Follow TV Tropes


Franchise / Cars

Go To
A series of computer-animated films from Pixar and initially 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.


TV series:


  • Cars chapter book series:
    • Cars: The Junior Novelization (April 2006) A novelization of the first movie.
    • Cars 2: The Junior Novelization (May 2011) A novelization of the second movie.
    • Cars 3: The Junior Novelization (May 2017) A novelization of the third movie.
  • Cars Origins chapter book series:
    • Cars Origins: Struck By Lightning (May 2017)
    • Cars Origins: Storm Chasing (July 2017)

Video Games:



  • Cars Toons: Produced for Toon Disney, Disney Channel, and ABC Family.
    • Mater's Tall Tales:
      • Rescue Squad Mater — Mater tells a story about how he was a firetruck. Oh, and he was a doctor too.
      • Mater The Greater — Mater claims to have been an Evel-Knievel-style daredevil in a previous life.
      • El Materdor — Mater is now a bullfighter. The bulls in question are bulldozers.
      • Tokyo Mater (played before Bolt) — The first Pixar short to play before a non-Pixar film, and their first theatrical short to be based on a previous movie, Tokyo Mater centers around a story Mater tells about him getting involved in a drift race in Tokyo.
      • Unidentified Flying Mater — Mater makes friends with a small flying saucer spaceship that speaks in a strange robotic voice. The UFM (called "Mator") teaches Mater how to fly, but gets taken away to Parking Area 51.
      • Monster Truck Mater — Mater becomes a monster truck wrestler and fights various other monster trucks (such as Ice Screamer, Captain Collision, Rastacarian, Dr. Feelbad, and Paddy O'Concrete) until he qualifies to the championship round against Dr. Frankenwagon and his monster.
      • Heavy Metal Mater — During a night of karaoke at Flo's, Mater recounts how he used to be a big rock star in a heavy metal band.
      • Moon Mater — Mater is inducted into the NASCA space program. His mission: Rescue Impala XIII, who has broken down on the moon.
      • Mater Private Eye — Private investigator Mater must solve a case about counterfeit tyres and track down the whereabouts of Tia's sister, Mia, who's been car-napped.
      • Air Mater — Mater goes to a town inhabited by planes and learns to fly. It was released on the Cars 2 DVD and acts as a set up for Planes.
      • Time Travel Mater — Mater accidentally travels back in time to when Stanley first discovered the original Radiator Springs and with Lightning, ensures that history remains on course. Premiered at Disney California Adventure and features locations introduced in the Cars Land expansion of the park where Stanley set up the beginnings of the town as a rest stop for traveling cars.
    • Tales from Radiator Springs:
      • Hiccups: Lightning McQueen gets hiccups from drinking his breakfast of champions: oil. Many of the Radiator Springs residents give him advice on how to cure the "annoyingness", but none of the ideas work—until Sally Carrera, Lightning McQueen's girlfriend, kisses him on the cheek... and his hiccups disappear.
      • Bugged: Red’s peaceful morning routine is interrupted by a pesky visitor.
      • Spinning: Guido discovers he has a hidden talent as a street corner sign spinner.
      • The Radiator Springs 500½: Radiator Springs celebrates a Founders Day honoring the late Stanley when a gang of Baja racers descend on the town and challenge Lightning McQueen to a race.

