In all of the Cars movies one of the best things I love is the characters. For me seeing all the new characters, how they interact with their surroundings, and even trying to guess which actor has taken on their role. In Cars 3 we meet some sophisticated and crazy new characters. Probably one of my favorite scenes has to be when Lightening goes to the Demolition Derby, it was suspenseful, funny and the attention to detail Pixar takes in this short scene for me really made the movie! Trust me you will love this part of the movie!
On his journey in “Cars 3,” Lightning McQueen crosses paths with new and intriguing characters, and filmmakers tapped top talent to bring them to life. Ranging from a fiery trainer who’s determined to reignite Lightning McQueen’s career to a group of legendary racers who, back in the day, hit the track alongside the Fabulous Hudson Hornet himself—the characters in “Cars 3” will surely make their mark on the big screen.
LIGHTNING MCQUEEN is a world champion racer who’s riding high with five Piston-Cup wins under his hood. Suddenly, he finds himself faced with a new generation of racers who threaten not only his dominance in the sport—but the confidence that got him there. Determined to get back into the pole position, the #95 must decide if his love for racing is enough to fuel the comeback of his life. “We were really intrigued by what happens to an athlete who’s in the twilight of his career,” says director Brian Fee. “All Lightning McQueen has ever wanted is to be a champion—and he’s done that. Does that mean his life is over? He doesn’t know anything else.”
According to producer Kevin Reher, Lightning McQueen is cruising along, winning races—but when the next generation of racers enters the scene he panics. “He gets in a huge accident, which is pretty serious and not unlike the accident that ended Doc Hudson’s career. But Lightning doesn’t want to go out that way. He sets out to make a comeback, but he’s competing against newer, faster cars who are high-tech versions of who he was ten years ago.”
Owen Wilson once again lends his voice to #95. “When we met Lightning McQueen back in the first movie, he was kind of a jerk,” says Fee. “But you don’t want the audience to dislike your main character—and that’s the magic that Owen brings to Lightning McQueen. He makes the character so likable. And in ‘Cars 3,’ when Lightning discovers he’s not the superhero he used to be, he gets frustrated. And after the crash, he’s pretty vulnerable. Owen not only brings those emotions out, he adds a lot of entertainment value.”
CRUZ RAMIREZ is a tech-savvy, unconventional trainer at the Rust-eze Racing Center. She expertly arms the team’s talented rookies with cutting-edge tools to tear up the track—but she nearly stalls when Piston-Cup champion Lightning McQueen shows up. While she’d love to help him find his way back to the top, she knows the competition is faster than ever, and victory is all about speed—or is it?
Cruz Ramirez’s passion for racing comes through in her training tactics. “She’s extremely positive,” says Fee. “She wants her racers-in-training to be champions, and one of her strengths is finding the right motivation for each of them.”
When it comes to Lightning McQueen, Cruz doesn’t hold back. Although the life-long fan of racing watched #95’s road to greatness—she’s not afraid to tell him he’s old and slow. “She has next-gen knowledge,” says Jay Ward, creative director for the “Cars” franchise. “She knows all about technology, simulators and speed. But she doesn’t realize the power of old-school racing wisdom.”
Cristela Alonzo was called on to voice the character. “We were inspired by Cristela’s story,” says Reher. “Stand-up comedy is an intimidating industry for a newcomer and Cristela had to find her way despite huge odds. Cruz’s passion for racing is pretty reflective of Cristela’s experience.”
“Cruz’s story isn’t a glass-ceiling story,” adds screenwriter Kiel Murray. “That would be easy to do, especially in the world of professional racing. But when I look at my own daughter I can see that won’t be her story. For many, the greatest obstacle won’t be the limits imposed by the world, but the ones they give themselves. With Cruz, we wanted to explore what happens when people get in their own way.”
JACKSON STORM is fast, sleek and ready to win. A frontrunner in the next generation of racers, Storm’s quiet confidence and cocky demeanor are off-putting—but his unmatched speed threatens to redefine the sport. Trained on high-tech simulators that are programmed to perfect technique and maximize velocity, Jackson Storm is literally built to be unbeatable—and he knows it.
“Jackson Storm is Lightning’s nemesis—the film’s baddie,” says Ward. “Though he isn’t really a true villain. He represents what’s happening in racing—both in the movie and in real life. A lot of young racers getting into the sport have more experience playing videogames than on an actual track. And they are winning races.”
