The movie opens in the final race of the 2005 Piston Cup Season and championship in the Motor Speedway of the South, where a skilled but arrogant rookie racecar, Lightning McQueen, has overtaken his opponents, avoided a huge wreck, and built up a huge lead over the cup's defending (but soon retiring) seven-time champion, Strip "The King" Weathers, and perennial runner-up Chick Hicks. However, because of his refusal to make regular pit stops and get new tyres, his rear worn tyres burst into flames on the final lap, causing him to skid and ultimately crawl to the finish line, barely managing to tie the King and Chick Hicks in a photo finish by sticking his tongue out at the finish line. Race officials announced that because the three racers are also tied in overall season points they will compete in one final tiebreaker race to be held at the Los Angeles International Speedway in one week to determine the champion.
While traveling down Interstate 40 to California, Lightning becomes separated from Mack, his transport truck, and while trying to catch up becomes lost on U.S. Route 66, catching the attention of the local Radiator Springs Sheriff in the process. A chase ensues, during which Lightning crashes and gets tangled in wires, damaging part of the town's main street in the process.
Lightning is taken to traffic court, where the town's attorney, Sally Carrera, pleads against Lightning. He is sentenced to repave the road using "Bessie", an asphalt-laying machine. Only interested in leaving and extremely furious, he makes an escape attempt before being hooked up, only to discover that his gas was siphoned. Lightning rushes through his first day of paving and the new road surface is so bumpy, unusable, uneven, and poor that he is instructed to scrape it off and start over again.
When Doc Hudson offers Lightning a deal ― beat Doc in a race around Willy's Butte and he is free to go ― Lightning eagerly accepts. He leaves Doc in the dust at the starting line, but loses control on the loose dirt turn and crashes into a cactus patch. While the town's tow truck, Mater, hauls Lightning out of the cactus patch in which he landed, Doc effortlessly cruises to the finish line after informing Lightning that he races like he fixes roads. Lightning is compelled to scrape off the botched pavement and start over again.
As the ensuing days pass, Lightning is disturbed by nightmares of Chick Hicks winning the Piston Cup and landing Dinoco. He starts to befriend the town's residents and learn more about the town in the process: how Radiator Springs was once a thriving town until completion of the nearby interstate bypassed the little town, depriving it of its business traffic and visitors (and ironically, depriving those passing visitors of the natural beauty found in the scenery along the old highway); how Sally left behind her rich but unhappy life as an urban lawyer; what "tractor tipping" (a parody of cow tipping) is; and how Doc Hudson was once a famous racecar himself (the "Hudson Hornet") ― and 3-time Piston Cup champion ― until a horrible crash in 1954 ended his racing career.
Doc bitterly refuses to reveal much about his past (despite Lightning witnessing him expertly drifting through the loose dirt of Willy's Butte where Lightning crashed), labeling his old trophies as "a bunch of empty cups".
By the time Lightning finishes repaving Radiator Springs's main road, he has formed a bond with the town and its residents. Rather than immediately leaving for California (as he had initially been eager to do), he spends the day touring the town's businesses, receiving a fresh coat of paint and new tires in the process and participates in a cruise party that night. But he is suddenly found, then whisked away in his truck, Mack, without even a chance to bid farewell to Radiator Springs. The town's residents are sad to see him leave, and Sally is angry to learn that it was Doc who ultimately informed the media of Lightning's whereabouts.
The final race among Lightning, The King, and Chick opens with what the race's commentators call the "biggest race in history." Lightning is distracted by his memories of Radiator Springs, losing time to The King and Chick Hicks, and begins to fear he will simply lose. To his surprise, Doc Hudson has arrived at the race, with Mater and a few others from Radiator Springs who will serve as his pit crew; Doc, once again wearing his original "Hudson Hornet" racing stripes, takes over as McQueen's crew chief. With Doc's coaching, a record-fast pit stop for new tires, and a few tricks learned from the small town's inhabitants, Lightning is not only able to overtake his opponents but has built a considerable lead by the final lap.
As Lightning approaches the finish line, Chick sideswipes The King in a desperate attempt to avoid finishing behind him yet again, sending The King into a terrible rollover crash. Lightning, fearing that The King's racing career will end in the same way as did the Hudson Hornet's, comes to a full stop right before the finish line. After Chick gleefully crosses the finish line, Lightning then backtracks to push the veteran racer across the finish line ahead of him, saying that "I think The King should finish his last race". Although Chick Hicks has officially won the Piston Cup, he begins to learn that it's a hollow victory as he is jeered and despised for taking out The King, while Lightning is cheered as a hero for his good sportsmanship. Tex from Dinoco, The King's sponsor company, offers to support Lightning as his new sponsor; but Lightning, having now had a change of heart, respectfully declines, saying that his current sponsor Rust-eze gave him his "big break," and he wanted to continue with them.
Two days after the race, Lightning returns to Radiator Springs, announcing that he will establish his racing headquarters there. This helps to revitalize the town and draw back visitors and tourists, with the once-abandoned Route 66 being reclassified as "Historic Route 66."
- Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, described by John Lasseter in the LA Times as "A hybrid between a stock car and a more curvaceous Le Mans endurance racer."
- Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, a 1951 Hudson Hornet, later revealed to be the Fabulous Hudson Hornet.
- Bonnie Hunt as Sally Carrera, a 2002 996-series Porsche 911 Carrera.
- Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, a 1951 International Harvester L-170 "boom" truck with elements of a mid-1950's Chevrolet. One-Ton Wrecker Tow Truck.
- Tony Shalhoub as Luigi, a 1959 Fiat 500.
- Cheech Marin as Ramone, a 1959 Chevy Impala Lowrider.
- Michael Wallis as Sheriff, a 1949 Mercury Club Coupe (police package).
- George Carlin as Fillmore, a 1960 VW Bus.
- Paul Dooley as Sarge, a 1941 Willys model jeep, in the style used by the US Military.
- Jenifer Lewis as Flo, a 1957 Motorama show car.
- Guido Quaroni as Guido, a custom forklift, resembling an Isetta at the front.
- Richard Petty as Strip "The King" Weathers. The car's design was based on Richard Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird.
- Michael Keaton as Chick Hicks, described by Pixar as a generic 1980's stock car. Strongly resembles a 1978–88 General Motors G-Body such as a Buick Regal or Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
- Katherine Helmond as Lizzie, a 1923 Ford Model T who was married to a steamer named Stanley who was the town founder that also worked as a radiator cap salesman.
- John Ratzenberger as Mack, a 1985 Mack Super-Liner.
- Joe Ranft as Red, a 1960's style fire truck (most closely resembles a mid-1960's closed cab pumper fire truck) and Jerry Recycled Batteries the mean Peterbilt truck that Lightning McQueen mistook for Mack (This was Ranft's last voice role after his death in August 2005)
- Lynda Petty as Lynda Weathers, the king's wife
- Lindsey Collins as Mia
- Elissa Knight as Tia
- Darrell Waltrip as Darrell Cartrip
- Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass
- Richard Kind as Van
- Edie McClurg as Minny
- Mike Nelson as Not Chuck
- Jonas Rivera as Boost
- E.J. Holowicki as DJ
- Adrian Ochoa as Wingo
- Lou Romano as Snot Rod
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. as Junior
- H.A. Wheeler as Tex Dinoco
- Michael Schumacher as Michael Schumacher Ferrari
- Jay Leno as Jay Limo
- Andrew Stanton as Fred
- Jeremy Piven (US) and Jeremy Clarkson (UK) as Harv (To complete the cast, all they needed was the UK voice of Jeremy Clarkson who wants to fit in within the World of Cars to make it sound very unique for British viewers)
- Tom Magliozzi and Ray Magliozzi as Rusty and Dusty
- Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski in a film
- John Goodman as James P. Sullivan in a film
- John Ratzenberger as Yeti in a film
- Tom Hanks as Woody in a film
- Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear in a film
- Dave Foley as Flik in a film
- Larry Benton as Larry Camper
- Douglas Keever as Doug R.M.
- Jack Angel
- Michael Bell - Houser Boon
- Bob Bergen - Tim Rimmer
- Susan Blu
- Andrea Boerries
- Marco Boerries
- Rodger Bumpass
- Torbin Xan Bullock
- Richard Cawood
- Scott Clark
- Kathy Coates - Kathy Copter
- John Cygan - Richard Clayton Kensington
- Jennifer Darling
- Paul Eiding
- Bill Farmer
- Brian Fee - Al Oft
- Teresa Ganzel
- Craig Good - Skip Ricter
- Jess Harnell - Chuck Armstrong, Sven "The Governator"
- Artie Kempner - Artie
- Hooman Khalili - Hooman
- Sonoko Koishi - Chuki
- Erik Langley
- Sherry Lynn
- Danny Mann
- Mickie T. McGowan
- Laraine Newman
- Teddy Newton - Chuck Maniford
- Colleen O'Shaughnessey
- Bob Peterson - Wide Chick Pitty
- Steve Purcell - Frank, Tractors
- Jan Rabson - Marco Axelbender, T.J. Hummer
- A.J. Riebli, III - Albert Hinkey
- Dan Scanlon - Dan Slarkenberg
- Stephen Schaffer
- Ken Schretzmann
- Bob Scott - Brian
- Matt Staudt
- Jay Ward
- Jim Ward - Chief Chick, Matti
- Colette Whitaker - Andrea
Cars is the last film worked on by Joe Ranft, who died in a car accident in 2005. The film was the second to be dedicated to his memory, after Corpse Bride. This is also the last (non-documentary) movie for Paul Newman before his retirement in 2007 and his death in 2008. It turned out to be the highest-grossing film of his career.
The original script (called The Yellow Car, about an electric car living in a gas-guzzling world), some of the original drawings and characters were produced in 1998 and the producers agreed that Cars could be the next movie after A Bug's Life and would be released in early 1999, particularly around June 4. However, the movie was eventually scrapped in favor of Toy Story 2. Later, production resumed with major script changes, like giving Mater, Doc, and a few other characters a bigger part.
John Lasseter has said that the idea for Cars was born after he took a cross-country road trip with his wife and five sons in 2000. When he returned to the studio after vacation, he contacted Michael Wallis, a Route 66 historian. Wallis then led eleven Pixar animators in rented white Cadillacs on two different road trips across the route to research the film.
In 2001, the movie's working title was Route 66 (after U.S. Route 66), but in 2002, the title was changed to prevent people from thinking it was related to the 1960 television show with the same name. In addition, Lightning McQueen's number was originally going to be 57 (Lasseter's birth year) but was changed to 95 (the year Toy Story was released).
