Radiator Springs Eternal: Meet the Cars of Pixar’s “Cars 3”

We recently had a chance to screen about 40 minutes of Cars 3, the upcoming installment in Pixar’s anthropomorphic-automobile saga. The good news is that, after the uneven, Mater-centric detour of the second movie, the focus is squarely back on what the series did best in the first film: weave a rich tapestry of automotive nerdery and idyllic Americana set against the backdrop of stock-car racing. --In the new film, the Last Great American Hero makes an appearance as Junior Moon, a home-brew “fuel” runner turned early racer. Nico Rosberg’s favorite guy, Lewis Hamilton, makes his second appearance in a Cars picture, this time as Lightning McQueen’s J.A.R.V.I.S.-like digital assistant, and the whole wacky gang from Radiator Springs returns—even the late Paul Newman’s Doc Hudson gets some screen time. Fresh on the scene are Cristela Alonzo’s Cruz Ramirez, the trainer who helps whip Lightning back into shape after a brutal crash; McQueen’s younger nemesis, Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer); and Nathan Fillion as Sterling, Lightning’s new team owner.--Click through for a look at both new characters from the film, as well as fresh renderings of old favorites.Voiced by Rushmore co-writer and Zoolander co-star Owen Wilson, the McQueen of Cars 3 is older and wearier, staring down the end of his professional racing career. The Pixar team took away some of his catlike bounce and treat him to a massive wreck and a subsequent grand funk that he’s gotta fight his way out of.An overly spunky trainer who works for Sterling’s squad, Cruz is tasked with getting McQueen back into shape; the friction and eventual mutual understanding between the characters provides the film’s emotional centerpiece. Cruz is voiced by comedienne Cristela Alonzo.Like Lightning in the first film, Jackson Storm is quick, cocky, and friendless. He also lacks McQueen’s goofy charm. Younger, fitter, and faster than the aging vet, the Armie Hammer–voiced Storm stands as McQueen’s archrival on the track.The Petty Blue Plymouth Superbird, voiced by King Richard himself, returns for an appearance, this time as crew chief for his nephew, Cal Weathers.Voiced by Kyle Petty, son of Richard and grandson of NASCAR pioneer Lee, Cal Weathers shares Lightning’s wariness of the young generation. Unlike McQueen, he may not be out to beat them.’75 Cadillac Coupe DeVille Tex Dinoco, voiced by legendary racing promoter Humpy Wheeler, returns, still hoping to add McQueen to his roster.Browncoats rejoice! Firefly and Castle star Nathan Fillion makes an appearance as Sterling, McQueen’s new boss, whose plans for the aging champ may be at odds with McQueen’s own desires.Scandal’s Kerry Washington takes a turn as Natalie Certain, a statistical analyst whose calculations are anathema to McQueen’s seat-of-the-pants style.An old-time, bona-fide legend of the early Piston Cup circuit and contemporary of the late Doc Hudson, McQueen’s mentor, Junior Moon is based on and voiced by the singular Junior Johnson, one of the most colorful characters in the history of American racing. His character model is based on Johnson’s old ’39 Ford.Based on pioneering African-American driver Wendell Scott—the first black man to win a major NASCAR race—River Scott is voiced by The Wire’s Isiah Whitlock, Jr.Louise Smith passed away about two months before the first Cars film was released. The franchise pays tribute to the woman they called the First Lady of Racing with Louise Nash, voiced by Margo Martindale, who played the memorably hard Mags Bennett on Justified.Chris Cooper gives voice to a former Piston Cup team owner based on racing’s most famous rule-bender, Smokey Yunick. If you’re even a casual motorsport aficionado, his first appearance in the film will tug hard at the heartstrings in that particular Pixar manner.Shannon Spake of Fox Sports appears in automotive form as Shannon Spokes, a track reporter for the Racing Sports Network.Ramone, Cheech Marin’s ’59 Chevy, once again rolls low and slow on the streets of Radiator Springs.Bonnie Hunt returns as Sally Carrera, McQueen’s 996-generation Porsche 911 girlfriend.Pixar stalwart John Ratzenberger reprises the role of McQueen’s race transporter, Mack.Lloyd Sherr plays Fillmore for the second time. The Microbus was voiced by the late George Carlin in the first film.Paul Dooley plays Willys MB Sarge for the third time.Ramone’s wife and proprietor of the V8 Café, Flo, is once again voiced by Jenifer Lewis.Katherine Helmond returns as Radiator Springs’ doddering old Model T matriarch, Lizzie.Hicks, McQueen’s Regalesque antagonist in the first film, makes another appearance. Bob Peterson takes over the character’s voice duties from Michael Keaton.Once again brought to life by racer Darrell Waltrip, late-’70s Chevy stocker Darrell Cartrip continues with his race commentary duties.Ray Magliozzi of Car Talk fame lends his voice to Dusty, a ’65 Dodge A-100 and one-half of the Rust-eze brothers.The late Tom Magliozzi of Car Talk returns as his beloved ’63 Dart in the form of Rusty Rust-eze. Might this mark the Rust-eze boys’ final appearance in the franchise?Played once again by Tony Shalhoub (Monk, The Man Who Wasn’t There), excitable Cinquecento Luigi remains as part of the Rust-eze pit crew.Voiced by Pixar’s Guido Quaroni, the tire-changing whiz of a forklift returns for a third outing.Star of the second Cars film, Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater works best in smaller doses, which seems to be the case in Cars 3.A wanton, rampaging school bus, psychotic license-plate collector, and figure-eight mud-racing ace, Miss Fritter appears in an action-and-humor-packed scene straight out of deep Appalachia. She’s voiced by Orange is the New Black’s Lea DeLaria.
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