Pixar takes the wraps off life-size 'Cars 3’ star

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

A real car-size superstar had its moment to shine on stage Sunday at Cobo Center, as Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar Animation Studios revealed a life-sized version of Lightning McQueen at the Detroit auto show. Ka-chow.

The reveal of McQueen, star of the "Cars" franchise, kicked off the auto show’s press conferences as it headed into its new AutoMobili-D exhibits and news conferences focused on autonomous and assisted driving development and technologies.

A lifesize Lightning McQueen car will be on display during the public days of the Detroit auto show.

The third installment of the blockbuster “Cars” franchise is due out this summer. Pixar also will have a “Cars 3” themed display on the show floor during press preview for the North American International Auto Show this week that will continue during public days, Jan. 14-22.

John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer who wore a “Cars” shirt, said the idea for the film series stemmed from Lasseter’s own life. His father was a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership.

Development of the first film, which hit the big screen in 2006, started with scouting at the 2001 auto show, Lasseter said.

“This entire giant franchise, it all started here,” Lasseter said.

The press conference included an early peek at the movie, which arrives in theaters June 16. In this “Cars” movie, racer No. 95 Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is pushed out of the sport. To get back into racing he needs help from a young race technician, Cruz Ramirez, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet.

"In 'Cars 1,' Lightning McQueen was the hot-shot rookie who came in and took the racing world by storm and nobody knew ...  how to deal with the incredible race car," Lasseter said. "'Cars 3' now, he is the veteran, the crafty veteran. And the story is about how he has to deal with the new hot-shot rookies that are coming in and taking the racing world by storm."

Pixar also provided some details of two new “Cars 3” characters: Piston Cup young racer Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer) and sports coupe Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo).


Jackson Storm was developed to look like a NASCAR racer 20 years in the future. His design is angular, sharp and low to the ground.

Cruz Ramirez, a strong female character who becomes McQueen’s trainer in the film, is not a race car, but was designed to be able to take on racers at their level, Pixar executives said.

Lightning McQueen, who ages in the "Cars 3" installment and becomes the veteran on the race track, keeps his red paint job but gets new graphics.

A “Cars 3” trailer posted on YouTube, which has more than 22.5 million views, shows McQueen crashing badly during a race. It ends with, “From this moment, everything will change.”

The first “Cars” movie grossed more than $244 million at the box office in 2006, according to the Internet Movie Database. The second film, released in 2011, grossed nearly $191.5 million.

For complete coverage of the Detroit auto show go to detroitnews.com/autos/auto-show