If you had young children in 2006 when Disney/Pixar released the first Cars movie, it’s likely that your family was exposed to the story, the characters, and the merchandise. If your memory is foggy, take this quick quiz to double-check:+
You know your kids grew up with the Cars movies if…
- One of their first words was “ka-chow.”
- Their first sippy cup/toothbrush/potty seat/big-kid bed/lunch bag/backpack had Lightning McQueen on it.
- They’ve woken up at least once with a bad dream about being chased by Frank the Combine.
- Their toy bin contains multiple versions of Lightning McQueen (red, blue, silver, just-crashed-into-a-cactus, etc.) and they can easily explain why each one is unique.
As for you…
- You still have Cars plates and napkins from past birthday parties.
- You’ve used classic Mater lines like “holy shoot” and “dad gum” in place of swear words.
- You can replicate the sound of an impact drill with surprising accuracy, since you’ve changed hundreds of imaginary tires while playing “pit stop.”
- You’ve forgotten that the song “Life is a Highway” was originally performed by Tom Cochrane, since you’ve heard the movie soundtrack version (by Rascal Flatts) 400 times.
- You can imitate the voices, including Mater’s southern twang (“Git ‘er done!”), McQueen’s signature drawl (“Crazy grand-paw cawr!”) and Luigi’s Italian accent (“You broke-a the road!”).
The movie’s inevitable sequel, Cars 2, came out in 2011 and was more of an action film with villains, weapons, sinister plots and top-secret spy exploits. My kids enjoyed the international race scenes where the competitors represented different countries, but in my view, it was miles behind the original.
I don’t love Cars just because my kids did. I genuinely appreciate its wholesomeness, its humour and its down-to-earth message. You remember the story: arrogant, self-centered rookie race car Lightning McQueen gets stranded in the small town of Radiator Springs, where he learns the value of friendship and humility. You wouldn’t expect an animated movie about talking vehicles to be heartwarming, but it is. I’m continually astounded by the humanity and expressiveness of the characters’ faces. The eyes truly are the windshield into the soul.
Needless to say, my family is revved that Cars 3 is about to hit theatres. My kids have pulled out their temporarily-forgotten bin of Cars toys and books to re-discover the characters. Watching “Cars 1” (as they call it) with them again was incredibly nostalgic. They remembered a few of their favourite parts but also connected to it in a whole new way. They understood the movie’s messages – and its jokes – much better than they did as toddlers. My 10-year-old giggled uncontrollably when he realized that McQueen’s sponsor, Rust-eze, is the equivalent of bum cream for cars.
I’m so happy that there’s a third installment to the Cars series, and not just because it gives new life to the collection of licensed toys and paraphernalia we’ve amassed over time. Mainly, it’s because the movie and its characters are permanently intertwined with my kids’ early years. Hearing the voices and the songs brings back memories of a more innocent time for all of us. In a way, Lightning McQueen has been a constant companion on my parenting journey. I see images of him every day when I’m packing my six-year-old’s lunch, folding his laundry or tucking him into bed. He may be a fictional race car, but he’s like an honourary member of the family.
The Cars 3 trailer seems to indicate a return to the franchise’s racetrack roots, with McQueen now in the role of the veteran racer. A dramatic crash leaves him contemplating the possible end of his racing career, but it would appear that he’s not quite ready to retire and move on to the next stage of his life. That’s exactly how I feel about my kids growing up and abandoning childhood pastimes like playing with toy cars. Like McQueen, I’m not ready to leave it all behind just yet.
Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. She is a regular contributor to ParentsCanada magazine, Running Room magazine, and the ParticipACTION website. She leads a fairly low-tech life but is on Twitter @KristiYork19.