Pixar has undeniably created some of the best animated films in history, especially under the umbrella of Disney. Not only that, but they’ve created some of the most successful animated franchises. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, and Monsters Inc. all come to mind. While each one has their own messages and stories to tell, there’s one that stands out above the rest.
Cars (2006) has become one of the most popular Pixar franchises although it’s often considered one of the most hated by fans, spawning three feature films, a series of shorts, a Disney+ series, and an entire dedicated area at Disneyland. While viewers may not understand the draw of a film that only has animated cars as characters, the messaging and development of the first movie is one that resonates with anyone who watches it.
At the start of the movie, Lightning McQueen is a rookie racecar with one goal: being the first rookie to win the Piston Cup. He’s hotheaded, high on his fame, and selfish. He finds himself lost in Radiator Springs, a tiny town on Route 66 that’s become far removed from society and guests travelling the area.
McQueen tears up the town on accident and spends several days trash talking the town and everyone in it. As time passes, he learns to appreciate the town’s history and is even outraged on their behalf that no one knows it exists anymore. He also grows closer to Doc, the town’s mayor and former racecar, after learning about his history and tragic fall from the racing scene. However, it’s really the end of the movie that makes it one of the best Pixar movies, really showing McQueen’s character growth from the beginning of the movie.
One of McQueen’s competitors, The King, is racing in his final Piston Cup, intending to retire after a long and successful career. After the third racer, Chick Hicks, crashes into him and causes him to wreck McQueen has a choice to make. When McQueen realizes what’s happened, he slams to a stop just inches from the finish line. Rather than taking another few seconds to cross the line and secure his win, he decides it’s more important to help The King, remembering Doc’s own wreck and how it affected him.
It’s an incredible moment of helping others and putting someone else before yourself. Cars encourages sportsmanship, integrity, and having a good heart. McQueen experiences amazing character growth, especially for being a character in a film that many people wrote off because of what it was. In reality, it’s a touching message and shows just how much people can change for the better.
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