Western Animation / Cars

"I... am speed."

The first film for the Cars film series (2006) 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.

Holds the distinction of being the last Disney film - and indeed, the last major Hollywood production - released on VHS, as part of an extremely rare release from the Disney Movie Club. Said tape is perhaps one of the most highly sought-after in existence.

Cars Shorts

Pixar has also produced a number of Cars-related shorts, such as "Mater and the Ghostlight" (included with the Cars DVD release) and "Mater's Tall Tales" and "Tales from Radiator Springs" for the Carstoons series. More information about these can be found on the Pixar Shorts page.

DisneyToon Studios also released a Spin-Off of the franchise, called Planes. Visit the page for more information.

The Character Sheet can be found here.

Cars features the following tropes

  • Accidental Misnaming:
    Lightning: Adios, Chuck!
    Lightning's crew: AND MY NAME IS NOT CHUCK!
    Lightning: Oh, whatever.
    • Thanks to the gratuitous amount of merchandising generated by the film, we even get a toy of the forklift...who is named "My Name is not Chuck" on the packaging!
    • The character was also listed in the cast credits as "Not Chuck".
  • Acting Unnatural: Lightning McQueen wants to surprise Sally with his new look.
    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?
  • Affectionate Nickname: Sally calls Lightning "Stickers"
  • 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?
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Doc Hudson to McQueen:
    Doc Hudson: When was the last time you cared about something except yourself, hot rod? You name me one time, and I will take it all back.
  • Artistic License Sports: The racing here is obviously based on NASCAR, and full of artistic license.
    • The plot is kicked off by a three-way tie which results in a tiebreaker race scheduled for a week later. In NASCAR, prior to 2014, if two drivers tied for the points lead at the final race, such a tiebreaker would be broken by number of total race wins then total number of top-5 and top-10 finishes.Example 
    • Most notable is the fact that rather severe wrecks happen and the races just keep going, when a real organization would immediately throw a caution flag.
    • The field is shown being filled with stock cars from various different eras (for example, Lightning is modeled on a 2006 Ford Scorpio, The King is Richard Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird, Chick Hicks is a 1980s stock GM model, etc.). Such a thing would never happen in real life since all cars are required to be equal.
    • The fact that in this universe the cars are the athletes is a fairly decent Tire Wave for why the rules wouldn't be exactly the same, but whether the rules make more or less sense because of such a setting is best not thought about too hard.
    • Lightning McQueen is being identified as the first rookie to ever win the Piston Cup, however, when Doc Hudson's trophies were discovered they are engraved "1951, 1952, 1953". Doc's license plate identifies him as a 1951. That would have made him a rookie when he won his 1951 Piston Cup. Note 
  • Assumed Win: 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.
  • Beta Couple: Ramone and Flo, who are Happily Married.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The Cozy Cone motel, which is based on a real motel modeled after Indian Teepees.
  • Broken Pedestal: The Hudson Hornet, a.k.a. Doc for McQueen.
  • 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.
  • The Cameo: No prizes for guessing who Michael Schumacher Ferrari and Jay Limo are voiced by...
    • Tom and Ray have a cameo as well.
    • And some obscure politician guy from California.
    • 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.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Driving backwards, and turning one way to go another. Both are shown to Lightning when he is in Radiator Springs by Mater and Doc respectively. Both are put into play by Lightning in the final race.
  • 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.
  • Community-Threatening Construction: This is the backstory. Before the story starts, the once-vibrant town of Radiator Springs was bypassed by a new interstate, leading to its decline and the events of the film. The building of the Interstate Highway caused travelers to no longer take Route 66 and so turned the once bustling village into a ghost town. Unlike most examples, though, the residents did nothing to stop it because they mistakenly thought more interstate travelers would mean more visitors.
  • Cool Old Guy: Doc Hudson, a former Piston Cup champion who becomes a mentor of sorts for Lightning.
  • Credits Montage
  • Different World, Different Movies: The automotive versions of earlier Pixar movies appear in the end credits, including Monster Trucks, Inc., Toy Car Story, and A Bug's Life.
