The iconic characters are back on the big screen, and this time the stakes are higher than ever. There has been talk in the racing world that Lightning McQueen’s (Owen Wilson) career is facing the last of its glory days as next-generation racer Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) casually beats him in a race. However, with help from Sally (Bonnie Hunt), Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), and newcomer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) who acts as his trainer, McQueen revs up to prove that No. 95 is still number one on the tracks.
The film emphasizes the theme of teamwork. Though Cruz and McQueen’s relationship gets off to a rocky start, they see bits of themselves reflected in each other, and come to realize they also have a lot to learn together.
“What’s so special about this film is not that the girl beats the boy, but that they win together,” said Kerry Washington, the voice of Natalie Certain. “There’s room for the mentor and the mentee. There’s room for the girl and the boy. There’s room for the champion and the newcomer. And if we work together there’s room for everybody at the table. I think that’s one of the most special things about the film.”
In the film, both Cruz and McQueen take on the mentor and mentee roles with each other. As their friendship blossoms, the two learn how to support each other and work as a team. Cristela Alonzo, the voice behind Cruz, hoped that kids will take away the lesson that anything is possible regardless of gender.
“We don’t have enough stories about female characters in a world with male characters where they get to succeed in a way that isn’t romantic, just being empowered and succeeding,” explained Alonzo. “Any kid that feels disenfranchised, disappointed, or like they don’t belong– this is a story for them. This is a story about hope. And we need more stories like this because the kids are the ones that grow up and they’re the ones that take over the country.”
Alonzo grew up in the Rio Grande valley below the poverty line. “Cars 3” is her message to her hometown to dare to dream big.
“Growing up, when you come from a family that doesn’t have a lot, a lot of times parents forget to tell their kids they matter because they’re too busy to survive,” Alonzo said. “I want people down there to know it is possible to have a dream and achieve it. Every day I wake up so grateful to have the opportunities that I have.”
Alonzo said she will be forever grateful to her fourth grade drama teacher, who switched her schedule because he saw potential in her. Moving to Los Angeles and pursuing acting was a leap of faith for Alonzo, as it was for the rest of the cast.
Just like Cruz and McQueen utilize unconventional methods in their training, the cast routinely feels like they approach acting in unconventional ways.
“I think acting is a strange career to begin with. I think any process by which we do our job is a little unusual. We’re pretending for a living. It’s not rocket science or construction–it’s pretending. I think it’s a little weird in itself. And I love it,” said Nathan Fillion, who voices businesscar and sponsor Sterling.
“The whole experience has always been very unconventional,” adds Isiah Whitlock Jr., voice of River Scott, the character based off the real-life racer Wendell Scott. “But it’s been a joy, the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done, the places I’ve been. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Director Brian Fee also would not trade his job for anything in the world. According to Fee, it took a lot of trial and error to discover the true storyline and core relationship of the Pixar movie. He wanted everything to relax with the storytelling and let it unfold naturally. Ultimately, he wanted to share his experience in life as a parent with the audience.
“My kids have influenced this movie so much. I want my daughters to never be afraid to try something because think they’re not good at it. I never want to hear them say certain things are for boys and certain things are for girls,” said Fee. “As a father, if I see that something I said or did had an impact on them and that they’re a little better off than before because of a moment we shared– that’s what life’s about. That’s the best part.”
“Cars 3” races into theaters on June 16.