As you may recall, I have a complicated relationship with the Pixar franchise Cars. Now there’s a new installment of the Cars series coming out, and, as you know, it’s my solemn duty to evaluate it. We’ve got some new car-characters that have been revealed, so let’s see what we can learn.
It’s worth reminding everyone that the teaser trailers we’ve seen for the movie so far have been pretty dark in tone, with Lightning McQueen, the series’ protagonist, involved in a pretty horrific-looking crash on a racetrack. It doesn’t look like he’s going to die or anything like that, though I bet an all-car version of The Big Chill was an idea they at least toyed with early on.
Here’s what we know so far–two of these characters were revealed in January, while the rest were revealed late last week. Let’s start with the previously-unveiled race cars:
First we have Jackson Storm. This is a very modern, purpose-built race car that will likely remind Lightning McQueen he’s getting old. The specs are good, an 850 horsepower V8 and 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. Storm doesn’t seem to be based on any existing car, but I see some hints of GT-R in the design, especially the rear quarter.
So, the press release says “Jackson Storm is literally built to be unbeatable—and he knows it.” Does that imply some sort of accepted eugenics in the Cars universe? Also, there’s the hanging question of who built him to be unbeatable? If it was other cars, then this would be the human equivalent of scientists genetically engineering, say, a perfect Olympic pole vaulter, or something.
If other cars design and build their fellow cars, that implies a very, very different set of mores and ethics in the Cars universe. Essentially, cars have the power to play god, creating new life.
How do sub-par cars exist in this world, if that’s the case? Why hasn’t their world turned into a eugenic dystopia of just the ‘ideal’ cars ruling over the less-than optimal masses? Is this a new ability? I’m so confused.
Next, there’s Cruz Ramirez, who seems to be a more-or-less stock car– in this case a ‘2017 CRS Sports Coupe.’ It’s quick with a DOHC V6 of unspecified power, but able to hit 60 in 3.8 seconds.
So, like many other cars in the Cars universe, this one has a specific make and model. Are car companies like families? How many are built of each model? How do the factories operate, financially? There’s no one to buy these cars, so how are they supported? Some sort of reproduction tax?
Okay, let’s get to the characters that were just revealed last week. First we have Natalie Certain:
According to Disney’s press release, Certain is:
... a highly respected statistical analyst who knows her numbers. Book-smart and mathematically gifted, Certain may earn top marks in her ability to evaluate a racer’s stats, but she could be underestimating the importance of determination.
Okay, got it. She’s smart. Based on how movies go, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the other cars tries really hard to get her to “loosen up” or some shit.
She appears to be loosely based on a Tesla Model S. The C-pillar and overall window line look similar, and those door handles seem to suggest Tesla as well. Being an electric car like a Tesla fits the competent, modern, math-oriented character as well, I think.
She also reminds me of another issue about the Cars universe: how are car genders determined? I mean, I have a pet theory that involves stunted humans permanently installed inside each car, and the gender of that inner human would determine the sex, but if this is not the case, then I have no idea.
The cars don’t seem to reproduce sexually, and I haven’t noticed anything that suggests differentiated genitals. In fact, almost all of the sexual dimorphism shown is localized to the voice, and maybe to certain details of the mouth and eyes, but these are very subtle.
Another new character is Sterling, who is named after a pretty-forgotten car brand and actually seems to take styling cues from a specific place.
Design-wise, Sterling looks a lot like one of these re-imagined BMW 2000CS concepts that we saw a few years ago, minus the trademark kidney grilles:
I can’t say for certain that was the inspiration, but that car-dude really does remind me of a modernized 2000CS. He’s nice looking!
Okay, last, we have the one that possibly brings up the most disturbing questions:
Okay, so meet Miss Fritter. Here’s how Disney’s press release describes her:
... a local legend at the Thunder Hollow Speedway demolition derby. Fritter’s formidable school-bus size is intimidating, but it’s her smoke stacks of doom, razor-sharp stop sign and crazy collection of her victims’ license plates that usually steers her opponents in the other direction.
Now, I’m not the first to point this out, but I think it’s a question worth asking: what the fuck is going on here? Is Pixar just trolling us now? I ask this because Fritter there is a school bus.
A school bus is designed to transport human children to and from school. I have a kid, I’ve seen the process happen. Such a vehicle is incapable of, say, transporting cars, even microcars, without extensive modifications.
So why don’t cars in the Cars universe–who presumably have never seen a human child–ask Miss Fritter “What the fuck are you?”
How would cars in the Cars universe make sense of this? The existence of windows and door handles and (maybe?) seats is already bad enough. That implies the existence of humans in their past somewhere. But a school bus does more than just imply via details: the whole existence of this vehicle design requires the existence of human children, full stop.
Why would Disney/Pixar open this can of worms? I can deal with the existence of a demolition derby fine. We humans have fighting and blood sports, too. But once they made this character a school bus, that should force the makers of the Cars movies to at least put forth some explanation as to what the fuck is going on with this clearly human-derived world that is now human free.
Maybe, just maybe, this film will address this. I’m not getting my hopes up, but if they’re going to include a school bus, I think we as fans have a right to know what the fuck is going on. What have you done with the children? If there are no more children? Who is still making school buses, and why?
Maybe it’s genetic? The school bus genes have just been passed down, and eventually the ghoulish automotive eugenicists that made Jackson Storm will wipe out the remaining school buses?
There’s so many complicated things going on here. I hope we get some answers.