The world of the Cars films has always been a bit of a puzzle for me. I don’t have a massive affection for the films, although quite enjoyed movies number one and three. The origins of this particular film world are said to lie in a road trip that John Lasseter – who directed the first two movies – took with his family. That, combined with work Pixar had already been doing on a film called The Yellow Car, set things into motion, and in 2006, the film debuted as Pixar’s fifth feature.
I don’t want to delve into the critical response to Cars. I don’t think it’s going out on too far of a limb to call it Pixar’s least-regarded boxset, but also, I get that these films bring pleasure to millions of people. I’ve no intention of sneering at that.
But I have questions. Some of which were addressed by the theory that did the rounds originating at Screen Crush, about the dark origins of the Cars movie universe. You can read that here.
Don’t get too attached to that theory, though. Cars 3 destroys it.
My questions, then, stem from the fact that I can’t buy the internal logic of the movies, to the level where I’m questioning it while I watch it. That I don’t think the universe that Cars exists in makes an awful lot of sense. I get that it’s fictional, and leaps of faith are required. But that internal logic is odd.
Questions, then, with possible answers. But mainly questions.
SPOILERS FOR THE CARS MOVIES LIE AHEAD
Who actually built everything?
Cars films are very clever about having different types of vehicles for different jobs. As such, you want something high up, call a forklift. Head off to the diner for some fuel to guzzle, and said diner has wide enough lanes for the assorted vehicles to gather round for some social times. Things have been thought through, at least to a degree.
But take Cars 3 as an example. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that at said diner, there’s a speaker system through which you place your order. Let’s take that one small piece of technology as an example of the questions this world raises. Who built it? Who rigged the wiring/installed the wireless technology to allow the orders to be transmitted to the kitchen? Is there actually a car in the kitchen cooking things? What currency do cars use? And why would cars need money anyway?
Who maintains the roads? Who built those amazing stadia to watch races in? I mean, the list goes on and on. I think it’s wise that the films never address any of this head on, incidentally, as there’s a sporting chance they’d be there all day. Perhaps humans built all of it before they were, er, ‘removed’ from the world? Well no. Not so. And that’s where Cars 3 directly comes in.
Is there anything to that Cars universe theory that did the rounds?
It’s not official, but one of the Pixar team posited an origin of the Cars movie universe, that did seem to make sense. We’ve chatted about it up there. The basics are that the evolution of the automobile, most notably smart cars, led to vehicles realising that they didn’t need humans anymore. As such, the world evolved, with humans gradually eradicated. Nothing sinister there.
The problems? Plentiful, but this is the key one: the smart car as we know it has really only been a thing for the last ten years or so, and driverless cars are only now being tested on working roads.
Cars 3, however, proves that the Cars universe, and a world full of cars with eyes and mouths and stuff, dates back to at least 1954. Which blows the whole smart car idea away. It was an analogue time.
We get a flashback sequence in the film of Doc Hudson in his racing days. We know that Hudson’s last race took place in 1954, and in the archive footage we’re shown, the background clearly shows a) Hudson racing and b) a crowd of, er, cars. No humans are in view.
Let’s, then, explore this further. Let’s say evolution moved quickly, and the removal of humans and the overrunning of cars took a very swift ten years. With that in mind, the cars world goes back to the 1940s at the latest.
Why do they need a radio in Doc Hudson’s garage?
Every car since the 1950s has had a radio in it. Why did Doc Hudson need a standalone model?
Are the cars organic?
At the heart of the universe here is what the cars actually are. They’re clearly more than pure machines, because they have great big eyes on the windscreens, and mouths at the front. But what are they? The fact that Doc Hudson died in the first film suggests that they lean towards some kind of finite lifeform, and Pixar’s creative director has revealed that the original plan for Cars 3 would have included a scene that explains how cars die. But it was cut, understandably, for being a little downbeat.
We know that cars need to eat, we know that they take Gaspirin when they’re feeling ill – it’s on a background billboard – so it’s safe to assume that they’re a hybrid of machinery and organic matter. RoboCop on wheels, with a U certificate, basically.
What’s the difference between a girl car and a boy car, anatomically?
I’m not answering that.
Where do little cars come from?
Oh lord. Okay, I’ll have a go. Not wishing to get all mucky, but how do cars procreate and make new cars? Is it a case of – The Boss Baby-like – offspring popping of a production line? Or do Mommy Car and Daddy Car have a quiet moment in the garage where they play with each other’s respective exhausts?
As discussed, the cars clearly have some organic qualities to them, and thus vehicular intercourse is not out of the question. But then, the follow-up question is how does a car give birth to a new car? Because that sounds like it could get a bit messy. Does it pop out of the boot or something? What does mommy car look like when she’s six months pregnant?
Why do the cars have doors?
