In a world populated by anthropomorphic vehicles, the last race of the Piston Cup championship ends in a three-way tie between retiring veteran Strip "The King" Weathers, infamous runner-up Chick Hicks, and rookie Lightning McQueen. The tiebreaker race is scheduled for one week later at the Los Angeles International Speedway in California. Lightning is desperate to win the race, since it would not only make him the first rookie to win a championship, but also allow him to leave the unglamorous sponsorship of Rust-eze and allow him to take The King's place as the sponsored car of the lucrative Dinoco team. Eager to start practice in California as soon as possible, he pushes his big rig, Mack, to travel all night long. While McQueen is sleeping, the exhausted Mack drifts off and is startled by a gang of four reckless street racers, causing McQueen to fall out the back of the trailer and onto the road. McQueen wakes in the middle of traffic and speeds off the highway to find Mack, only to end up in the run-down desert town of Radiator Springs, while inadvertently ruining the pavement of its main road.
After being arrested and impounded overnight (while guarded by a rusty, but friendly, tow truck named Mater), McQueen is ordered by the town judge, Doc Hudson, to leave town immediately. The local lawyer Sally Carrera requests that McQueen should instead be given community service to repave the road, to which Doc reluctantly agrees. McQueen tries to repave it in a single day, but it turns out to be shoddy, and he is forced to repave the road again, which takes several days to complete. During this time, he befriends several of the cars, and learns that Radiator Springs used to be a popular stopover along the old U.S. Route 66, but with the construction of Interstate 40 bypassing it, the town literally vanished from the map. McQueen also discovers that Doc is really the "Fabulous Hudson Hornet", a three-time Piston Cup winner, whose racing career ended after an accident in 1954, and quickly forgotten by the sport. McQueen finishes the road, which has invigorated the cars to improve their town, and spends an extra day in Radiator Springs with his new friends, before Mack and the media descend on the town, led by a tip to McQueen's location. McQueen reluctantly leaves with the media to get to California in time for the race, while Sally chastises Doc after discovering that he had tipped off the media to McQueen's whereabouts, not wanting to be discovered by them instead.
At Los Angeles International Speedway, McQueen's mind is not fully set on the race, and he soon falls into last place. He is surprised to discover that Doc Hudson, who is decked out in his old racing colors, has taken over as his crew chief, along with several other friends from Radiator Springs to help in the pit. Inspired and recalling tricks he learned from Doc and his friends, McQueen quickly emerges to lead the race into the final laps. But at the last minute, Hicks—refusing to come behind Weathers again—side swipes Weathers and sends him into a dangerous spin, causing him to crash. Seeing this and recalling Doc's fate, McQueen stops just short of the finish line, allowing Hicks to win, and drives back to push Weathers over the finish line. The crowd and media condemn Hicks' victory, but are nonetheless impressed with McQueen's sportsmanship. Though offered the Dinoco sponsorship deal, McQueen declines, insisting on staying with Rust-eze as an appreciation of their past support. Later, back at Radiator Springs, McQueen returns and announces that he will be setting up his headquarters there, helping to put Radiator Springs back on the map.Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, described by John Lasseter in the Los Angeles Times as "A hybrid between a stock car and a more curvaceous Le Mans endurance racer."
Paul Newman as Doc Hudson, a 1951 Hudson Hornet who is later revealed to be the Fabulous Hudson Hornet.
Bonnie Hunt as Sally Carrera, a 2002 996-series Porsche 911 Carrera.
Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, a 1951 International Harvester L-170 "boom" truck with elements of a mid-1950s Chevrolet. One-Ton Wrecker Tow Truck.
Tony Shalhoub as Luigi, a 1959 Fiat 500.
Cheech Marin as Ramone, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala Lowrider.
Michael Wallis as Sheriff, a 1949 Mercury Club Coupe (police package).
George Carlin as Fillmore, a 1960 VW Bus.
Paul Dooley as Sarge, a 1941 Willys model jeep, in the style used by the US Military.
Jenifer Lewis as Flo, a 1957 Motorama show car.
Guido Quaroni as Guido, a custom forklift, resembling an Isetta at the front.