For the cars themselves, Lasseter also visited the design studios of the Big Three Detroit automakers, particularly J Mays of Ford Motor Company. Lasseter learned how real cars were designed.
Unlike most anthropomorphic cars, the eyes of the cars in this film were placed on the windshield (which resembles the Tonka Talking Trucks, and the characters from Tex Avery's One Cab's Family short and Disney's own Susie the Little Blue Coupe), rather than within the headlights. According to production designer Bob Pauley, "From the very beginning of this project, John Lasseter had it in his mind to have the eyes be in the windshield. For one thing, it separates our characters from the more common approach where you have little cartoon eyes in the headlights. For another, he thought that having the eyes down near the mouth at the front end of the car feels more like a snake. With the eyes set in the windshield, the point of view is more human-like and made it feel like the whole car could be involved in the animation of the character. This decision was heavily criticized by automotive blog Jalopnik. The characters also use their tires as hands and feet, the exceptions being the various tow truck characters that sometimes use their tow hooks, and the various forklift characters, which use their forks. Some cars are shown shuffling sideways by moving their wheels about on their suspensions.
Computers used in the development of the film were four times faster than those used in The Incredibles and 1,000 times faster than those used in Toy Story. To build the cars, the animators used computer platforms very similar to those used in the design of real-world automobiles.
The track on which the opening race (Motor Speedway of the South) takes place is based on an enlarged version of Bristol Motor Speedway. The venue for the Piston Cup tiebreaker race (the Los Angeles International Speedway) is a conglomeration of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena where the Rose Bowl is located, as well as the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The Scoring Pylon (showing numbers 43, 86, and 95) is taken from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Radiator Springs and vicinity
The setting for the fictional town of Radiator Springs is situated between Gallup, New Mexico, and the Sonoran Desert in California. However, the physical location of Radiator Springs in relation to I-40 is similar to that of Peach Springs, Arizona.
Lasseter told film critic Joel Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that much of the story is based on the recollections of barber Angel Delgadillo in the Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona, where business withered soon after the opening of I-40.
Willy's Butte resembles the landmark of Mexican Hat, Utah, but also resembles a classic Pontiac hood ornament. There is an "Ornament Valley" (a reference to Monument Valley).
The epilogue shows a map of the area of Arizona around Radiator Springs, including car-related place names such as "Carburetor County" and "Cadillac Range". The latter is a large north-to-south mountain range with many fin-backed jagged peaks, a reference to the famous Cadillac Ranch sculpture in Amarillo, Texas. Where the main road crosses the Cadillac Range is marked "Tailfin Pass 5942" (i.e. feet altitude, = 1.8111 kilometers).
Lizzie's Curio Shop in Radiator Springs resembles the crazy Route 66 jumble of memorabilia and knick-knacks at Hackberry General Store in Hackberry, Arizona, and the Sand Hills Curiosity Shop, aka the City Meat Market building in Erick, Oklahoma.
The bridge that McQueen sees Sally driving on resembles several bridges on Route 66, including the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge in Tulsa, the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, California, and the now-closed bridge over Diablo Canyon at Two Guns, Arizona. Flo's V8 cafe is designed to look like a V8 engine head on, with a circular air filter, tappet covers, spark plugs, pistons, and connecting rods as the supports for the shelter. The blinking neon lights on the spark plugs blink in the firing order of a Ford flathead V8.
The railroad grade crossing at which Lightning McQueen outruns a passenger train on his way to Radiator Springs is protected by a pair of antique "upper-quadrant" wigwag crossing signals which accurately depict those once made by the Magnetic Signal Company in both appearance and start-up. Few are left in actual operation in the United States, and many have been replaced with modern crossing gates, red lights, and bells.
During the closing credits, the characters are at a drive-in watching clips of the Pixar films "Toy Car Story" (Toy Story), "Monster Trucks, Inc." (Monsters, Inc.), and A Bug's Life, whose characters have been rendered as vehicles in the style of Cars. Mack the red Mack Super-Liner comments that "they're just using the same actor over and over", an in-joke referring to John Ratzenberger, who voiced Mack and characters featured in the clips. There are a few sights of the front page of a newspaper named The Daily Exhaust.
Many characters and places in the movie are directly inspired by real Route 66 places and people. To quote the Pixar crew:
- "As we traveled on Route 66, we were privileged to visit many places and to meet a number of people who live and work alongside 'The Mother Road'. The following is a list of the places and people we wanted to honor by including their names in our 'Special Thanks' credits at the end of the film. Among the many references to Route 66 landmarks and personalities:
- The Cozy Cone Motel's design is based on the two Wigwam Motels along Route 66, in Holbrook, Arizona and Rialto, California. These were once two out of seven built motels, with individual cabins shaped like teepees. Three Wigwam Motels remain; the third (and oldest) is in Cave City, Kentucky, far from Route 66. The recently restored Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, Texas, south of Houston, is of similar design but unrelated. The name "Cozy Cone" was inspired by the Cozy Dog Drive-In of Springfield, Illinois, which lays claim to being birthplace of the corn dog.
- The character "Fillmore", referring to the famous San Francisco music venue The Fillmore, was at one time to be named "Waldmire" after Bob Waldmire, a self-proclaimed hippie artist known to Rt. 66 fans for his detailed pen-and-ink maps and postcards of the route. Though Waldmire's family owns the Cozy Dog Drive-In, Bob, having since become a vegan, preferred not to see his name put on a character that "would become a McDonald's Happy Meal toy."