According to Fee, the character is a lot like Lightning used to be. “Storm is talented right out of the gate,” says the director. “He has the best equipment and he has youth on his side. He’s basically telling Lighting, ‘It’s not your world anymore.’
“The tide is changing,” continues Fee, “but Lightning doesn’t really see Jackson Storm as a threat—at least at first. Then Lightning has a terrible crash. But it isn’t about mortality—it shows Lightning that he’s going to have to do something different if he wants to move forward.”
NATALIE CERTAIN is a highly respected statistical analyst who knows her numbers. Book-smart and mathematically gifted, Certain is a fresh voice in the racing world. While she may earn top marks in her ability to evaluate a racer’s stats, she could be underestimating the importance of determination.
According to screenwriter Mike Rich, the character is a reflection of the sports industry. “The sports world is really using a lot of stats and metrics right now,” he says. “Statisticians, by definition, believe that math can predict what will happen in any given sport. But it can’t gauge heart. The character showcases one way that sports have changed over the years.”
“Natalie represents the voice of the next-gen racers,” adds Reher. “She supplies the race commentators with stats that point to the many reasons why Jackson Storm and his fellow high-tech racers are built to win. She has all the facts and figures—none of which are in Lightning McQueen’s favor.”
Kerry Washington was tapped to voice Natalie Certain. “Natalie is such a by-the book kind of character, we needed someone who could deliver those facts in a confident, but affable way,” says Fee. “Kerry delivers.”
STERLING is a brilliant businesscar who runs Rust-eze Racing Center—one of the most successful elite training facilities in the country. Despite his dapper appearance and obvious wealth, Sterling comes across as unassuming and laid back. But business is business, and Sterling is driven to ensure all of his investments pay off.
According to story supervisor Scott Morse, Sterling is a far cry from Rust-eze’s former chief proprietors. “While Dusty and Rusty always looked out for Lightning, Sterling is all business. He sees value in Lightning McQueen, but not necessarily in the way Lightning is counting on.”
“We didn’t want him to be one of those fat-cat cars—‘I’m the strongest car in the room,’” says Fee. “Sterling is so confident in himself that he doesn’t need to tell everybody. He’s stylish. We’ve always thought of him as a well-fitted suit. The cars we looked at for him were smaller, delicate models with a lot of glass in the greenhouse.”
Nathan Fillion provides the voice of Sterling. “He is probably one of the most charming voices out there,” says Fee. “We didn’t want an ego-driven dictator and Nathan really found the balance.”
MISS FRITTER loves the smash-and-crash life of demolition derby. A local legend at the Thunder Hollow Speedway, Fritter’s formidable school-bus size is intimidating, but it’s her smoke stacks of doom, razor-sharp stop sign and crazy collection of her victims’ license plates that usually steers her opponents in the other direction.
“She’s the school bus of your nightmares,” says screenwriter Bob Peterson. “My favorite line of hers is ‘Prepare to meet the wrath of the Lower Belleville County Unified School District.’
“This demolition derby has an ambulance, a taxi and an RV,” continues Peterson. “It’s funny to see these vehicles you don’t normally associate with mayhem out there wreaking havoc.”
Lea DeLaria provides the voice of Miss Fritter. “As soon as we found out Lea was going to be voicing her, we gave the character these really thick black-rimmed glasses,” says production designer Jay Shuster. “We just made her windshield super chunky.”
So those are some of the new characters you can expect to see in the all new Cars 3! In case you missed my previous post on how Cars 3 is an introduction to next generation of Pixar Animation while maintaining deep roots in the past you can check it out here. Stay tuned to my next article where I share details on the racing Legends who make an appearance and help guide Lightening through his tough challenges in Cars 3!
Directed by Brian Fee (storyboard artist “Cars,” “Cars 2“), produced by Reher (“A Bug’s Life,” “La Luna” short) and co-produced by Andrea Warren (“LAVA” short), “Cars 3” is executive produced by John Lasseter, who directed the first two films in the franchise. Featuring a score by Oscar®-winning composer Randy Newman (“Toy Story 3,” “Cars”), Disney•Pixar’s “Cars 3” cruises into theaters on June 16, 2017.