Richard Petty as Strip "The King" Weathers. The car's design was based on Richard Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird
Michael Keaton as Chick Hicks, described by Pixar as a generic 1980s stock car. Strongly resembles a 1978–88 General Motors G-Body such as a Buick Regal or Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
Katherine Helmond as Lizzie, a 1923 Ford Model T.
John Ratzenberger as Mack, a 1985 Mack Super-Liner.
Joe Ranft as Red, a 1960s style fire truck (most closely resembles a mid-1960s) and Peterbilt, this was Ranft's last voice role before his death in August 2005.
Jeremy Piven as Harv, Lightning McQueen's agent, never seen on-screen.
Voiced by Jeremy Clarkson in the British version.
Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Dave Foley reprise their vocal roles from previous Pixar films during an end-credits sequence featuring automobile spoofs of Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and A Bug's Life.
Cars would be the final film worked on by Joe Ranft; he died in a car accident a year before the film's release, aged 45. The film was the second to be dedicated to his memory, after Corpse Bride (that showed the roles he had done in the other films directed by John Lasseter during the credits). This is also the last (non-documentary) movie for Paul Newman before his retirement in 2007 and his death in 2008. It turned out to be the highest-grossing film of his career.
The genesis of the project came in 1998 as Pixar was finishing work on A Bug's Life. At that time Jorgen Klubien began writing a new script called The Yellow Car, about an electric car living in a gas-guzzling world. Some of the original drawings and characters were produced in 1998 and the producers agreed that Cars could be the next movie after A Bug's Life and would be released in early 1999, particularly around June 4. However, the movie was eventually scrapped in favor of Toy Story 2. Later, production resumed with major script changes, like giving Mater, Doc, and a few other characters a bigger part.
Meanwhile, John Lasseter has said that the idea for Cars was born after he took a cross-country road trip with his wife and five sons in 2000. When he returned to the studio after vacation, he contacted Michael Wallis, a Route 66 historian. Wallis then led eleven Pixar animators in rented white Cadillacs on two different road trips across the route to research the film. In 2001, the movie's working title was Route 66 (after U.S. Route 66), but in 2002, the title was changed to prevent people from thinking it was related to the 1960 television show with the same name. In addition, Lightning McQueen's number was originally going to be 57 (Lasseter's birth year), but was changed to 95 (the year Toy Story was released).
In 2006, John Lasseter spoke about the inspiration for the film, saying: "I have always loved cars. In one vein, I have Disney blood, and in the other, there's motor oil. The notion of combining these two great passions in my life—cars and animation—was irresistible. When Joe (Ranft) and I first started talking about this film in 1998, we knew we wanted to do something with cars as characters. Around that same time, we watched a documentary called 'Divided Highways,' which dealt with the interstate highway and how it affected the small towns along the way. We were so moved by it and began thinking about what it must have been like in these small towns that got bypassed. That's when we started really researching Route 66, but we still hadn't quite figured out what the story for the film was going to be. I used to travel that highway with my family as a child when we visited our family in St. Louis."
Jorgen Klubien said the movie was both his best and most bitter experience because he was fired before the movie premiered and because he feels John Lasseter wrote him out of the story of how the film got made.
For the cars themselves, Lasseter also visited the design studios of the Big Three Detroit automakers, particularly J Mays of Ford Motor Company. Lasseter learned how real cars were designed.
In 2006, John Lasseter spoke about how they worked hard to make the animation believable, saying: "It took many months of trial and error, and practicing test animation, to figure out how each car moves and how their world works. Our supervising animators, Doug Sweetland and Scott Clark, and the directing animators, Bobby Podesta and James Ford Murphy, did an amazing job working with the animation team to determine the unique movements for each character based on its age and the type of car it was. Some cars are like sports cars and they're much tighter in their suspension. Others are older '50s cars that are a lot looser and have more bounce to them. We wanted to get that authenticity in there but also to make sure each car had a unique personality. We also wanted each animator to be able to put some of themself in the character and give it their own spin. Every day in dailies, it was so much fun because we would see things that we had never seen in our lives. The world of cars came alive in a believable and unexpected way."
