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5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Cars Series

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Unlike Pixar’s other releases, Cars and Cars 2 have left the critics split – with some calling the movies fun and enjoyable, while others bemoan the lack of depth and emotion. Nevertheless, the Cars series has certainly managed to become quite a moneymaker for the animation studio. Here are five facts you might not have known about the series:

1. A Deceased Pixar Animator Inspired Lightning McQueen’s Name

Lightning McQueen
© Pixar

Glenn McQueen was a Canadian animator who cut his teeth at Pacific Data Images, which eventually became DreamWorks Animation. In 1994, Glenn joined the team at Pixar Animation and worked on the studio’s very first film, 1995’s Toy Story, as an animator. His hard work and dedication quickly earned him plenty of respect among his fellow Pixar employees, and Glenn was promoted to supervising animator on films like 1998’s A Bug’s Life, 1999’s Toy Story 2, and 2001’s Monsters, Inc. Unfortunately, Glenn passed away in 2002 after battling skin cancer for several years. 2003’s Finding Nemo was dedicated to his memory, and in 2006, Glenn was forever immortalized after John Lasseter and his team named the hero of Cars, Lightning McQueen, after him.

2. Mater’s License Plate Number is an Homage to CalArts

Mater
© Pixar

For years now, many animated films and television shows have included a small yet prominent nod to California School of the Arts – as animators have peppered their projects with a reference to the classroom number A113. The trend started in 1987 after Brad Bird put A113 on a license plate in his “Family Dog” episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories TV series, and the inside joke has subsequently appeared in everything from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace to The Simpsons to the Toy Story trilogy. Filmmakers John Lasseter and Joe Ranft wanted to include the classroom number in their 2006 Pixar film Cars, which they accomplished by having Mater’s (Larry the Cable Guy) license plate read A-113.

3. Both Films Feature Cameo Appearances by Real-Life Race Drivers

Lewis Hamilton Car
© Pixar

As you might expect from a pair of movies all about cars, Cars and Cars 2 boast appearances by real-life figures from the racing world. The 2006 original is especially heavy on the cameo appearances, as folks like Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Michael Schumacher all lend their voices to the proceedings. (Cars co-director John Lasseter explained his desire to land the latter in an interview with the BBC: “I really wanted to get voices for the smaller parts, or "drive-on parts", from international racing drivers, so my dream was to get Michael Schumacher.”) The trend continued in 2011’s Cars 2, with the movie featuring voice work from well-known drivers like Jeff Gordon, Lewis Hamilton, and Darrell Waltrip.

4. Cars is Paul Newman’s Final Film

Doc Hudson
© Pixar

Though the films of Pixar have featured appearances from some of Hollywood’s best and brightest stars – Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, and Michael Keaton to name a few – Paul Newman remains the most prestigious figure to star in one of the studio’s releases. Newman, an ardent fan of automobile racing, had never lent his voice to an animated production, but was convinced to finally try his hand at the genre by the geniuses at Pixar. Newman’s work as the grizzled veteran Doc Hudson remains a highlight in the first Cars movie, with the actor’s death in 2008 preventing him from reprising the role in 2011’s Cars 2. Doc Hudson’s presence is sorely missed in the sequel, to the extent that the movie noticeably suffers as a result of his absence.

5. Finn McMissile Was Supposed to Debut in the Original Cars

Finn McMissile
© Pixar

In the production notes for Cars 2, John Lasseter explains the origins of the character that Michael Caine plays in the film: “During Cars, we were developing a sequence in which Lightning McQueen was going to take Sally, the Porsche, on a first date. And it was going to be at a drive-in movie, because that’s very car-oriented. Then we thought, ‘What movie is playing?’ I love spy movies and I thought it would be so much fun to see what a spy movie would be in the car world. We came up with this character named Finn McMissile who was going to be starring in this little movie-within-a-movie.” The scene was obviously cut, which paved the way for Finn’s starring role in 2011’s Cars 2.

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