The cars are normally the stars at the North American International Auto Show, but one car’s star may shine a little brighter at next month’s Detroit event.
Walt Disney’s Pixar animation studio plans to not only announce the third episode of its wildly popular “Cars” franchise, but also roll out a life-size version of the film’s four-wheel hero, Lightning McQueen.
“Having Pixar choose to join NAIAS and share an early sneak peek at their next film — from one of the most famous movie franchises in the studio’s storied history — is proof that Detroit is home to all facets of automotive, whether it’s fantasy or real-life,” said Detroit car dealer Sam Slaughter, who serves as the chairman of the 2017 NAIAS.
The original “Cars” made its debut in 2006, and featured Hollywood celebrities including Paul Newman and Owen Wilson, the latter serving as the voice of the film’s star, Lightning McQueen, a race car in a NASCAR-like series who learns some lessons about life and driving during an unplanned stop in the all-but-forgotten town of Radiator Springs.
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While the 2011 sequel, “Cars 2,” didn’t generate nearly the high level of critic praise, it still packed theaters, the two films collectively generating more than $1 billion in box office revenue – and an estimated $10 billion in merchandising sales.
“‘Cars 3’ is a love letter to racing and its roots, so we could not be more excited to be a part of the North American International Auto Show to share a little bit of our film with our fellow car enthusiasts,” the sequel’s director Brian Fee said.
Saying a goal of the filmmakers was to “create worlds and characters that ring true to our audiences,” Fee would only provide a hint of the plot for “Cars 3.” It appears that, as in real life, Lightning McQueen has seen the racing world overtake him, with newer, faster cars pushing him into the pits, seemingly for good.
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“To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez, with her own plan to win,” says a news release, “plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet, and a few unexpected turns.”
How they’ll handle the reappearance of the Fabulous Hudson Hornet will be one of the surprises considering Paul Newman, who voiced that character, died in 2008.
The Disney team is promising to show off a teaser of the new film, though they will likely continue working on the final edit for several more months. “Cars 3” isn’t set to roll into theaters until June 16.
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But a life-size version of Lightning McQueen will roll onto the stage at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Unlike another full-size mock-up on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Disney is hinting this will be a working model operated by remote control.
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