Unlike most anthropomorphic cars, the eyes of the cars in this film were placed on the windshield (which resembles the Tonka Talking Trucks, and the characters from Tex Avery's One Cab's Family short and Disney's own Susie the Little Blue Coupe), rather than within the headlights. According to production designer Bob Pauley, "From the very beginning of this project, John Lasseter had it in his mind to have the eyes be in the windshield. For one thing, it separates our characters from the more common approach where you have little cartoon eyes in the headlights. For another, he thought that having the eyes down near the mouth at the front end of the car feels more like a snake. With the eyes set in the windshield, the point of view is more human-like, and made it feel like the whole car could be involved in the animation of the character. This decision was heavily criticized by automotive blog Jalopnik.
In 2006, supervising animator on the film Scott Clark, spoke about the challenges of animating car characters, saying: "Getting a full range of performance and emotion from these characters and making them still seem like cars was a tough assignment, but that's what animation does best. You use your imagination, and you make the movements and gestures fit with the design. Our car characters may not have arms and legs, but we can lean the tires in or out to suggest hands opening up or closing in. We can use steering to point a certain direction. We also designed a special eyelid and an eyebrow for the windshield that lets us communicate an expressiveness that cars don't have." Doug Sweetland, who also served as supervising animator, also spoke about the challenges, saying: "It took a different kind of animator to really be able to interpret the Cars models, than it did to interpret something like The Incredibles models. With The Incredibles, the animator could get reference for the characters by shooting himself and watching the footage. But with Cars, it departs completely from any reference. Yes they're cars, but no car can do what our characters do. It's pure fantasy. It took a lot of trial and error to get them to look right."
Lasseter also explained that the film started with pencil and paper designs, saying: "Truth to materials. Starting with pencil-and-paper designs from production designer Bob Pauley, and continuing through the modeling, articulation, and shading of the characters, and finally into animation, the production team worked hard to have the car characters remain true to their origins." Character department manager Jay Ward also explained how they wanted the cars to look as realistic as possible, saying: "John didn't want the cars to seem clay-like or mushy. He insisted on truth to materials. This was a huge thing for him. He told us that steel needs to feel like steel. Glass should feel like glass. These cars need to feel heavy. They weigh three or four thousand pounds. When they move around, they need to have that feel. They shouldn't appear light or overly bouncy to the point where the audience might see them as rubber toys." According to directing animator James Ford Murphy, "Originally, the car models were built so they could basically do anything. John kept reminding us that these characters are made of metal and they weigh several thousand pounds. They can't stretch. He showed us examples of very loose animation to illustrate what not to do."
Character shading supervisor on the film Thomas Jordan explained that chrome and car paint were the main challenges on the film, saying: "Chrome and car paint were our two main challenges on this film. We started out by learning as much as we could. At the local body shop, we watched them paint a car, and we saw the way they mixed the paint and applied the various coats. We tried to dissect what goes into the real paint and recreated it in the computer. We figured out that we needed a base paint, which is where the color comes from, and the clearcoat, which provides the reflection. We were then able to add in things like metallic flake to give it a glittery sparkle, a pearlescent quality the might change color depending on the angle, and even a layer of pin-striping for characters like Ramone." Supervising technical director on the film Eben Ostby explained that the biggest challenge for the technical team was creating the metallic and painted surfaces of the car characters, and the reflections that those surfaces generate, saying: "Given that the stars of our film are made of metal, John had a real desire to see realistic reflections, and more beautiful lighting than we’ve seen in any of our previous films. In the past, we’ve mostly used environment maps and other matte-based technology to cheat reflections, but for Cars we added a ray-tracing capability to our existing Renderman program to raise the bar for Pixar."
Rendering lead Jessica McMackin spoke about the use of ray tracing on the film, saying: "In addition to creating accurate reflections, we used ray tracing to achieve other effects. We were able to use this approach to create accurate shadows, like when there are multiple light sources and you want to get a feathering of shadows at the edges. Or occlusion, which is the absence of ambient light between two surfaces, like a crease in a shirt. A fourth use is irradiance. An example of this would be if you had a piece of red paper and held it up to a white wall, the light would be colored by the paper and cast a red glow on the wall." Character supervisor Tim Milliron explained that the film uses a ground–locking system that kept the cars firmly planted on the road, saying: "The ground-locking system is one of the things I’m most proud of on this film. In the past, characters have never known about their environment in any way. A simulation pass was required if you wanted to make something like that happen. On Cars, this system is built into the models themselves, and as you move the car around, the vehicle sticks to the ground. It was one of those things that we do at Pixar where we knew going in that it had to be done, but we had no idea how to do it."