  • Directionless Driver: Minny and Van, the lost tourists who wander through Radiator Springs. Van, the husband, sternly refuses to ask for directions; after the credits, they're 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.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Lightning's description of the Cozy Cone.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Sarge does this during the end credits montage when running a boot camp for pampered SUVs.
    "A-TEN-SHUN! Kiss the pavement goodbye, gentlemen! When I'm finished with you, you'll have mud in places you didn't know you had!"
    "Yo, I never been off road!"
  • Driving into a Truck: At the beginning of the film, this is where Lightning lives. Unsurprisingly, this is the way real NASCAR teams transport their cars.
  • Dying Town: Radiator Springs, until the ending.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Sally has one.
  • Feet-First Introduction: As Doc Hudson drives into the courtroom and takes the podium, the camera is focused on his tires.
  • Fish out of Water: McQueen, as he has to get accustomed to the very small town of Radiator Springs.
  • Funny Background Event: When McQueen gets shoved up on stage, someone in the back yells "Freebird!" at him.
  • Furry Confusion: Bessie.
  • Gentle Giant: Red, the huge fire truck who is very quiet and is seen taking care of his flowers most of the time.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    Lightning McQueen: He's got three Piston Cups!
    Mater: [Spit Take] He did what in his cup?!
    • Let's not forget Sally's Tramp Stamp.
    • Or Mia and Tia's "flashing headlights".
    • This little exchange:
    Lightning: Well, you see, race cars don't need headlights, because the race track is always lit.
    Rust-Eze Spokesman: So's my brother, but he still needs headlights!
    • One of the cars at the sponsor's tent describes the race in the beginning of the movie as "a real pisser."
    • Mater would give his two left lugnuts to work with Bessie.
    • Mater joking that "she just wants me for my body" is even in the trailer.
    • One of the race fans is holding a sign that says "Honk If Your Horn Works".
    • Guido's version of flipping the birdie to the forklifts of Hicks' pit crew is to lift up one of his fork lifts.
    • "Is it true he's going to pose for Cargirl?"
    • When Sarge and Fillmore are watching the traffic light blinking outside Flo's, Sarge says to Fillmore, "The Sixties weren't very good to you, eh son?"
    • "Oh, for the love of Chrysler..."
    • 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"
      • Which, for good measure, is repeated by Sally not long after.
  • 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.
  • Goshdang It To Heck: Mater's "Holy shoot!"
  • Hanging Judge: Doc Hudson if his opening speech is anything to go by.
  • Hero Antagonist: Averted with The King. Though he was one of Lightning's opponents, The King treats him fairly and respectfully.
  • I Am the Trope: Lightning's Catchphrase - "I am speed."
  • 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 Actor: Ink Suit Car, in this case.
    • Strip "The King" Weathers is basically Richard Petty voicing the #43 Plymouth Superbird he drove in 1970.
    • The #8 Junior car would be better described as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. voicing his own #8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo that he drove for DEI from 1999 to 2007note .
    • Mario Andretti appears as himself, voicing his 1967 Daytona 500-winning Ford Fairlane.
  • Inspirational Insult: Doc tells Lightning after Lightning falls into the cactuses that his driving is as lousy as his ability to fix roads, giving Lightning more motivation to do a proper job in fixing the road he damaged. Lightning even says "I'll show him."
    • Also McQueen calls Chick "Thunder" since thunder always comes after Lightning, much to Chick's annoyance. However, Chick later shows off with this new nickname after Lightning disappears in Radiator Springs, wooing his fans and stealing Lightning's.
    Chick: You want thunder? You're thunder! Ka-Chicka!
  • Intimate Marks: Parodied. Although vehicles obviously don't have naughty bits, Sally has a "pinstriping tattoo" over her bumper, and she's very embarrassed when Lightning notices. Clearly a case of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
  • It's All About Me: McQueen starts off with this attitude but has dropped it by the end of the film.
    • Doc too, when he contacts the press to tell them of McQueen's location and get him out of the town. Sally calls him out on it.
    • Chick Hicks is evidently 10 times worse than Ligthning is, even before the rookie ended up in Radiator Springs.
  • It's Raining Salesmen: Because Radiator Springs is virtually a ghost town due to I-40 bypassing it, the locals refer to anyone they notice about to pass through town as "a customer" to whom everyone tries to sell their products and services.
  • Jerkass: Lightning McQueen starts out as one, but becomes likable by the end of the movie.
    • Chick Hicks embodies this trope.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lightning.