Given that there appear to be no human beings at all, why does pretty much every vehicle in the Cars films have a door? Going back to the theory posited on the dark origins of the films, that suggests that the vehicles ultimately became sentient, and realised it didn’t need human beings anymore. Thus, the cars take on the personality of the last human to drive them. How that applies to new cars, brought into a non-human world, is a fork that I could lose another few hundred words on, so won’t. But anyway: the theory says they have doors to stop their guts and eyes oozing out.
Thankfully, that’s just a theory, because the questions just pile up. Why would you need to cut a door in the side to stop things spilling out? Why, if there are no humans, do said doors have handles? Who are the doors for, exactly? And as for guts and eyes oozing out: there are surely more practical ways to hold such things in place?
Why don’t they make engine noises most of the time?
Right: if the cars are powered by some degree of organic matter, why would they make engine noises? If they’re hybrids of mechanics and tissue, then it’s understandable. But: why do they sometimes make engine noises, and sometimes don’t? What are the rules there? In the races themselves, the growl of the engines is loud and angry. When the cars are just pottering around the place – and I checked this with Cars 3 – they don’t make a murmur. Nothing.
My only guess is that organics can get you up to, say, 30mph, and after that you need an engine to do the work. But that’s me throwing the films a line there.
How does a car write a newspaper?
The latest film refers back to a newspaper headline at one point, and that left me wondering: who typeset the story? Who designed it? Who prints it? Who precisely pins the newspaper cutting to the wall? Who comes up with the fonts, even? Is there a font car?
Why does the Cars universe need a school bus?
One of the characters in Cars 3 is a school bus. Not a cars-sized school bus. But a school bus designed for children to get on. Why would that even exist in a Cars universe? Wouldn’t a school bus for cars be, like, a car transporter or something?
We’ve established the cars of this world date back to at least the 1950s, and the iteration of bus we saw in Cars 3 post-dates that. Basically, someone in the Cars universe designed a bus to take people to school that they can’t physically get on.
Also: in the screenshot above, one of the vehicles has a nose piercing. Who, in the cars world, offers that services? Is there a darker Cars film, with tattoo parlours, pubs, stand-up comedy clubs and crime?
Why does Mater have pointy teeth, and virtually nobody else has? And why are his teeth the only ones that are rotting?
Jar Jar Mater is not the best character in the Cars films, but he does have something of a visual quirk: he has teeth that stick out. What exactly does he bite on that automotive Darwinism has determined he requires such teeth for? Come to the think of it, seeing as the cars tend to guzzle fuel, why do they actually need teeth in the first place? They all seem to have them, albeit mainly in solid blocks.
Mater, notably, is the only one I’ve spotted whose teeth are tinged with yellow too. Is the fuel that he guzzles full of sugar or something?
Also, why is Mater a bit of a tit?
At one stage in Cars 3, there’s a chat about them running moonshine. Why on earth would a car need moonshine, why would it be illegal to a car, and who is it for?
In Cars 2, the vehicles travel the world, and arrive in Japan. Where sushi and wasabi are on the menu. Does this prove, definitively, that cars eat things then? Because if they do, how does that work? How does a car digest food and – again, not wanting to be too yucky – where does the waste go? I’ve never seen a toilet in a cars film, nor have I seen Lightning McQueen nip around the back of the truck for a cheeky wazz.
Also: on the sushi thing. Who catches the fish?
Also, if there are no humans – or seemingly any other animals – in the world of cars, who gave the fish a pass? There’s even a sign for a crab sanctuary in Cars 3. I can only assume that Crabs is one of the thus-far unnamed spin-offs.
Is there air traffic control?
The Cars movie universe has extended of course, to cover a pair of not-great Planes movies. These raise further questions. It’s logical to follow that in a planet dominated by transportation machinery, there’s a subset of Trains, Ships (boats are visible in the new film), Bicycles, Pogo Sticks and Space Rockets movies to be made (the latter is actually rumoured).
But even Planes raises questions. If the planes are able to control and determine themselves, do they need air traffic control? Also, do cars have to go to an airport if they want to get on a car? Why, in a world where cars can build shit and eat nice food does someone – presumably another car – not just modify all the cars so they can fly in the first place? Are there technological restrictions of which we’re not aware? They’ve had 50 years at least of this technology. Did they not see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
Are there any human beings left in this world at all? If not, where did they all go?
A few questions here can be answered by just having a few useful humans pottering around. But the Cars world seems 100% free of human beings. So what’s going on there, then? If you go with the idea that cars became so smart that they just worked out they didn’t need humans, what did they do with them? Did they let the humans build the dazzling stadia, the little technological bits and bobs, and then savagely kill them off? Because, honestly, that’s a Cars prequel I’d find fascinating to watch. Get the people rebooting Saw to do it.
There are so many more. Are cars religious? Who is their god? When they die, does just the organic bit get buried/cremated? Where do naughty cars go? Is there a cars Santa Claus? What films do cars watch at drive-ins? Do they watch films called Humans, and post silly articles on the internet?
I’ve got to stop. My brain hurts. Keep the questions coming below, as well as well-founded accusations of me taking stuff like this too seriously.