Cars is a 2006 animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures and the last film for the Buena Vista Pictures Distribution company and directed by John Lasseter and co-directed by the late Joe Ranft. It was the seventh Disney/Pixar feature film, and the final film by Pixar before it was bought by Disney. The soundtrack of the film features music by Sheryl Crow, Rascal Flatts, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Chuck Berry and John Mayer. Set in a world populated entirely by anthropomorphic cars and other vehicles, it features the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, John Ratzenberger, George Carlin, Jenifer Lewis, Cheech Marin, Richard Petty and Michael Keaton as well as cameos by several celebrities such as Jeremy Clarkson.
It was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. It was released on DVD on November 7, 2006, on a Disney Movie Club exclusive VHS in 2007 (which is extremely rare) and on Blu-ray Disc on November 6, 2007, making this the last Disney film to be released on VHS. Related merchandise, including scale models of several of the cars, broke records for retail sales of merchandise based on a Disney/Pixar film, with an estimated $5 billion in sales.
A sequel, Cars 2, was released in theaters on June 24, 2011. A third Cars film is currently in production as of 2014.
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, past a huge wreck, and has 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 tires, his rear worn tires 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. Race officials announce 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, McQueen 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 McQueen crashes and gets tangled in wires, damaging part of the town's main street in the process.
McQueen is taken to traffic court, where the town's attorney, Sally Carrera, pleads against McQueen. 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 figure out his gas tank was siphoned. McQueen rushes through his first day of paving and the new road surface is so bumpy, unusable, uneven, and poor that he is told he must scrape it off and start over again.
When Doc Hudson offers McQueen a deal -- beat Doc in a race around Willy's Butte and he is free to go -- McQueen 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 McQueen out of the cactus patch in which he landed, Doc effortlessly cruises to the finish line after informing McQueen that he races like he fixes roads. McQueen is compelled to scrape off the botched pavement and start over again.
As the ensuing days pass, McQueen 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 McQueen witnessing him expertly drifting through the loose dirt of Willy's Butte where McQueen crashed), labeling his old trophies as "a bunch of empty cups".
By the time McQueen 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 McQueen's whereabouts.
The final race among McQueen, The King, and Chick opens with what the race's commentators call the "biggest race in history." McQueen 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, McQueen is not only able to overtake his opponents, but has built a considerable lead by the final lap.
As McQueen 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. McQueen, 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, McQueen 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 McQueen is cheered as a hero for his good sportsmanship. Tex from Dinoco, The King's sponsor company, offers to support McQueen as his new sponsor; but McQueen, 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, McQueen 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 before 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
- 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
- Bob Costas as Bob Cutlass
- 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 as Harv
- Billy Crystal as Mike in a film
- John Goodman as Sulley 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