The Cars films and shorts contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Aerith and Bob:
    • Many characters have normal names, such as Ramone and Flo, but other cars might have names that are based on what car they are (Stanley is a Stanley Steamer), some other kind of Punny Name, or otherwise weird when applied to a person (does "Tow Mater" sound like it would fit anything other than a tow truck?).
    • There are also a ton of characters with normal first names, but have last names that are car puns, including main characters (Sally Carrera), minor characters (Darrell Cartrip), and many background characters who are only named in materials outside the films.
  • Alternate Universe: The whole franchise is set in an alternate world with Sentient Vehicles.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Every. Single. Character.
  • Author Appeal:
    • John Lasseter admits he made this movie cause he likes cool cars. As a teenager, he worked at his father's car dealership during the summer, so the subject also had some personal value.
    • Several of the senior animators and designers at Pixar are also car enthusiasts, and the company regularly holds in-company car shows where staffers bring in their vintage and exotic automobiles.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Guido (voiced by Guido Quaroni) only speaks in (correct) Italian. The second movie takes this up to eleven as the action goes to Japan, France and Italy.
  • Breakout Character: If it hasn't been obvious in the past several years since the first movie, Mr. Tow Mater.
  • Breather Episode: Most of the franchise consists of the main characters partaking in races and the motivation for most of the franchise's villains is to either win a race or to humiliate the heroes in said race. Compared to most other Pixar movies and franchises, the stakes of the Cars franchise are fairly low because of this.
  • Bookends: So far, each film starts and ends with a race, either competitive or friendly. On a side note, both the first and third films end with a racing legend becoming a rookie's mentor (Doc Hudson, a retired racer becomes one to Lightning, whilst Lightning himself becomes one to Cruz Ramirez).
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • McQueen learns drifting and backwards driving from Doc and Mater, respectively. They naturally surprise and shock Chick Hicks.
    • Both of which resurface again in Cars 2. Heck, the way the Radiator Springs crew all use their skills to curbstomp a band of Mooks practically screams Plot Tailored to the Party.
  • Cool Car: The entire cast. Moreso in the sequel — Finn McMissile (played by Michael Caine) is essentially James Bond in car form.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • Cars 2. As it includes more deaths, violence, and self doubts.
    • The teaser trailer for Cars 3 shows that the movie will revolve around Lightning getting into a serious injury in a much, much grittier tone than Pixar's usual output. Although it's suggested by the actual press release that the story will be inspirational in terms of tone (since it revolves around Lightning taking a fan of his under his wing to help him get back into shape to win a major race), the teaser makes it look like Lightning actually gets killed in a racing accident!
  • Decade-Themed Filter:
    • The "Our Town" flashback from the first film showcases a 50s-style filter during the time when Radiator Springs was a thriving town.
    • "Time Travel Mater" features scenes from different eras rendered in sepia, black-and-white, and two-strip Technicolor.
  • Famous for Being First:
    • Cars opens with a race Lightning McQueen is desperate to win in part because it would make him the first rookie to win the Piston Cup. This leads to him overextending, allowing his rivals to catch up and ending the race in a three-way tie that has to be resolved with a tie-breaker race. By the time the tie-breaker race happens, Lightning has undergone Character Development and gives up the chance to win in order to help an injured rival finish his last race with dignity after Chick Hicks knocks him off the road, which severely wrecks him.
    • Cars 3 explores how Lightning, now a five-time Piston Cup champion, deals with his feeling overshadowed by Jackson Storm and other rookies who gradually replace veteran racers. Lightning's season ends prematurely when he gets himself badly injured while trying to keep up with Storm, and to rub salt in the wound, Storm goes on to become the first rookie to win the Piston Cup — exactly what Lightning himself wanted.
  • Feather Fingers: They're cars, and yet they manage to write, paint, and hold microphones.
  • Jerkass: Each film has one or two.
    • Cars: McQueen and Chick Hicks. They were both selfish and arrogant, though McQueen started to change throughout the movie, Chick still stayed as one.
    • Cars 2: Francesco Bernoulli. Though not as much as Chick or Storm, he still was one. As he continuously insults McQueen in almost all of their interactions. But he became friendly with him at the end.