- Ramone's House of Body Art is based primarily on the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas. It opened in 1936 as Tower Conoco (from its distinctive Art Deco spire) with the U-Drop Inn Cafe and a retail building attached. Many other establishments built along Route 66 in its heyday had Art Deco elements that might be reflected in the design of Ramone's.
- The yellow billboard for Lizzie's Curio Shop reading "HERE IT IS" with an image of a Model T is based on the Jack Rabbit Trading Post signage in Joseph City, Arizona.
- Sheriff is voiced by Michael Wallis, an American historian and author of Route 66: The Mother Road.
The group of small birds from the 2000 Pixar short film For the Birds made a cameo appearance in Cars. As Mack is en route to California at 17:44 in the film, the group of small birds can briefly be seen (and heard) sitting on their familiar telephone wire. In addition, the Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story also makes a cameo outside of the race track, at the final race in the movie.
- Main article: Cars (soundtrack)
The Cars soundtrack was released by Walt Disney Records on June 6, 2006. Nine tracks on the soundtrack are by popular artists, while the remaining eleven are score cues by Randy Newman. It has two versions of the classic Bobby Troup jazz standard "Route 66" (popularized by Nat King Cole), one by Chuck Berry and a new version recorded specifically for the film's credits performed by John Mayer. Brad Paisley contributed two of the nine tracks to the album, one being "Find Yourself" used for the end credits.
Cars was originally going to be released on November 4, 2005, but on December 7, 2004, the movie's release date was changed to June 9, 2006, with Chicken Little taking over its original release date. Analysts looked at the release date change as a sign from Pixar that they were preparing for the pending end of the Disney distribution contract by either preparing non-Disney materials to present to other studios, or they were buying time to see what happened with Michael Eisner's situation at Disney. When Steve Jobs made the release date announcement, he stated that the reasoning was due to wanting to put all Pixar films on a Summer release schedule, with DVD sales occurring during the holiday shopping season. It was released on Disney DVD in two different editions: full-screen and widescreen.
Cars opened on June 9, 2006 to positive reviews. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer praised it as "one of Pixar's most imaginative and thoroughly appealing movies ever" and Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called it "a work of American art as classic as it is modern."
Some critics expressed that Cars did not hold up to the standard of other Pixar films due to its lengthy story, especially after the acclaim received by The Incredibles, Pixar's previous film. "The movie is great to look at and a lot of fun," wrote critic Roger Ebert, "but somehow lacks the extra push of the other Pixar films." Laura Clifford of website Reeling Reviews wrote that the film's "only real drawback is its failure to inspire awe with its visuals and to thoroughly transport with its storytelling.
Rotten Tomatoes gave Cars a fresh 75% with an average rating of 6.91/10 based on 201 reviews, yet no other Pixar film, until the releases of Brave, Cars 2, and Monsters University, has ever scored less than 92% (Brave has a score of 78% and Monsters University with 78%, whereas Cars 2 ranked 39%, the lowest ever attributed to a Pixar film) Despite this, it still received a "Certified Fresh" rating. It earned a 73/100 on Metacritic, making it the third lowest ranked Pixar film on that site.
In its opening weekend, Cars earned $60,119,509 in 3985 theaters in the United States, ranking number one at the box office. In the United States, the film held onto the No.1 spot for two weeks before being surpassed by Click and then by Superman Returns the following weekend. It went on to gross $461,981,604 worldwide (ranking number 6 in 2006 films) and $244,082,982 in the United States (the third highest-grossing film of 2006 in the country, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Night at the Museum). It was the highest-grossing animated film of 2006 in the United States but lost to Ice Age: The Meltdown in worldwide totals.
Cars had a highly successful run during the 2006 awards season. Many film critic associations such as the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review named it the Best Animated Feature Film of 2006. Cars also received the title of Best Reviewed Animated Feature of 2006 from Rotten Tomatoes. Randy Newman and James Taylor received a Grammy Award for the song "Our Town," which later went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song (an award it lost to "I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth). The film also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to Happy Feet. Cars was also selected as the Favorite Family Movie at the 33rd People's Choice Awards. Perhaps the most prestigious award that Cars received was the inaugural Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Cars also won the highest award for animation in 2006, the Best Animated Feature Annie Award.
The film was also nominated for AFI's 10 Top 10 in the "Animation" genre.
