on the $200,000, that's all I can tell him. He knocked the hell out of me. I guess I made a big mistake by letting him get up there too close to me in the first place." Two of the people associated with that All-Star Race are in this film: Darrell Waltrip (as Darrell Cartrip), and the speedway's operator, Humpy Wheeler (who voices Tex, Dinoco's owner).
A Million is a Statistic: In the teaser trailer, Mater mourns over the death of a bumble bee after it was squashed on his windshield. Lightning then tells him to get over it. At which point, an entire swarm of bumble bees splatters all over the former's face. Mater laughs it off as Lightning tries to cough out the insects.
Analogy Backfire: "Oh, like you? You've been here for how long, and your friends don't even know who you are? Who's caring about only himself?!"
Sally: You called them? Doc: It's best for everyone, Sally. Sally: Best for everyone... or best for you?
Assumed Win: Subverted - After the race in the beginning, McQueen assumes he won the Piston Cup, and proceeds to make a big entrance... only to find out it was a tie.
The Bad Guy Wins: Chick wins the Piston Cup, though is booed off the stage by the crowd due to him wrecking the King intentionally in the process. It apparently was a nod to the welcome Rusty Wallace received when he spun out Darrell Waltrip to win the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1989.
Bizarrchitecture: The Cozy Cone motel, which is based on a real motel modeled after Indian Teepees.
Calling the Old Man Out: Sally does a very short one after she finds out that Doc called the press about where Lightning was to get him out of Radiator Springs. Turns out to be an Ironic Echo when she asks if it was the benefit of everyone else in the town, or just for him, as Lightning did.
As does frequent NBC Sports host Bob Costas. And fellow announcer Darrell Waltrip.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. makes a brief appearance voicing the #8 Chevrolet Monte Carlo he drove for his father's race team from 1999 to 2007 in the Winston / Nextel / Sprint Cup Series (prior to his 2008 departure to Hendrick Motorsports), sans Budweiser stickers (to avoid advertising alcohol). Appropriately, Earnhardt, Jr.'s car name is... "Junior", which real NASCAR commentators are known to refer to him as.
Camera Abuse: At the end of The Stinger with Minny and Van, one of the VW "bugs" flies into the camera lens, leaving a smudge from its hood.
Cassandra Truth: No one believes McQueen at first about Doc being a former race car star.
Champions on the Inside: Even though McQueen loses to help the King finish his race, he is still considered a winner in the audience's eyes. Doesn't help that the King was injured by the winner himself, costing him the Dinoco sponsorship.
Chekhov's Gag: While chasing Lightning near the beginning, Sheriff muses that he might bust a gasket at the speed he's going. When Lightning busts into Doc's office later in the film, Sheriff is in there, probably for said busted gasket.
Chromatic Arrangement: Subverted. When the three main racecars are introduced at the start, it starts with The King (blue), then Chick (green), and finally Lightning (red).
Classic Villain: Chick Hicks is the Envy and Pride version of this combined with Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy. In the beginning of Cars, he's simply a slightly darker copy of McQueen's own flaws. By the end of the movie, however, McQueen's Character Development makes them complete opposites, highlighting how much McQueen has matured. Hicks demonstrates what McQueen could have been if he hadn't ended up in Radiator Springs.
Directionless Driver: Minny and Van, the lost tourists who wander through Radiator Springs. Van, the husband, sternly refuses to ask for directions; The Stinger: after the credits shows them still lost in the desert, exhausted and delirious.
The sequel shows that they found their way out.
Dirty Old Woman: Lizzie, who slaps bumper stickers on strangers and ogles McQueen.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: After the race in the film's beginning, Mia and Tia, two fans of Lightning come up and "flash" their "headlights" at him, much the way groupies lift up their shirts to flash people.
The scene where Mack struggles to stay awake on the highway may seem familiar to any trucker or driver who has driven long distances in the dark on unlit country roads.
The King's crash is supposed to be a recreation of the violent wreck Richard Petty took at the 1988 Daytona 500 (apart from the fact that Petty had a different car model, and that wreck involved an additional five cars). Chick being booed off the stage at victory lane was supposed to echo the backlash Rusty Wallace received when he spun out Darrell Waltrip to win the 1989 All-Star race at Charlotte.