  • 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.
  • Leno Device: Jay Limo does a Tonight Show monologue about McQueen.
    Jay Limo: I don't know what's harder to find: Lightning McQueen, or a pit crew who'll work with him!
  • Lonely at the Top: Lightning is headed this way, it's shown early on when he's talking to his agent and can't name a single friend to send race tickets to. He has also fired three crew chiefs in a row because he wants to work alone although it's shown he refuses to listen to their advice so they may have quit.
  • Meaningful Echo: "It's just an empty cup."
  • The Mockbuster: "Little Cars", by the infamous Video Brinquedo.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Doc, after calling the press to take Lightning away from Radiator Springs; and everyone turns their backs on him as he is left at the broken traffic light.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Mater never gets a chance to say goodbye to Lightning - until later at the race, anyway.
    Doc Hudson: Well, I didn't have a choice. Mater didn't get to say goodbye.
    Mater: GOODBYE!!! Okay, I'm good.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • "The King" Strip Weathers is voiced by none other than Richard Petty himself.
    • Weathers' wife is voiced by Petty's late wife Linda, and her vehicle 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 gets to say "Boogity-boogity-boogity!", the phrase he says at the drop of the green flag of every NASCAR on Fox race.
    • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mario Andretti voice cars that they previously have driven: Earnhardt, Jr. as his #8 Chevrolet Monte Carlo from DEI, and Andretti as his 1967 Daytona 500 winning Ford Fairlane.
    • 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.
  • Not So Different: McQueen and Doc.
  • One-Word Title
  • 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."
  • 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 John 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 Mack.
  • Recycled In Space: Cars is Doc Hollywood WITH CARS! In-Universe during a credits scene, Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and A Bug's Life are also recycled AS CARS!
  • Repeated Cue, Tardy Response: Lightning McQueen says, "Is it getting dark out?" at which point Lizzie was supposed to activate the neon lights, but she didn't hear him. Lightning tries again, she actually forgot what she was supposed to do and Red decides to do her job for her.
  • Reveille: This is how Sarge wakes up every morning. This is usually followed by Fillmore playing a Jimi Hendrix rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner", leading to this exchange:
    Sarge: Will you turn that disrespectful junk off?
    Fillmore: Respect the classics, man! It's Hendrix!
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Even though Lightning didn't win the race, he is lauded for his heroic rescue of "The King" and Chick Hicks is booed off the stage for being a jerkass.
  • Self-Deprecation: In the credits sketches we see Mack (played by John Ratzenberger) criticizing the fact that John Ratzenberger is always in Pixar movies.
    "What kind of cut-rate production is this?!"
  • Shipper on Deck: Mater for McQueen and Sally.
    "McQueen and Sally, parked beneath a tree, K-I-S-somethin'-somethin'-somethin'-T"
  • Smoking Barrel Blowout: Guido does this after he changes all of Lightning's tires in seconds.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Strip Weathers, AKA The King.
    The King: (to McQueen after the first race) Hey, buddy. You're one gutsy racer.
    McQueen: Oh, hey, Mr. The King.
  • Spit Shine: Mater offers to clean off a spot of tar on Lighting McQueen's hood, and he starts hocking before McQueen hastily declines.
  • Stealth Pun: That little blue flying insect shaped like a car is a Volkswagen Beetle.
    • Sally, a lawyer, is a Porsche. "Portia" used to be a slang term for a female lawyer(after Portia, who disguised herself as a lawyer to defend Antonio in The Merchant of Venice).
  • Stock Scream : During Lightning's first dream sequence, the car that gets dissolved gets a Wilhelm scream out.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion/Curse Cut Short: The Rust-Eze rhyme.
    Winter is a grand old time
    Of this, there are no ifs or buts,
    But remember, all that salt and grime
    Can rust your bolts and freeze your—
  • Sympathy Bankrupt Banker: Alluded to. Chick Hicks is sponsored by htB, Hostile Takeover Bank, which fits perfectly with his character.
  • Toilet Humour: From the first movie:
    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).
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Chick again.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Radiator Springs is rejuvenated by Lightning and everyone is happy, and it looks like the icing on the cake is the customers that seem to be approaching. Except they aren't customers. They're the press, who've been alerted to Lightning's presence by Doc, and Lightning is promptly whisked away for the final race.