- Nominated: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song - Randy Newman for "Our Town"
- Nominated: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year - John Lasseter
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films
- Won: Best Animated Film
- Won: Best Animated Feature
- Won: Best Music in an Animated Feature Production - Randy Newman
- Nominated: Best Animated Effects - Keith Klohn
- Nominated: Best Animated Effects - Erdem Hamsi Taylan
- Nominated: Best Character Animation in a Feature Production - Carlos Baena, Bobby Podesta
- Nominated: Best Directing in an Animated Feature Production - John Lasseter
- Nominated: Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production - William Cone
- Nominated: Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production - Dan Fogelman
Austin Film Critics Association
- Won: Best Animated Film
- Nominated: Best Animated Feature Film - John Lasseter
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
- Won: Best Animated Feature
- Nominated: Best Soundtrack
Central Ohio Film Critics Association
- Won: COFCA Award Best Animated Film
- Won: Best Animated Film
Golden Trailer Awards
- Nominated: Golden Trailer Best Animation/Family
- Nominated: Best Voice Over
- Won: Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media - Randy Newman for "Our Town"
- Nominated: Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media - Chris Montan, Randy Newman
Hollywood Film Festival
- Won: Hollywood Film Award Animation of the Year - John Lasseter
Kids' Choice Awards
- Nominated: Blimp Award for Favorite Animated Movie
Motion Picture Sound Editors
- Won: Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue, and ADR for Feature Film Animation - Tom Myers, Michael Silvers, Jonathan Null, Bruno Coon, Teresa Eckton, Shannon Mills, Dee Selby, Steve Slanec, Christopher Barrick, Jana Vance, Dennie Thorpe, Ellen Heuer
- Won: Ten Best Films for Family Audiences
National Board of Review
- Won: Best Animated Feature
Online Film Critics Society Awards
- Nominated: Best Animation
- Won: Motion Picture Producer of the Year Award, Animated Motion Picture - Darla K. Anderson
People's Choice Awards
- Won: Favorite Family Movie
- Nominated: Favorite Movie
- Won: Golden Tomato Award for best reviewed film, animation
- Nominated: Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
- Nominated: Best Youth DVD
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards
- Won: Best Animated Feature
Visual Effects Society Awards
- Won: Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Motion Picture - Larry The Cable Guy (actor), Michael Krummhoefener, Tom Sanocki, Nancy Kato for "Mater"
World Soundtrack Awards
- Won: Best Original Song Written for Film - Randy Newman (music/lyrics), James Taylor (performer) for "Our Town"
Home media release
- Main article: Cars (video)
Cars was released on DVD in both wide-screen and full-screen editions on October 25, 2006 in Australia and New Zealand, on November 7, 2006 in the United States and Canada, and on November 27, 2006 in the United Kingdom. It includes DVD-exclusive short film Mater and the Ghostlight and the film's theatrical short One Man Band, as well as Inspiration for Cars, a 16 minute long documentary about Cars featuring John Lasseter, the director. It also had a version of the Pixar short Boundin' as an Easter Egg. The first DVD release was the last Disney DVD to be THX-certified.
According to the Walt Disney Company, five million copies of the DVD were sold in the first two days it was available. In its first week it sold 6,250,856 units and 15,370,791 units in total ($246,198,859).
Unlike previous Pixar DVD releases, there is no two-disc special edition, and no plans to release one in the future. According to Sara Maher, DVD Production Manager at Pixar, John Lasseter and Pixar were preoccupied with productions like Ratatouille. Additional extras not seen on the DVD have since been released on the official DVD website.
In the US and Canada, there were bonus discs available with the purchase of Cars at Walmart and Target. Walmart featured a Geared-Up Bonus DVD Disc that focused on the music of the film, including the "Life Is A Highway" video, The Making of "Life Is A Highway", Cars: The Making of the Music, and Under The Hood (a special that originally aired on the ABC Family cable channel). There is an extremely rare VHS that was released on February 19, 2007 that has no previews, and it's 2 hours long. Target's bonus was a Rev'd Up DVD Disc that featured material that was mostly already released as part of the official Cars podcast and focused on the inspiration and production of the movie.
Four deleted scenes from the movie were featured in the bonus features menu, "Top Down Truck Stop", "Lost", "Community Service", and "Motorama Girls." Cars was also released on Blu-ray Disc on November 6, 2007, marking it the first Pixar film to be released on Blu-ray, and was re-released as a Blu-ray Disc and DVD combo pack and DVD only edition on April 2011.
Marcus Aurelius Canônico of Folha de S. Paulo described The Little Cars series (Os Carrinhos in Portuguese), a Brazilian computer graphics film series, as a derivative of Cars. Canônico discussed whether lawsuits from Pixar would appear. The Brazilian Ministry of Culture posted Marcus Aurelius Canônico's article on its website.
It has also been noted that the plot of Cars bears a striking resemblance to that of Doc Hollywood, the 1991 romantic comedy which stars Michael J. Fox as a hotshot young doctor, who, after causing a traffic accident in a small town, is sentenced to work at the town hospital, falls in love with a local law student and eventually acquires an appreciation for small-town values.
- Main article: Cars 2
A sequel to the film, titled Cars 2, was released on June 24, 2011. It was directed again by John Lasseter, who was inspired for the film while traveling around the world promoting the first film. In the sequel, Lightning McQueen and Mater head to Japan and Europe to compete in the World Grand Prix, but Mater becomes sidetracked with international espionage.
Although this movie was rated G in the United States, it was rated PG in the United Kingdom. The reason for this change is because of some frightening scenes, reckless behavior, and two uses of mild bad language.
- During "Life is a Highway," the birds from For the Birds can be seen sitting on a telephone wire. The Monsters, Inc. factory can also be seen.
- Dinoco is also the Gas station Buzz Lightyear and Woody get stranded at in Toy Story.
- The snowman from Knick Knack is seen in the snowglobe in Lizzie's Curios Shop.
- A camper van (named Syd VanDerkamper) who is watching the final race, is surrounded by flamingos, palm trees, & a pool which is a reference to Knick Knack.
- The Pizza Planet delivery truck, which has shown up in every Pixar film except The Incredibles, appears before the final race, next to the Elvis camper in the left background behind Bob Cutlass.
