Patrick Grieve
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Apparently, the Charming Backstory of Pixar’s “Cars” is that Autonomous Vehicles Killed Off the Human Race

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Disney Pixar Cars 3 2017 teaser trailer movie image animated lightning mcqueen crash

Despite being one of the blander franchises in the Pixar canon, when you get right down to it, the Cars movies actually operate on one of the strangest premises that the Disney-owned animation studio has ever come up with. After all, it’s one thing to imagine that fish can talk to each other or that toys secretly come to life when we’re not looking, but it takes a much more profound suspension of disbelief to accept a world that looks exactly like our own, yet is populated entirely by sentient cars, who exist solely for their own purposes and not as machines to be used by human beings.

Watching the movies just raises more questions than it answers. Mater once quips “is the Popemobile Catholic,” which forces one to ponder what the cars’ conception of God is. And Lightning McQueen seems aroused by the “tattoo” on Sally’s rear fascia, which invites ruminations on the nature of the cars’ sexualities and reproductive processes. And if there are no humans in this universe, why the hell do the cars all have door handles?


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Well, Jay Ward, the Creative Director of the Cars brand, has some of his own (technically non-canon) theories on how the world came about, and why the personality types and belief systems of the vehicular characters seem to mirror our own so closely. Here’s something he said in a recent interview with Screen Crush:

If you think about this, we have autonomous car technology coming in right now. It’s getting to the point where you can sit back in the car and it drives itself. Imagine in the near-future when the cars keep getting smarter and smarter and after one day they just go, “Why do we need human beings anymore? They’re just slowing us down. It’s just extra weight, let’s get rid of them.” But the car takes on the personality of the last person who drove it. Whoa. There you go.

Whoa, indeed.

So basically, the backstory of your six-year-old son’s favorite movie is that the human race was killed by the singularity, and that the homicidal vehicles merely stole the characteristics of their murdered drivers.


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Remember that car talk show host with the prominent bumper, “Jay Limo”? Yeah, turns out that was Jay Leno’s car, but it got too advanced and killed him—though not before downloading Jay’s signature style of milquetoast comedy and living on with his “personality.” In fact, all of your favorite characters from the film are merely the electronic, artificial intelligence “ghosts” of their long-dead owners, patrolling a world in which humans have gone extinct.

Or maybe there were some human refugees able to flee to space in the Great Camry Uprising of 2068, and they became the lazy passengers of those spaceship cruise liners in WALL-E.

Either way, hopefully all of these burning queries will be addressed in Cars 3. Or perhaps we can find all the answers we need by watching that sly Cars prequel, Maximum Overdrive.

  • Patrick GrieveEditor

    Patrick Grieve was born in Southwestern Ohio and has lived there all of his life, with the exception of a few years spent getting a Creative Writing degree in Southeastern Ohio. He loves to take road trips, sometimes to places as distant as Northeastern or even Northwestern Ohio. Patrick also enjoys old movies, shopping at thrift stores, going to ballgames, writing about those things, and watching Law & Order reruns. He just watches the original series, though, none of the spin-offs. And also only the ones they made before Jerry Orbach died. Season five was really the peak, in his opinion. See more articles by Patrick.