    • Cars 3: Jackson Storm. He was like Chick, only a little more rude. He taunted McQueen right before his crash, and almost killed Cruz during the last race.
  • Licensed Game: Five in total; Cars: The Video Game, Cars Mater-National, Cars Race-O-Rama, Cars 2: The Video Game, and Cars 3: Driven to Win.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • A lot of the names are from Isaac Asimov's short story "Sally", which is about sentient (robotic) 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 greenlighting a sequel despite the previous film's lukewarm reception. To put it into perspective, Cars is second only to Star Wars in the value of American merchandise sold.
  • No Celebrities 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.
  • Novelization:
    • Each film has one of these, though with a few alterations.
    • Beginning in mid-2017, a subseries, "Cars Origins", is being published to tie in with the release of the third movie, which explains the origins of the three leads.
  • Odd Couple: Lighting and Mater (worldly/naive), Sarge and Fillmore (army/hippie), Ramone and Flo ("gangster"/showgirl)
  • Once per Episode: Each movie has Lightning get a makeover with a new paint job. In the first movie, he gets made over to show his newfound appreciation for Radiator Springs. In the second, he gets made over to prepare for the World Grand Prix (notably switching out his headlight stickers for actual headlights). In the third, he gets another makeover to remove his primer coat and prepare to train to beat Jackson Storm.
  • Only One Name: While a majority of characters have last names, half of the characters in the series, including some main ones in Radiator Springs, are only known by a single name.
  • 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.
  • Pun-Based Creature: The Fantastic Fauna Counterpart of insects are tiny VW Beetles with insect wings.
  • 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.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Almost every character, given to the point they do not show any signs of aging as years pass (especially noticeable with Doc, who has the exact same appearance 50 years apart from his crash).
  • Recycled In Space:
  • Riding into the Sunset: So far, every film ends this way.
  • Running Gag: This film seems awfully fond of butt jokes. To wit:
    • Lizzie slaps a sticker on the bumper of a couple passing through that reads "Nice Butte".
    • Mater places his towing hook in a rather uncomfortable spot when he tows Lightning away.
    • Lightning catches Sheriff in a compromising position on the hydraulic lift at Doc's office/garage.
    • "Rust-Eze medicated bumper ointment, new rear-end formula!"
    • Ramone flashes his undercarriage Von Dutch-style pinstriping at the lost tourists.
    • Not to mention where Sally keeps her Embarrassing Tattoo.
    • Rip Clutchgoneski, one of the racecars from the sequel, hails from the Republic of New Rearendia.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • 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!
    • Cars 3 has a scene similar to the aforementioned one in the first film that's even more beautiful, showing the advancements the animation giant has made over the past 11 years, looking even more photorealistic than it did in 2006.
  • Series Continuity Error: The first movie suggested Lightning was a rookie in the 2006 season (the same year as the film), which was later pointed out in a promotional video by ESPN 30 for 30 one day before Cars 3 was released. However, in the game based on the first film, the Piston Cup Lightning wins says it's from 2006, suggesting the film took place in 2005. Whether this is an error or not is debatable.
  • 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 woman competing in the Piston Cup, and in the sequel, Carla Veloso, the Brazilian racecar is the only woman competing in the World Grand Prix. In the threequel, Louise Nash was the only woman racer from Doc's time, and Cruz is the only woman racer in the Florida 500 after she takes over for Lightning.
  • Species Title: If one counts cars as a "species". Or, for that matter, if one counts the planes referred to in the similarly-named spin-off.
  • Technology Porn: With both cars and spies, this is taken up to eleven in the sequel, especially whenever Finn McMissile appears.
  • Tourism-Derailing Event: The small town of Radiator Springs saw its tourism dry up with the construction of the interstate, which completely bypassed the town and took their business with it. Lightning, Mater, and the rest of the residents really don't seem to mind, as they've come to regard the idyllic spot as a little slice of Heaven.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Mater is one, as evident in his "Tall Tales" shorts. This becomes a plot point for Cars 2.
  • World of Funny Animals: A rare non-animal example.


Video Example(s):


"That's Frank"

After enjoying a bit of "tractor tipping", Lightning and Mater end up having to run from Frank, a massive combine tractor that's a vehicle equivalent of a bull.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ConstructionVehicleRampage

Media sources: