The Fucked Up World of ‘Cars’ & ‘Planes’

Chad White

It was June 9, 2006 when the shiny new Pixar franchise Cars gave the box office a new set of wheels. The film had been pushed back from its original November 2005 release date pending Disney’s contract expiration with Pixar.  Upon its release, the world seemed to accept it into the Pixar fold, a studio with a great rap sheet thanks to hits like Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and A Bug’s Life. Kids fell in love with Mater, a character that gave Larry the Cable Guy another chance at life. Even the game was considered a decent port -- although, it was still pretty lackluster. Our readiness to get back into the world of Cars was spawned in the sequel Cars 2. Although it was more of a Mater movie, it further fledged out the already gaseous world of Cars. Enter the spin off no one wanted to see: Planes. Dane Cook leads an all-star voice cast of planes, trains and other automobiles – I’m sorry I had to do that -- in a movie that tried to continue building on the world of Cars.

Many theories -- including the big one, The Pixar Theory -- as to where the humans are have cropped up over the years. Many believe humanity dead as the atmosphere on the planet is too dense, filled with noxious gasses for mammals to breathe. Various articles under the title “The Horrifying Truth Behind Pixar’s ‘Cars’ Universe” are circulating the internet trying to fill in the gap provided by the humans absence. However, there are moments where actual animals are found in the world. These are few and far between but they’re still interesting captures in their own right.

Set these ideas aside and you have a fully realized world with talking machinery much like The Brave Little Toaster series.

For one, cars and planes rely on one act in order to keep fit, sane and entertained: racing. Everyone seems to race; it’s like the baseball of motor vehicles. Lightening McQueen’s entire motivation behind life, in fact, is to be the best at racing. The first movie hinged on this idea and even went so far as to introduce the Piston Cup as the premiere event for racing. The events of Cars led McQueen to becoming the biggest star in racing as evidenced in Cars 2. By the start of the sequel, he’s a four time Piston Cup winner who travels often, leaving his friend Mater and girlfriend (?) Sally in Radiator Springs. The Piston Cup proves too easy for the racer and thus the introduction of the World Grand Prix is started by Sir Miles Axelrod, a green fuel producing advocate bent on getting Allinol as the main fuel.

Planes follows a similar route to the first Cars. Racing is, again, the greatest thing a vehicle can do as Dusty Crophopper wants to fly high – literally – with the other planes. In fact, plane racing is the next biggest event next to car racing. It seems to be the only thing to sustain the entire world after the Piston Cup ends. Crophopper yearns to enter the Wings Across The Globe race only to be put down by mostly everyone from coworkers to his future mentor, war torn veteran Skipper Riley. He gets in on a fluke and subsequently wins despite backlash from every single plane and car that comes across his path. Planes is ultimately a carbon copy of Cars even though Disney Toons was reportedly adamant on not repeating the Cars story. No matter how hard the team tried to make a new movie, they remade Cars.

Continuing down a strange path, planes and cars often get upgrades to their bodies. When I first saw Cars, for some odd reason, I imagined the cars as real people. So when McQueen urged the residents of Radiator Springs to help him prepare for his big race, I saw a man trying to tell the citizens to help him run. Really, it’s a glorified track movie in my mind and it shouldn’t affect the way you see the film; it’s my personal views. Shut up. Now, when McQueen received his “upgrades,” I saw a man getting several modifications to his own body. Paint jobs, new headlights, and even a new set of water ready pontoons for Crophopper in the Planes follow up Planes: Fire & Rescue find these motor vehicle “people” changing themselves for the better in a major way. Crophopper even got new wings. With his wing replacement and transition from landing gear to pontoons coupled with my idea of envisioning the vehicles as people, the character basically became a new person. Can you imagine if humans did this to themselves? Can you see these augmentations being complete reality a la Deus Ex Human Revolution? A new paint job is like a human getting changing their skin color. Or a car’s new chassis is equal to major bone realignment.

To that effect, these modifications to the body have really affected planes and cars over time. The series features men with the inability to fully utilize their abilities. In Cars, Doc Hudson is unwilling to race anymore due to his fear of crashing. A similar trait is found in his Planes counterpart, Skipper Riley. McQueen himself is unable to drift let alone use headlights while Crophopper won’t venture higher than a few feet above the ground. All four of the leading men suffer from a form of impotency as an excuse to not perform at the levels at which they expect to perform. Of course it wouldn’t be a Disney film if they didn’t overcome their personal obstacles. Each one has a breaking point at which they final decide to get out of mediocrity into true greatness.

Even if these cars and planes can exist among alongside one another, there is obviously going to be something wrong with the environment. As mentioned by the character Lil’ Dipper in Fire & Rescue, fires happen all the time. “You only hear about the big ones” she says to Crophopper as her crew readies itself to battle yet another supposedly common blaze. That’s pretty scary when you think about it. Fires happen all the time in our world but Cars is theorized to take place in a post human world in the between 2100 and 2200. Fire needs two things to burn: oxygen and carbon. In simpler terms, it needs heat, air and fuel. One gallon of gas yields about twenty pounds of carbon dioxide. Oxygen is what causes a fire to burn hotter and faster. With just a tiny bit of oxygen (not enough to sustain life but enough for fires) mixed with the copious amounts of carbon dioxide produced by the gas guzzling vehicles can trigger an alarming number of fires. Most of the world we’ve seen until this point is dry and arid desert save for the bustling cities like Tokyo, London, and Paris (as seen in Cars 2). This is enough cause for alarm for an easily burnable world.

Other smaller issues crop up throughout the series. Babies are brought by the stork opposed to being born. Or maybe they’re built like in Robots. This was never established. Also, the world’s animals are other vehicles. Tractors are cows and they’re treated like crap. Mater taunts them incessantly. Were these animals built as an intentionally dumber sect of car/mammals? If so, what’s the point? And how do bigger planes (like Cabbie the flying boxcar in Fire & Rescue) or ships (like Tony Trihull the combat ship in Cars 2) move about when not in use? Where do they live? How do they get fuel like their friends do?

Maybe I’m just over thinking this. Perhaps none of this matters. Actually, I know none of this matters. What’s important is that I’m able to escape in these worlds, accepting their realities as my own for the ninety or so minutes I spend with them. Cars and Planes interest me on different levels with their ability to establish a society based on racing and fuel consumption.