Plenty of Nascar personalities will be in the movie, which debuts june 16
“We have a partnership,” said Cars 3 director Brian Fee. “We are doing a promotional partnership.”
While the first movie revolved around an animated NASCAR world, the pairing for “Cars 3” is a first for the franchise.
“For the first ‘Cars,’ we didn’t have much of a (formal) relationship with them,” said Jay Ward, Pixar’s creative director and car specialist. “They were much more receptive this time.”
Jackson Storm is the new nemesis of Lightning McQueen
The Pixar team also got to know the crew at nearby Sonoma Raceway, which hosts several NASCAR races, including the Toyota/SaveMart 350500 coming up June 24 and 25.
“We’re good buddies with the (president and) general manager of Sonoma Raceway (Steve Page),” said “Cars 3” producer Kevin Reher.
“They’ve opened their doors to us,” said Fee. “We’ve gotten to know quite a few drivers and personalities, (among them) Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick.”
They got to know Gordon’s old crew chief Ray Evernham, too, so well that they decided to make a character in “Cars 3” based on him. That character, Ray Reverham, will be crew chief for Lightning McQueen’s main rival in the movie, Jackson Storm. Reverham is described in his Pixar bio as, “… an expert at training in the cutting-edge technology and tactics being used by the next-gen racers. Ray knows exactly how to bring out the very best in his racer’s performance, especially when a Piston Cup is on the line.”
An early sketch of the racing simulator Lightning McQueen uses in Cars 3
Like Pixar, NASCAR also desperately needs to bring in younger fans. So while Owen Wilson will still be the voice of Lightning McQueen, “The World’s Fastest Racecar,” this time around, you’ll get to hear Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez and Bubba Wallace in “Cars 3.” All are young up-and-comers in the sport and all have characters based on them in the movie.
Elliott will voice the character Chase Racealott. Like his namesake, Racealott is a second-generation driver. Blaney will be Ryan “Inside” Laney, a third-generation racer. Laney “… likes to have fun on the track.” Suarez will be Danny Swervez (a title that could come back to haunt him should he ever be accused of causing any of those chain-reaction pileups that happen on superspeedways). Wallace Jr. will play Bubba Wheelhouse.
“Next-gen stock-car racer Bubba Wheelhouse Jr. is a fast and tenacious young racer who knows how to win,” says Wheelhouse’s Pixar bio. “A champion for diversity, Wheelhouse believes that all race cars deserve a chance on the track.”
McQueen and Ramirez on the beach
Indeed, the theme of “Cars 3” is overcoming adversity, whether it’s unjustly thrust upon you or something of your own making. As such, four historic characters from NASCAR’s past appear in “Cars 3,” each based on real NASCAR drivers or mechanics. River Scott is based on the real-life Wendell Scott, who overcame walls of prejudice to race — and win — at the highest levels of NASCAR in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Louise “Barnstormer” Nash is based on Louise Smith, a pioneering female racer who won 38 races in four different NASCAR divisions from 1945 to 1956. They are paired in a scene with other legends Junior “Midnight” Moon, based on Hall of Famer Junior Johnson, and master mechanic Smokey Yunick, whose character is called, simply, Smokey. The four counsel McQueen on what it takes to transcend barriers.
Old favorites from the other Cars movies are still in “Cars 3,” including announcer Darrell Waltrip’s Darrell Cartip; Tex Dinoco, voiced and inspired by promoter H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler; Jeff Gorvette, AKA Jeff Gordon; The King, voiced by Richard Petty, Mrs. The King, voiced by Petty’s real-life wife and Cal Weathers, son of The King and played by the real Kyle Petty.
There is even a presence by the late Paul Newman, voice of the character Doc Hudson. It’s the real Newman, too, not an imitator. How did they do that?
“We went through all the audio from the first movie,” said Ward. “Hundreds of lines of dialogue.”
From that, they were able to pick out lines they could use in the new movie. As McQueen struggles with his new challenges, Doc appears to him in memory and inspires him.
Early drawings for the character Jackson Storm. No, that is not a “3” on the door.
Indeed, while “Cars 2” might have strayed a little bit from the purity of the first “Cars” movie, Pixar execs promise us this one will return to focus on our hero, McQueen.
“It’s a sports comeback story peppered with a mentor story about Doc Hudson being his mentor,” said producer Reher. “About searching for your lost mojo.”
“McQueen is finding himself,” added Fee. “He comes this close to not being able to do the one thing he enjoys most. The thing that he thinks makes him the most happy.”
The movie starts with a crash that McQueen barely survives. As you might have already heard, McQueen finds himself on track against newer, younger, faster race cars, exemplified by Jackson Storm. If he wants to win at his advanced age, McQueen has to learn new tricks. We saw about 40 minutes from the middle of the movie, where McQueen is attending a training academy lead by a young female race car named Cruz Ramirez, voiced by actress Cristela Alonzo. Alonzo introduces the old-school McQueen to new, high-tech techniques.
Will they work? Will McQueen get back his mojo and win against stronger, younger cars? We will find out June 16 when “Cars 3” opens at theaters nationwide.