In 2006, Pixar released a film about sentient automobiles called Cars. We totally loved the relaxed and family-friendly original where Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) learned to appreciate a slower pace in life. And then five years later, Pixar released Cars 2, a film that was…very different. Instead, it was an international spy thriller starring the characters from the first film. Though we still enjoyed it, the sequel didn’t go over well with audiences and earned pretty poor reviews.
Now, with the release of Cars 3, Pixar seems to be atoning for its mistake, but it’s a little surprising: many people have noticed that Cars 3 basically acts like the high-stakes spy adventure in Cars 2 never even happened.
Yup, Cars 3 feels like the franchise skipped over the middle chapter entirely. The plot revolves around McQueen as an aging race car who faces inevitable retirement. It has all the feel-good vibes and moral lessons of the first Cars. As Polygon points out, Cars 3 makes no mention of the major friendship development between Mater and McQueen, or of Mater’s honorary knighthood, or the World Grand Prix in Tokyo. It’s all been wiped from the record.
So why the big shift?
While we don’t know the exact reason for the seeming amnesia of the characters in movie 3, we do know that Cars 2 was a departure for the series. Since it didn’t go over great with audiences, it’s likely that Pixar, ever the smart company, knew that continuing the franchise meant returning to their roots. And we’re totally good with that!
Gizmodo writer Germain Lussier also presents another theory for the abrupt change back to Radiator Springs. He suggests that the success of Disneyland’s Cars Land in the California Adventure park made visitors really establish a connection to the first film and the town of Radiator Springs. By setting the third film back in the town, it could also make viewers want to return to the park, and visitors want to see the new film!
If you’ve been to the incredible Cars Land section of Disneyland, you’ll get why this theory makes sense. The totally immersive environment makes you really feel like you’re in Radiator Springs. We can see why Pixar would think viewers would want to get back there as often as possible!
Whatever the reason, Cars 3 seems like a welcome comeback for the franchise. Hey, as long as the adorable, rough-around-the-edges Mater makes an appearance, we don’t really care what they do with it.