Technical director Lisa Forsell explained that to enhance the richness and beauty of the desert landscapes surrounding Radiator Springs, the filmmakers created a department responsible for matte paintings and sky flats, saying: "Digital matte paintings are a way to get a lot of visual complexity without necessarily having to build complex geometry, and write complex shaders. We spent a lot time working on the clouds and their different formations. They tend to be on several layers and they move relative to each other. The clouds do in fact have some character and personality. The notion was that just as people see themselves in the clouds, cars see various car-shaped clouds. It’s subtle, but there are definitely some that are shaped like a sedan. And if you look closely, you’ll see some that look like tire treads. The fact that so much attention is put on the skies speaks to the visual level of the film. Is there a story point? Not really. There is no pixel on the screen that does not have an extraordinary level of scrutiny and care applied to it. There is nothing that is just throw-away."
Computers used in the development of the film were four times faster than those used in The Incredibles and 1,000 times faster than those used in Toy Story. To build the cars, the animators used computer platforms similar to those used in the design of real-world automobiles.
The Cars soundtrack was released by Walt Disney Records on June 6, 2006. Nine tracks on the soundtrack are by popular artists, while the remaining eleven are score cues by Randy Newman. It has two versions of the classic Bobby Troup jazz standard "Route 66" (popularized by Nat King Cole), one by Chuck Berry and a new version recorded specifically for the film's credits performed by John Mayer. Brad Paisley contributed two of the nine tracks to the album, one being "Find Yourself" used for the end credits.
Cars was originally set to be released on November 4, 2005, but on December 7, 2004, its release date was changed to June 9, 2006. Analysts looked at the release date change as a sign from Pixar that they were preparing for the pending end of the Disney distribution contract by either preparing non-Disney materials to present to other studios, or they were buying time to see what happened with Michael Eisner's situation at Disney. When Pixar's chief executive Steve Jobs made the release date announcement, he stated that the reasoning was due to wanting to put all Pixar films on a summer release schedule, with DVD sales occurring during the holiday shopping season.
Cars was released on DVD, in wide- and full-screen editions, on November 7, 2006 in the United States and Canada. This DVD was also released on October 25 in Australia and New Zealand and on November 27 in the United Kingdom. The release includes the DVD-exclusive short film Mater and the Ghostlight and the film's theatrical short One Man Band as well as a 16-minute-long documentary about the film entitled Inspiration for Cars, which features director John Lasseter. It also featured the Pixar short Boundin'.
According to the Walt Disney Company, five million copies of the DVD were sold the first two days it was available. The first week, it sold 6,250,856 units and 15,370,791 in total ($246,198,859). Unlike previous Pixar DVD releases, there is no two-disc special edition, and no plans to release one in the future. According to Sara Maher, DVD Production Manager at Pixar, John Lasseter and Pixar were preoccupied with productions like Ratatouille.
In the US and Canada, there were bonus discs available with the purchase of the film at Wal-Mart and at Target. The former featured a Geared-Up Bonus DVD Disc that focused on the music of the film, including the music video to "Life Is A Highway", The Making of "Life Is A Highway", Cars: The Making of the Music, and Under The Hood, a special that originally aired on the ABC Family cable channel. The latter's bonus was a Rev'd Up DVD Disc that featured material mostly already released as part of the official Cars podcast and focused on the inspiration and production of the movie.
Cars was also released on Blu-ray Disc on November 6, 2007, one year after the DVD release. It was the first Pixar film to be released on Blu-ray (alongside Ratatouille and Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1), and was re-released as a Blu-Ray Disc and DVD combo pack and DVD only edition in April 2011. The film was released for the first time in 3D on October 29, 2013, as part of Cars: Ultimate Collector's Edition, which included the releases on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and DVD.
