It’s no surprise that Cars continues to be one of the most popular franchises in the Pixar library. First released in 2006, the film spawned two sequels, spin-off films, short films and a TV series. What’s not to like about a franchise with cute vehicles with distinct personalities, voiced by incredible talent? Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the franchise naturally lends itself to countless toy and merchandising opportunities.
The latest extension of the Cars series, Cars on the Road, proves that there are still many stories left to tell in the universe and that we can’t get enough of loveable characters like Mater and Lightning McQueen.
Cars on the Road premieres September 8th on Disney+ in celebration of Disney+ Day! Light spoilers below.
The series follows Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and his best friend Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) as they head east from Radiator Springs on a cross-country road trip to meet up with Mater’s sister. Along the way, every stop is its own adventure, with outrageous roadside attractions and colorful new characters. “Cars on the Road” is produced by Marc Sondheimer. The series’ episodes are directed by Steve Purcell (Eps 1, 2, 8), Bobby Podesta (Eps 5, 6, 9) and Brian Fee (Eps 3, 4, 7). Composer Jake Monaco created the score for all nine episodes.
THE REVIEW – A Road Trip of Self Discovery and Friendship
Cars on the Road takes us on a cross-country trip with two of the franchise’s main characters, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) and Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson). It’s almost shocking that there hasn’t been a story like this to this point in the Cars franchise, which seems like such an obvious fit. As expected, there are many shenanigans as the four-wheeled duo travel to various stops, meeting a variety of characters and learning a lot about themselves and each other.
If you’ve ever taken a long road trip with friends or family, you know that they’re often a double-edged sword. They can be incredibly fun and exciting, but they can also strain relationships after spending all that time together. As a result, they either bring parties closer together, or end up pushing them apart. Similarly, Mater and McQueen have numerous adventures that are educational (at a museum), frightening (at a haunted hotel) and even…musical (at a truck stop). As they journey through and share those experiences, we learn more about Mater in particular than we have in prior stories and the two grow in their friendship with one another.
In a welcome twist, McQueen is the sidekick on this trip, as the stories primarily focus on Mater’s journey and character development. For the most part, McQueen is exasperated at all of the unexpected digressions and distractions during the trip. He wants to get to their destination and definitely does not want to take the long road back. Mater however embraces the process, at one point even having a life or death experience. In the end, as Mater grows, so does McQueen’s appreciation of his best friend.
It almost sounds like a serious story, but really it’s a lot of fun for the viewer, and younger audiences will definitely enjoy the ride. Some standout episodes include Episode 6, Trucks, a purely musical episode where Mater faces some of his insecurities through song and dance. Episode 8, Road Rumblers, is a hilarious homage to Mad Max: Fury Road where our heroes are caught in the middle.
Perhaps the most welcome addition to the Cars universe happens in Episode 4, The Legend, which introduces a new character, Ivy the monster truck, voiced by Quinta Brunson of Abbott Elementary. Ivy is the only character beyond the two stars who reappears in multiple episodes and even performs a musical number as well. It’s exciting to have Brunson in the Cars franchise and one can only hope that we will see Ivy in future stories.
THE RATING – 3/5 Pocky
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.