- He also appears during the Life is a Highway sequence, at a Dinoco station, thus echoing how the truck appeared in Toy Story, at a Dinoco gas station.
- Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Hamm, Mike Wazowski, Sulley, The Yeti, Flik, and P.T. Flea make cameos at the end of this movie in vehicle form. Additionally, they were also voiced by their original actors, John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Tom Hanks, John Ratzenberger, Tim Allen, and Dave Foley.
- During the end credits, car-stylised versions of Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and Monsters, Inc. are seen playing at the Radiator Springs Drive-In Theatre.
- Mack even references the fact that John Ratzenberger, his, Hamm, the Abominable Snowman, and P.T. Flea's actor is in every single Pixar movie.
- The line when Woody said, "Oh, yeah? Well, good riddance, you looney!" is stock audio from Toy Story.
- During the end credits, a small, tearful montage of dedicated to the memory of the great and talented, Joe Ranft, who played the voices for Wheezy (singing his karaoke song in Toy Story 2), Heimlich saying, "Just go tell them the truth.", in A Bug's Life and Lenny saying, "Right here, Woody." in Toy Story, (who passed away not too long before the movie was finished production) appears.
- It's even got a song to go with it in respect for the late actor.
- A113 appears on Mater's number plate.
- The film was originally going to be released on November 4, 2005 but on December 7, 2004, Pixar changed the release date to June 9, 2006.
- Any other studio given a "car theme" for an animated feature might have created a cartoon. Not Pixar. To the animators and to the very young fans, the Cars stars aren't cartoon characters. "John Lasseter wanted a story in which the cars are in fact humans," says Scott Clark, supervising animator. "The doors don't open; you don't look inside their heads. They become humans; a human drama unfolds in front of you." Then the whole car's body becomes a 3,000-pound metal head on wheels. At the same time, Lasseter had another requirement, one born of the 3D medium in which they'd be working. "John's edict was 'truth to material'", Clark says. "So, on the one side is realism—we knew we could animate a car that looked believable. But, the car had to emote." So, the Cars characters couldn't be as caricatured as, say, Disney's short animation "Susie the Little Blue Coupe," but they had to come alive. "We do exaggerate," Clark says. "But because the medium has such dimensionality, a car doesn't get on its back tires and gesture with its front tires."
- This is Pixar's final film to be an independently produced motion picture (to use the old animation like Toy Story) before Pixar was bought by Disney. Starting from Ratatouille, the Pixar films were made with newer animation and animation used on Disney films.
- The tires of Lightning McQueen and other race cars are Lightyear tires, which alludes both to the tire manufacturer Goodyear and to Buzz Lightyear.
- Chick Hicks's number (86) is a reference to the year Pixar was founded. Lightning McQueen's number (95) is a reference to the year Toy Story was released in the theaters.
- Lightning McQueen's number was originally going to be 57, as a reference to the year John Lasseter was born, but was later changed to 95, as a reference to the year Toy Story came out.
- During the introductory race, there is a white car with the Apple, Inc. logo.
- Cars is the second Pixar film to have a post-credits sequence. The first is Finding Nemo.
- At the tie-breaking race at the Los Angeles International Speedway, while three fighter jets pass over the stadium, Pixar Animation Studios can be seen among the nearby buildings, although the real studio is located at Emeryville, near San Francisco, and not at Los Angeles.
- Ornament Valley, near Radiator Springs, is shaped like car hoods. The mountain range surrounding Radiator Springs is called Cadillac Range. The mountains are shaped like quarter panels of 50's Cadillacs, in reference to Cadillac Ranch.
- The neon lights on top of the canopy at Flo's V8 Cafe fire in the same pattern as a 1932 Ford V8 Flathead.
- On average, it took 17 hours to render each frame of the film. In addition, it was the first Pixar film to use ray-tracing to accurately create the reflections on the cars.
- Cars was originally going to be called Route 66, which would make a lot of sense because of the location that the movie takes place in. The release title was chosen to avoid confusion with the 1960s TV series of the same name as the working title.
- This is the first Pixar movie that used the word "hell". The second time was Ratatouille.
- Lightning McQueen's initial frustrations with being in Radiator Springs, and then gradually warming up to the town as he learns about it later on, is strongly reminiscent of Dr. Joel Fleishman and his experiences in Cicely, Alaska, from the TV series Northern Exposure.
- One of the cars in the first race is sponsored by 'Leak Less'. A bottle of 'Leak Less' fuel is seen in WALL•E.
- Cars is the seventh Disney·Pixar feature film, and the final film by Pixar before it was bought by Disney. Starting from Ratatouille, the animation looked a little newer.
- The film is also the second Pixar film to have an entirely non-human cast after A Bug's Life.
- The plot of Cars bears a striking resemblance to that of Doc Hollywood.
- Cars received a 74% "Certified Fresh" rating on the movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes. This is the third lowest rating ever given to a Pixar film, after its sequels Cars 2 and Cars 3, which got even lower ratings, 39% and 68% respectively.
- Many famous people, particularly from the automobile racing world make a cameo appearance in Cars which include Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mario Andretti, Michael Schumacher, Bob Costas, Darrell Waltrip, and Jay Leno; references to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elvis Presley also appear, although it is not known if the former is voiced by himself. The latter certainly isn't as he died in 1977, long before Pixar was founded.