When McQueen bursts into Doc's office, he finds the sheriff in a compromising position on the hydraulic lift, as Doc examines his underbelly.
Sheriff: Gettin' a good peek, city boy?
McQueen at one point calls Radiator Springs "Hillbilly Hell"
Gilligan Cut: While they're heading for California, Lightning McQueen promises to Mack that he'll keep him awake all night long by talking to him so he can keep driving. Cuts to McQueen sleeping soundly in the trailer and Mack starting to doze off.
Impact Silhouette: Lightning leaves a himself-shaped hole in the smoke when he leaps over the wreckage during the first race.
I Never Told You My Name: Fred is victim to this. Everyone knows who he is because his license plate holder and license plate say "Hello, my name is" and "FRED", respectively. He gets a Running Gag: when McQueen says his name, he shouts, "He knows my name! He knows my name" and gets so excited that his front bumper (which happens to be his lower jaw) falls off.
In Joke: When Lightning mistakes a trailer he's been following as Mack, said trailer declare's he's a Peterbilt.
Ink Suit Car: Strip "The King" Weathers is an ink-suit version of the #43 Plymouth Superbird that his voice actor Richard Petty drove in 1970. "Junior" is basically Dale Earnhardt, Jr. voicing the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo he drove for DEI from 1999 to 2007. Mario Andretti voices the Ford Fairlane he won the 1967 Daytona 500 in.
Karmic Death: Done figuratively in the first movie. In the end, Chick Hicks wins the Piston Cup, but in doing so his Pride, Wrath, and Ambition have revealed him to be a poor sport to the rest of the world. His career dies a metaphoric — yet very karmic — death as a result.
Mood Whiplash: The King's crash at the end of the movie is an exact recreation of Richard Petty's horrific 1988 Daytona 500 crash. Think about how terrifying that scene had be in real life. With a human driver in the car, and five additional cars piling in.
"The King" Strip Weathers is voiced by none other than Richard Petty himself.
Weathers' wife is voiced by Petty's wife Linda, and her character is modeled off of the actual stationwagon the Petty family used to drive from race to race.
Michael Schumacher Ferrari. Three guesses on who is the voice actor, but the last two won't count.
NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip and NBC sports commentator Bob Costas lend their voices to Piston Cup announcers Darrell Cartrip and Bob Cutlass. Waltrip even got a chance to use his signature "Boogity-boogity-boogity!" catchphrase.
Ever seen Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mario Andretti?
Jeremy Clarkson as Harv, although only in the UK version. Jeremy Piven voices Harv in the US version.
Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying Over You: Lightning McQueen has finished the road and there is no sign of him, the others assuming that he just left without saying goodbye. Red starts crying, at which point McQueen appears and asks what's the matter with Red. Mater then explains to McQueen about McQueen leaving, and stands staring at him a long while before realizing whom he was addressing.
Our Founder: Stanley Steamer, founder of Radiator Springs.
Which is itself a reference: The "Stanley Steamer" was the first steam-powered car in the world. Cars made by the Stanley Motor Carriage Company tended to be known as "Stanley Steamers."
Not related in any way to a certain carpet cleaning company.
Over Drive: A rare subversion of the "more speed always works" aspect of this trope appears in the beginning of Cars. McQueen gains a whole lap on Chick Hicks and The King by staying out on several pit stops — only to have both of his rear tires blow out in the final laps.
Painting the Medium: You can see Mater mouthing along to James Mayer's "Route 66" over the end credits.
Porn Stache: Chick Hicks' grill. The forklifts of his pit crew are just the same.
Precision Swear Strike: "I'm in hillbilly hell" arguably counts; granted, the point a comparison to the place, but it's still unusually heavy language for a G-rated animated movie.
Pyrrhic Villainy: Chick Hicks' wins the last race through a combination of cheating and Lightning's heartwarming last minute Honor Before Reason decision to help crippled The King finish the race. He is rewarded by being abandoned by his sponsor and jeered off the winner's podium complete with tomato-flinging.
Racing The Train: Lightning McQueen does it while trying to catch up to what he thinks is Mac.
Reality Subtext: The King's crash is based, frame by frame, on an actual crash Richard Petty lived through in the Daytona 500. Though the real crash involved Petty and at least six other cars.
Doc Hudson is largely based on 2-time NASCAR champion Herb Thomas, who, in fact, won his two titles in a Hudson Hornet. There are minor differences between the two, namely their ultimate fates, Doc Hudson is Thomas in car form.
The Motor Speedway of the South is loosely modeled off of Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, where the movie was premiered, and bits are based on "Thunder Valley" - Bristol Motor Speedway. The California speedway where the finale happens does not exist, but it is possibly a substitute for Fontana's Auto Club Speedway.
Sally: Flo! What do you have at your store? Flo: I have gas! Lots of gas! [Mater and Ramone snicker]
And the tractor-tipping sequences.
Tripod Terror: Lightning's action dream sequence in the beginning. Gets a frightening reprise when he imagines trying to outrun Frank on the track.
Unnecessary Roughness: Done repeatedly in Cars by Chick Hicks, who won't hesitate to slam other racers and cause a Big One to happen just to stop McQueen. He even does the PIT maneuver to turn drivers backwards - a move that NASCAR and other organizations deem illegal. We are left to wonder why the NASCAR-expy organization has never parked Hicks for his tactics, even after causing a near-fatal crash for the retiring champion and winning the coveted Piston Cup championship (note: for comparison, Kyle Busch was parked by NASCAR when he wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. at Texas under caution in a Truck Series race in November 2011).
At least he did suffer some retribution, screwing himself out of the Dinoco sponsorship and seriously pissing off the fans.
Batman Gambit: Mater's plan to get Miles Axlerod to disarm the bomb: by standing next to him, forcing Miles to blow his cover to save his own life.
Axlerod's plan to kill Lightning by planting a bomb in Mater himself also counts.
Big Damn Heroes: The regulars of Radiator Springs save Mater and McQueen from the Lemons in London.
Bilingual Bonus: After the Japanese bartender dishes out a big glob of wasabi which Mater mistakes for pistachio ice cream, he backs up and delivers the line "okuyami moshiagarimasu", which translates to something along the lines of "You have my condolences".
Averted on the DVD release, which features a default subtitle track that is just the bartender's line, translated as "My condolences."
Berserk Button: Saying that Lightning McQueen isn't fast enough is a very, very, very, very, VERY horrible idea, as Francesco Bernoli learned the hard way.
Bland-Name Product: Even though most of the cars are referred to by their real model names (even the lemons), Hugo is an exception. Whoever owns the Yugo trademark doesn't have a sense of humor.
Break the Cutie: Happens to Mater after he discovers that everyone else sees him as a clueless ditz, good only for distracting others.
"No one realizes they're being fooled when they're too busy laughing at the fool."
It doesn't end there. Pixar may not have won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature each and every time (Monsters, Inc. lost to Shrek in 2001, the original Cars lost to Happy Feet in 2006), but this movie marked the first time a Pixar movie did not win the award, but was not even nominated.
Butt Monkey: Otis, the friendly ol' rustbucket of Carburetor County.
Mater: Well, since this is your tenth tow this month, it's on the house!
The Cameo: Kabuto, the main villain of ''Tokyo Mater'', actually makes several brief appearances during all of the Japan scenes.
Three time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon features as one of the main World Grand Prix racers, Jeff Gorvette (a pun on his real name and the fact that he is portrayed as a Corvette). In international localizations of the film, he is replaced by other racing celebrities that are better known to the locality than Jeff Gordon:
The Australian release features V8 Supercar racer Mark Winterbottom as "Frosty" (his Real Life nickname).
The Spanish release features Formula One racer Fernando Alonso as himself and uses an Spanish sports broadcaster as one of the race announcers.
The Russian release features Formula One racer Vitaly Petrov.
The Mexican release features Rolex Sports car racer Memo Rojas Jr.
The German release features Formula One racer Sebastian Vettel as "Max Schnell". Schnell is already in all versions of the film, but he gets an extra line in the German version.
The Swedish release features Touring Car racer Jan Nilsson as "Flash".
The Brazilian release features retired racer Emerson Fittipaldi, and the announcers were dubbed by local sports broadcasters.
Deadliest Catch's Sig Hansen voices his own crab fishing boat, Crabby (complete with crab pots).
Car Fu: Done literally when Finn McMissile uses martial arts to attack a group of thugs — while idling in front of a sign advertising Carate and Car Fu lessons.
Cassandra Truth: When Mater tries to tell his friends about his encounters with Holly Shiftwell and her world of international espionage, no one believes him because they think he's just telling another of his tall tales.
And this comes up as a Brick Joke later on—especially the part about Mater and his girlfriend.
Chekhov's Gun: Done by Pixar themselves — a key aspect of Cars 2 is Mater's habit of fanciful storytelling, which causes his friends to dismiss his claims of espionage adventure as mere stories. Since this was a characteristic not shown in the first film, it was feared that its sudden appearance would look like an Ass Pull, so the "Mater's Tall Tales" shorts were created to establish this trait two years in advance.
Also done literally with Mater's gatling guns which he uses to escape from being tied up in Big Bentley.
Another one is the oil leak Mater supposedly had in the beginning of the movie. Makes more sense when you remember his chanting "I never leak" to himself.
Chekhov's Skill: Mater's ability to recognize old and obscure engine parts at a glance. Sadly averted with the Jackass-worthy stunts Mater puts McQueen through at the beginning.
Continuity Nod: When Mater talks to Francesco on the talk show, he explains that McQueen wants to rest after having completing the latest racing season because he's learned to slow down and enjoy life — which was the Aesop of the first film.
"Whoever that tow truck is, he's got to be the world's best backwards driver!"
The ending with Finn and Holly's last scene is scripted word-for-word from the similar scene in the first film, about the supporting cast being in debt to the main character and the reply, "I appreciate that, thank you. ...Actually, there is one thing...", followed by a Gilligan Cut.
The Japan scenes could actually be this to ''Tokyo Mater'', complete with a brief cameo of Kabuto. Is also economical—Pixar created the shorts so they could reuse models and environments for the sequel!
Cool Plane: Finn's partner Siddeley is a tricked-out spy jet (not surprising, given his name — the Hawker-Siddeley Corporation was responsible for much of the Royal Air Force's hardware).
This one gets turned around almost immediately afterwards, when the villainous tow truck replaces Mater's hook with his own (identical in profile) hook in a crowd scene while the other Lemons have grabbed him.
Covers Always Lie: On the poster for this film, Lightning McQueen is in the centre, making him the hero. In this film, the real hero is Mater.
Creator Cameo: To celebrate Pixar's 25th anniversary, the animators inserted John Lasseter in the movie as Jeff Gorvette's pit crew chief.
Darker and Edgier: While it's still a colorful family-friendly film, the sequel justifiably features more peril than the original.
John Lasseter: There is peril. There is threat. You want the bad guys to be bad.
We get on screen car deaths through direct violence. That's quite a genre shift. It's not often you see the Mafia (or Lemons) featured in a G-rated film.
Death Trap: An elaborate one set for Finn, Holly, and Mater, courtesy of Zundapp since he wanted to have them watch him kill McQueen first.
Necessary since the movie takes place all over the world. They do make an appearance near the end saving Lighting and Mater's tailpipes.
Development Gag: In Paris, Mater encounters a car whose eyes are placed where her headlights should be. This scares Mater away. This is a reference to the development of the first Cars; the characters were originally gonna have their eyes placed on their headlights, only to have them relocated on their windshields after John Lasseter found it more appealing that way.
The Don: The four heads of the Lemon families: J. Curby Gremlin, Vladimir Trunkov, Victor Hugo and Tubbs Pacer.
Double Entendre: Ivan the tow truck's offer of 'Road-Side Assistance' to Holly.
The mysterious benefactor's joke to the lemons; implying they have some incestuous families. "Maybe it was your mother! Or your sister! It's getting kinda hard to tell them apart these days."
Of course, it could also be a reference to how fast the lemons break down. 'Hey, your sister's looking like hell! Just like your equally-poorly-made mother!' An age joke for cars.
In the bathroom Mater comments on how the female animated car "gets to giggling right before she starts squirting".