A video game of the same name was released on June 6, 2006, for Game Boy Advance, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS, Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and Xbox. It was also released on October 23, 2006, for Xbox 360 and November 16, 2006, for Wii. The video game got mainly positive reviews. GameSpot gave 7.0 out of 10 for Xbox 360 and Wii versions, for PlayStation 2, 7.6 out of 10 for the GameCube and Xbox versions, and 7.4 out of 10 for the PSP version. Metacritic gave 65 out of 100 for the Wii version, 54 out of 100 for the DS version, 73 out of 100 for the PC version, 71 out of 100 for the PlayStation 2 version, and 70 out of 100 for the PSP version.
Cars was met with positive reviews. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 74% approval rating with an average rating of 6.9/10 based on 196 reviews. The site's consensus reads "Cars offers visual treats that more than compensate for its somewhat thinly written story, adding up to a satisfying diversion for younger viewers." Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 73 out of 100 based on 39 reviews.
William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer praised it as "one of Pixar's most imaginative and thoroughly appealing movies ever" and Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called it "a work of American art as classic as it is modern." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, saying that the movie "is great to look at and a lot of fun, but somehow lacks the extra push of the other Pixar films. Maybe that's because there's less at stake here, and no child-surrogate to identify with." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Fueled with plenty of humor, action, heartfelt drama, and amazing new technical feats, Cars is a high octane delight for moviegoers of all ages." Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a positive review, saying "Existing both in turbo-charged today and the gentler '50s, straddling the realms of Pixar styling and old Disney heart, this new-model Cars is an instant classic." Brian Lowry of Variety gave the film a negative review, saying "Despite representing another impressive technical achievement, it's the least visually interesting of the computer-animation boutique's movies, and -- in an ironic twist for a story about auto racing -- drifts slowly through its semi-arid midsection." Robert Wilonsky of The Village Voice gave the film a positive review, saying "What ultimately redeems Cars from turning out a total lemon is its soul. Lasseter loves these animated inanimate objects as though they were kin, and it shows in every beautifully rendered frame." Ella Taylor of L.A. Weekly gave the film a positive review, saying "Cars cheerfully hitches cutting-edge animation to a folksy narrative plugging friendship, community and a Luddite mistrust of high tech."
Gene Seymour of Newsday gave the film three out of four stars, saying "And as pop flies go, Cars is pretty to watch, even as it loops, drifts and, at times, looks as if it's just hanging in midair." Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gave the film a positive review, saying "It takes everything that's made Pixar shorthand for animation excellence -- strong characters, tight pacing, spot-on voice casting, a warm sense of humor and visuals that are pure, pixilated bliss -- and carries them to the next stage." Bill Muller of The Arizona Republic gave the film four out of five stars, saying "The truest measure of the movie is that eventually we forget we're watching a bunch of vehicles with faces and start to think of them as individual characters. It's quite an accomplishment, and perhaps one only possible by Pixar." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film four out of five stars, saying "What's surprising about this supremely engaging film is the source of its curb appeal: It has heart." Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post gave the film a positive review, saying "It's the latest concoction from the geniuses at Pixar, probably the most inventive of the Computer Generated Imagery shop -- and the film's great fun, if well under the level of the first Toy Story." Jessica Reaves of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "While it's a technically perfect movie, its tone is too manic, its characters too jaded and, in the end, its story too empty to stand up to expectations." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three out of four stars, saying "While Cars may cross the finish line ahead of any of 2006's other animated films, it's several laps behind its Pixar siblings."
Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the film an A-, saying "It's powered by a human heart through a roadway of natural wonders and cultural signposts en route to the checkered flag." Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Cars idles at times. And it's not until its final laps that the movie gains the emotional traction we've come to expect from the Toy Story and Nemo crews." Tom Long of The Detroit News gave the film a B+, saying "It's touching, it's funny, it offers cautions about the modern pace of life, and it depends on a sense of rural Americana for its soul." Rick Groen of The Globe and Mail gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, saying "For parents out there whose future holds the certain prospect of the DVD version blaring repeatedly from family-room screens, let this be your advisory. Warning: Cars comes unequipped with two essential options -- charm and a good muffler." Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle gave the film three out of four stars, saying "It thunders ahead with breezy abandon, scoring big grins on its way." Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News gave the film four out of four stars, saying "It achieves the near impossible, turning cars, trucks, tractors, and farm harvesters into cute Disney characters whose fates you'll care about." Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Cars somewhat self-indulgently runs nearly two hours -- but overall, it's well worth the trip." Lisa Rose of the Newark Star-Ledger gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "It's another innovative piece of entertainment from the animation studio, taking the audience on a kinetic trip into a world populated only by automobiles."
Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film a positive review, saying "The animation is stunningly rendered. But the story is always the critical element in Pixar movies, and Cars' story is heartfelt with a clear and unabashed moral." David Edelstein of New York Magazine gave the film a positive review, saying "Like the Toy Story films, Cars is a state-of-the-computer-art plea on behalf of outmoded, wholesome fifties technology, with a dash of Zen by way of George Lucas." Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel gave the film three out of five stars, saying "It's beautiful to look at. The talking cars feel more alive than talking cars should." Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Cars made me want to hop in my jalopy and to head out to Route 66, bypassing the boring interstate highways that made the Mother Road redundant." Moira MacDonald of The Seattle Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "Though the central idea of nostalgia for a quieter, small-town life may well be lost on this movie's young audience -- Cars finds a pleasant and often sparkling groove." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film two out of five stars, saying "Cars might get us into car world as a gimmick, but it doesn't get us into car world as a state of mind. Thus, the animation, rather than seeming like an expression of the movie's deeper truth, becomes an impediment to it." Derek Adams of Time Out gave the film a positive review, saying "There are many other brilliant scenes, some just as funny but there are just as many occasions where you feel the film's struggling to fire on all cylinders. Still, it's a Pixar film, right? And they're always worth a gander no matter what anyone says."
In its opening weekend, Cars earned $60,119,509 in 3,985 theaters in the United States, ranking number one at the box office. In the United States, the film held onto the number one spot for two weeks before being surpassed by Click and then by Superman Returns the following weekend. It went on to gross $462,216,280 worldwide (ranking number six in 2006 films) and $244,082,982 in the United States (the third highest-grossing film of 2006 in the country, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Night at the Museum). It was the second highest-grossing film released by Walt Disney Pictures, behind Dead Man's Chest and was the highest-grossing animated film of 2006 in the United States, but lost to Ice Age: The Meltdown with $655,388,158 in worldwide totals.
Cars had a highly successful run during the 2006 awards season. Many film critic associations such as the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review named it the best Animated Feature Film of 2006. Cars also received the title of Best Reviewed Animated Feature of 2006 from Rotten Tomatoes. Randy Newman and James Taylor received a Grammy Award for the song "Our Town," which later went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song (an award it lost to "I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth). The film also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, but it lost to Happy Feet. Cars was also selected as the Favorite Family Movie at the 33rd People's Choice Awards. The most prestigious award that Cars received was the inaugural Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. Cars also won the highest award for animation in 2006, the Best Animated Feature Annie Award. In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated this film for its Top 10 Animation Films list. In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated this film for its Top 10 Animation Films list.
Marcus Aurelius Canônico of Folha de S.Paulo described The Little Cars series (Os Carrinhos in Portuguese), a Brazilian computer graphics film series, as a derivative of Cars. Canônico discussed whether lawsuits from Pixar would appear. The Brazilian Ministry of Culture posted Marcus Aurelius Canônico's article on its website.
It has also been noted that the plot of Cars bears a striking resemblance to that of Doc Hollywood, the 1991 romantic comedy which stars Michael J. Fox as a hotshot young doctor, who, after causing a traffic accident in a small town, is sentenced to work at the town hospital, falls in love with a local law student and eventually acquires an appreciation for small town values. Some have gone so far as to say that the makers of Cars plagiarized the script of Doc Hollywood.
A sequel to the film, titled Cars 2, was released on June 24, 2011. It was directed again by John Lasseter, who was inspired for the film while traveling around the world promoting the first film. In the sequel, Lightning McQueen and Mater head to Japan and Europe to compete in the World Grand Prix, but Mater becomes sidetracked with international espionage. The film failed to meet or exceed the critical success of its predecessor, but was still a box office success.
A second sequel, titled Cars 3, was released on June 16, 2017. Lasseter didn't return to direct so Brian Fee took over the directors chair. The film focuses on Lightning McQueen, now a veteran racer, who gets a help from a young race car, Cruz Ramirez, to instruct him for the increasingly high-tech world.