- This inspired Vídeo Brinquedo to make The Little Cars in the Great Race, a rip-off of this film.
- In the scene where the race announcers are talking about the popularity of the race, it says that the whole town of Emeryville is closed for the race. Emeryville is the location of the Pixar Studios.
- In Lightning's dream about Lightning Storm, a car gets zapped and emits the Wilhelm Scream. The Wilhelm Scream is a sound effect used in many movies, including the original Star Wars film.
- In the teaser trailer, there is a car sponsored by "Jumbo Pretzels". This is presumably the same company that was seen in A Bug's Life under the name "Jackson's Jumbo Pretzels."
- All of the vehicles in the series appear to have their windows completely opaque and blanked out, and no convertibles nor any vehicles without roofs actually appear (the vehicles that do resemble convertibles always have their roofs up), and it's heavily implied that they all may not be hollow.
- This is the last Pixar film to have a full screen format for its US home release.
- This was the last Disney and Pixar movie, as well as the only Cars film, to be released on VHS, but it was a Disney Movie Club exclusive. It is also the first to be released on Blu-ray.
- Before the tie breaker race, A blimp with lightyear on it can be seen flying over the stadium. The blimp's name references the character Buzz Lightyear from the toy story films.
- This was Joe Ranft's final film, since he died in a car accident the year before its release, while the film is still in production.
- This is also the first Pixar movie to be released in June.
- 'Harry Potter' author J.K. Rowling makes reference in the documentary J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life that the movie Cars is amongst her daughter's favorite films.
- This was the longest Pixar film in history with a runtime of 116 minutes (1 hour and 56 minutes) until 2018 with the release of Incredibles 2 which has a total runtime of 118 minutes (1 hour and 58 minutes).
- This is the second Pixar film to use a cartoon sound effect after Finding Nemo; a metal hit sound effect (recycled from various animated TV shows containing Hanna-Barbera sound effects) is heard at the beginning of the film.
- The opening race at Motor Speedway contains 60,000 cars seated in the audience while an additional 700 are in the infields and aisles. In comparison, the final race at Los Angeles International Speedway has 100,000 cars seated and 1,500 in the infields, plus an additional 13,000 entering the stadium to find seats.
- Lightning McQueen has fourteen different paint variants in the film, including his alternate paint jobs and different amounts of dirt.
- For the scene when Mack is leaving Motor Speedway on the way to California, a total of 21,566 lights are used in four different shots.
- This was the last Pixar film to be THX-certified.
- According to the movie, it takes place in 2005, one year before the movie released in theaters.
- The first teaser poster showed Lightning McQueen underneath a tarp with part of it hiked up to show his smiling mouth. For some reason, that illustration of him showed him with sideview mirrors, something actual stock cars (and Lightning himself in the actual movie) don't have.
- At the beginning of the film, The King's eyes are brown. During and immediately after his wreck, his eyes are the same shade of blue as his paint. At the end of the film, when The King, his wife, and Junior are in the museum, his eyes are brown again.
- At one point, Aiken Axler appears at the Shiny Wax pit stop when he should be at the Nitroade pit stop.
- When Lightning rides on the wall to pass Rusty Cornfuel and Floyd Mulvihill, he passes Windford Bradford Rutherford, Sage VanDerSpin, and goes to Slider Petrolski. However if you notice, past him are Todd Marcus, Ernie Gearson, and Windford again, as if there were 2 RPM race cars with the same body, but there is not.
- When Lightning goes off the track, Johnny Blamer is seen between Misti Motorkrass and Eugene Carbureski. But when Chick Hicks starts the crash, Johnny Blamer is seen further up in 8th place.
- When Chick says, "Dinoco is all mine!", if you look closely at Kevin Shiftright, you can see his eyes are wonky.
- When the car crash starts, you can see Chick Hicks knocking Windford Bradford Rutherford off the track, who then crashes into Murray Clutchburn, who then crashes into Johnny Blamer. Look carefully in the shot after Chick says, "Ha! Get through that, McQueen!", and you'll see that James Cleanair is shown instead of Murray Clutchburn.
- During the shot of the crash behind the hood of Brush Curber, we see Rusty Cornfuel hit Brush in the rear and Rusty turns sideways. But the next scene shows Rusty driving straight.
- When the car crash starts, after the camera zooms out, you can see that Eugene Carbureski made it through the wreck, clearly, but in the next few frames, it shows Eugene in the wreck.
- In the all first person closeups of Lightning in the wreckage, all of the racers constantly change places despite already being past. For example, Ponchy Wipeout can be barely seen to the left of the screen in the first closeup of Lightning. But then as he approaches Todd Marcus and Claude Scruggs, Ponchy is seen again to the right side of the screen spinning around.
- During the final lap of the first race, the last 2 cars continually change from Kevin Racingtire and Slider Petrolski to Todd Marcus and Claude Scruggs. Despite the fact that the two cars are nowhere near each other and that Todd Marcus and Claude Scruggs did not make it through the wreck, but the other 2 did.
- When Mater explains to Lightning that Radiator Springs is the cutest little town in Carburetor County, the DVD and Blu-Ray subtitles misspell Carburetor County as "Carburettor County".
- When Luigi explains to Sally that he has tires at his store, the DVD and Blu-Ray subtitles mistakenly don't capitalize the t in "tires".