Mater asks a female car in a dark alleyway "What're you sellin'?" to which she begins "flashing" her headlights, making it seem like Mater is unintentionally soliciting a prostitute.
Dressing as the Enemy: Mater does this with a holographic program that allows him to resemble Ivan and infiltrate the Lemons in Italy.
Eagleland: Mater is viewed as a hybrid of Type 1 and Type 2 by non-American cars meeting him for the first time.
Et Tu, Brute?: McQueen invokes this after Mater inadvertently causes him to lose the first race in the World Grand Prix.
Eureka Moment: Mater gets one of these while Luigi tries to remove the bomb bolted on him. This gives him the identity of the mastermind behind the sabotage.
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Francesco admits that when he's abroad, he misses his mom. And yet he still finds a way to act like a Jerkass by pointing out that he isn't abroad at the moment and his mom is in the stands.
Gatling Good: Mater is outfitted with two while acting as a spy.
Mater: Dag-gum! Computer: Request acknowledged. [guns deploy] Mater: Shoot, I didn't mean— Computer: Firing. *Gatling guns open fire!*
Genius Ditz: Mater reveals a surprising understanding of engines and car parts. Justified by his job towing broken cars.
Goggles Do Something Unusual: When he's infiltrating the Lemons, Mater is equipped with a heads-up display that gives him detailed information about all the criminals and schemers around him.
Good Is Not Dumb: Mater's simple nature belies the fact that he's a genius at recognizing obscure and old car parts at a glance. Later, he also figures out Axlerod's plan to discredit alternative fuels from earlier clues.
Man Behind the Man: Turns out that Professor Zundapp has been working for Sir Miles Axlerod the whole while, who actually wants to press the continued use of regular gasoline, which he has a massive off-shore oil reserve of. Sabotaging the World Grand Prix is just a plot to besmirch all alternative fuels.
Master of Disguise: Both Finn McMissile and Mater, thanks to their voice-activated holographic disguise systems.
There's a female car in Paris whose eyes are in her headlights instead of her windshield. Naturally, Mater reacts to her appearance with shock. It's one of the elements of the Darker and Edgier tone the second movie goes for. If Lemons are people born with disabilities, this female car is apparently meant to be one with heavy deformations. It's also supposed to be a production in-joke at the original design of the main characters' vehicles.
There's a literal Popemobile, who rides inside a larger Popemobile. Does it imply there's a car Jesus too?... or for that matter, a car Buddha?
Just what does Crabby the crab boat catch, anyway? Teeny undersea ROVs? Minisubs?
And it's possibly not meant to be exotic but an anomaly.
Also a reference to how Pixar felt that eyes in the windshield was more appealing than on the headlights.
Not Just A Tournament: The World Grand Prix was actually organized by the Lemons just so they can zap all of the competing racecars with a deadly radiation cannon as an attempt to destroy all alternative energy sources and force everyone back to using gasoline.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Finn and Holley believe this is what Mater is doing when they think he's the American agent they're supposed to meet with. Subverted later on when Mater actually is able to figure out Axlerod's scheme before anyone else, who all assume he's still just as moronic as ever.
Oh Crap: Tony Trihull utters a small "Uh-oh" just before being blown up when Finn releases a bunch of timed mines in an attempt to break away from the magnet pulling him in.
The look on the two thug cars who get diverted into a pub, and then breaks the table where the patrons were enjoying their beer. The patrons are not pleased about that...
Product Placement: Mater sings the State Farm Insurance jingle when making a joke about Finn and Holly being "agents" (alluding to "insurance agents", not "secret agents") a few scenes after he meets them. The film has major tie-ins with State Farm, and Pixar even animated an entire commercial featuring an anthropomorphic State Farm vehicle voiced by their regular ad announcer.
Properly Paranoid: Sarge, who saves McQueen's life by secretly swapping out his sabotaged Allinol fuel with Fillmore's organic biofuel, because he's naturally distrustful of oil companies.
Puppy-Dog Eyes: Seen on Guido and Luigi when they read Mater's tearful farewell note.
Rule of Cool: Pixar made cars do martial arts and fight scenes.
Running Both Sides: Sir Miles Axlerod is hosting the World Grand Prix to promote his Allinol and is the shadowy leader of the Lemons.
Sequel Goes Foreign: While the original film took place in Radiator Springs, in the sequel there are stops in Tokyo, Paris, Italy and London.
We're led to believe that the events of Mater's Tall Tales never happened, so Kabuto can exist without anything happening to his modifications prior. It would also explain why Mater is still experiencing culture shock when he arrives in Towkyo for real. A trickier question is how the spelling changed between films.
Shapeshifter Swansong: Invoked when Mater's holographic disguise gets damaged, causing him to cycle through all the other forms he cooked up for it before it gives out.
Soft Water: Averted with one of the mooks in the opening sequence. McMissile survives a similar impact minutes later, but he's also a heavily modded 007 car who, among other things, is designed to be submersible.
So Last Season: In the first movie, McQueen training on dirt roads gave him a Game Breaker advantage in the Nascar-style races. This race, being a cross-country race, has dirt tracks incorporated into the official World Grand Prix routes, which most of the cars can handle perfectly well (though McQueen still edges them out in skill). Ironically, the dirt tracks are Francesco'sAchilles' Heel.
Southern-Fried Genius: Mater knows everything about engines and engine parts, but in an idiot savant kind of way. Does this make him the universe's equivalent of a master surgeon?
Considering his job, he's more like a paramedic who learned enough on his job to be a doctor.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: It's hard to remember that in the first film, Lightning was the protagonist while Mater was just a supporting character. Mater was incredibly popular with kids, and as a result a lot of the spin off material (the "Car Toons") focused on Mater. Come the second film, he's the unquestionable main character.
Spy Speak: Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell recognize each other by discussing the Volkswagen's air-cooled engines. This backfires (thankfully not fatally) because Mater, a tow truck with encyclopedic knowledge of engines, inadvertently says the right passphrase.
Third-Person Person: "Francesco is familiar with this reaction to Francesco." This seems to be a bad character tic.
This Cannot Be!: when Francesco finds himself overtaken by flying spycar Holly and rocket-enhanced Mater.
Time for Plan B: After the EMP cannon fails, the lemons resort to using a bomb strapped to Mater to kill Lightning.
Toilet Humour: Mater accidentally goes into the women's bathroom in Tokyo. And once he gets to the right bathroom, he gets caught inside... in a bidet!
Not so much a bidet as a play on how high-tech some Japanese toilets are compared to American ones, since they sometimes include features like self-heating seats, massage function, and other comforts.
Too Important To Drive: One of the high-ranking Lemons has a tow-truck Mook drag him around, which Mater replaces to infiltrate the Lemons' meeting.
Uncanny Valley: In-universe, seemingly the reason for Mater's reaction to the car with headlights for eyes.
Underside Ride: Finn McMissile actually clings to the underside of Tony Trihull with his magnetic tires in order to sneak into the Lemons' oil rig.
Unwitting Pawn: Mater ends up as this when he goes to warn McQueen's pit crew about the bomb planted in their midst. It's actually in his air filter.
Urine Trouble: Invoked when Mater gets on the stage in Japan and a puddle of oil appears under him which was actually caused by Miles Axlerod.
Mater's inability to understand the Japanese toilet's computer arguably led to this as well.
Villainous Breakdown: Axlerod when Mater confronts him as the leader of the Lemons. He starts off cool, trying to prove his innocence and accusing Mater of blowing smoke. But as the countdown reaches the single digits he starts panicking. And with no one coming to help him and Mater not backing off, he's eventually forced to deactivate the bomb. Even he's surprised that Mater, of all cars, was the one to figure out his plan.
Visual Pun: At the Lemons' meeting in Italy there are platters of lemons on the table.
Wacky Racing: The London leg of the World Grand Prix. A race cannot be considered sane or normal when a rocket-equipped tow-truck starts driving backwards.
Weaponized Car: The espionage characters feature missiles, rockets, machine guns, and targeting systems hidden all along their bodies, most notably Finn McMissile, Holly Shiftwell, Rod Redline, and Mater.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: All of the bad cars are motivated to sabotaging Allinol largely because of their stake in oil/gas, but also payback for all the taunting and mocking they've received due to being "lemons".