- When Mater is rounding up the tractors when Lightning is chasing Doc, the DVD and Blu-Ray subtitles mistakenly refer to the tractors as trucks.
- On Closed Captioning instead in the end credits of the Epilogue where DJ, Boost, Snot Rod, Wingo passes by Sheriff the B is mistakenly capitalized in the word "blaring".
Top Down Truck Stop
Pixar had another idea for getting Lightning McQueen separated from Mack. In this deleted scene, Mack stops at Top Down Truck Stop to get a car wash after a bunch of moths got stuck on his grill on the Interstate. Lightning waits a long time for Mack and eventually gets impatient, so he leaves his trailer to look for Mack. He sees a bunch of trucks at the gas station and goes to look there, where he met Mia and Tia, two waitresses, who were excited to see him and have seen his last race. Rusty and Dusty Rust-Eze were there too, also excited. Meanwhile, Mack finishes his car wash, but he did not know Lightning was at the gas station, so he drove away without him. The trucks try offering Lightning some headlights, but he decides he must get back to his trailer, but he cannot find it. He looks at the car wash, but Mack is not there. He sees Mack driving down the Interstate, so he rushed after him, almost crashing after driving through a red light. He drives up the exit ramp, going the "wrong way" and nearly colliding with the other cars. Suddenly, the whole road was blocked by trucks, forcing him to drive off the road. A watermelon truck drops a bunch of watermelons on him. Finally, Lightning gets back on the road and continues to try to find Mack.
Lightning finally catches up with Mack only to find out it was a different truck. The truck drove away angrily, leaving Lightning alone at the crossing. He looks to his left where he sees Interstate, so he quickly races toward it. However, clouds form overhead, making it too dark for Lightning to see, causing him to drive off the road. He falls down a hill and crashes into a bunch of branches. While reversing out, he bumps into a car behind him. He turns around and sees that the car is a dead car, which freaks Lightning out. He looks around and sees more dead cars everywhere. One was even hanging on the tree. Several of them had branches growing through them. While trying to escape the graveyard, he crashes into a fence which gets tangled on him. The grill and headlights of another dead car was attached to the fence and got pulled off its car. Lightning gets back on the road and tries to get away from the dead car's grill and headlights since it looks like a monster. Lightning eventually gets untangled from the fence and drives away.
Lightning is asked to do a race in Radiator Springs, but he turns it down and chooses to do standard community service instead. That night, while in the impound, he asks Mater what standard community service is, but Mater says he does not know and says good night. The next morning, he wakes up feeling quite funny. He looks into a mirror and realizes that his engine has been put into a steamroller. He tries to escape, knocking down a piece of the fence, but Sheriff chased him with his siren. He flips a switch on the back of Lightning, which deploys a spout that splats asphalt on the road. Then, a paint sprayer deploys and sprays the yellow line in the middle of the road. Meanwhile, Doc had put Mater's engine into Lightning's body, so now Mater is a race car and he is enjoying it, but Lightning was worried he will wreck his body due to the recklessness of his driving. Then, Mack shows up, but he mistakes Mater for Lightning. Lightning tries to explain the situation, but Mack had already driven away with Mater inside his trailer. Lightning tries to get Doc and Sheriff to stop Mater, but they just want him to continue fixing the road instead. He looks down the road and sees that there is a lot of road to fix, much to his horror. Lightning then wakes up again, finding himself in his regular body, revealing that everything was just a dream. He saw the steamroller body on the side, though. Still scared, he decides to change his mind and do the race instead.
Radiator Springs is having a karaoke night. Lightning and Ramone were watching Flo perform. Lightning asks Ramone how the two fell in love and Ramone starts his story. In the story, the Motorama Girls came to Radiator Springs from Detroit, Michigan after their chaperone broke down. While she was being fixed, they decide to have some fun with the townsfolk. They drank oil with Sarge and Fillmore, they danced the conga, and they got water sprayed on themselves by Red. Then they come to Ramone's where Ramone gives them some paint jobs. Finally, on the last car, Ramone dropped his airbrush in awe. Flo asks, "What's the matter? You're too good to paint me?" Ramone said, "No, baby. You're too good for me to paint. I can't touch a classic." The next day, the Motorama Girls leave while Flo decides to stay behind. Lightning asks how Ramone knew she was the one. Ramone replied, "You just know, man. You just know." Meanwhile, Flo finishes performing.
This deleted scene later became a storytellers' story titled Showstopper.
This deleted scene is only featured on the Blu-ray release of the movie.
One morning, Lightning was sleeping at the impound when Sheriff shows up and wakes him up with his siren to get him ready for traffic school. On the way, he asks Lightning if he is interested in Sally, to which Lightning says it would be too soon if he sees her again. They soon arrive and Sally, the teacher, scolds Lightning for being late. Mater, the only other student, had saved a seat for him next to him, much to his annoyance. The class continues, but Lightning interrupts, saying he does not need traffic school, so Sally asks him to indicate a left turn. However, he cannot do so since he has no indicators. Sally asks Mater to install some on him. While trying to indicate a left turn, he gets some trouble trying to get them to work properly. Next, they go practice parallel parking, passing the Stanley statue on the way. Lightning tries several times to park properly, but he keeps hitting the barriers while Guido keeps re-stacking them. Finally, Lightning manages to successfully parallel park by drifting into the space right between the barriers.