In celebration of Disney+ Day, Disney and Pixar’s original series Cars on the Road will debut exclusively on the streaming service Sept. 8, 2022. The Disney+ Original series follows Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) as they head east from Radiator Springs on a cross-country road trip to meet up with Mater’s sister. Similar to every road trip that one might embark on, the series is a bunch of little adventures all tied into one overall journey. And trust me, this is one road trip you’ll want to sign up for.
The very title of the series reminds everyone that we are leaving the well known Radiator Springs, so don’t expect much of the town and its residents aside from Mater and Lightning. This isn’t another set of Mater’s Tall-Tales either, and though Mater is involved, the series is split pretty evenly between the best friends. Even characters in the Cars realm remind us from the outset of the series, there is such a thing as “too much Mater” and fortunately the creative team seems to have used this as a guiding principle to great results.
The bulk of the series is focused on Lightning and Mater and their unbreakable friendship, despite the many misadventures the two seem to get each other into. As such, we see how strong their friendship is, giving a huge heart to the series. We even see how much more Lightning has grown from the race/speed/race/win character from the feature film entries in the series, learning to be much more selfless than selfish, and even welcoming new friends with open…axles? The series is filled with humor for the young and not-as-young alike, though a number of pop-culture references will likely skyrocket over the heads of the younger set, but they’ll be so engrossed into the action of the cars and characters that it won’t even matter to them. Parents: Get ready to hear a certain song about trucks again and again. I personally heard it a handful of times and then on a seemingly infinite loop in my head afterward…and I don’t even have kids!
The animation for this series is absolutely stunning. Unlike other spin-off streaming series like Monsters at Work, Cars on the Road is actually produced by Pixar Animation Studios and it shows. The craftsmanship that has gone into this series is on par with their theatrical fare. While the character animation is fantastic, it seems that the lighting team was really the group that cut loose on the project. Though, I must add that the fantasy scenes that permeate the series also make it look like the creative teams and artists just really got to have a ton of fun with all the possibilities of the Cars universe. Odes to other animation styles, notably that of Ray Harryhausen and his stop-motion techniques also steal the show for an animation nerd like myself.
Cars on the Road builds into the already deeply rich universe of Cars, adding strong new characters that fans are sure to get attached to, some which add that aforementioned heart to the series. We also see characters we already know and love, with the bulk of the original cast returning where they can in a series that builds the world of Cars into different genres and homages to films of different eras.
As part of the franchise, Cars on the Road holds its own, possibly as one of the better entries in the Cars pantheon, leaving fare like Cars 2 and Mater’s Tall Tales in the dust behind it. Between new characters, returning favorites, and new and familiar locations, the series continues to build the universe we already know. Truth be told, with a little bit more structure, the story team could have probably fleshed this out a bit more and turned it into a fourth Cars film. However, I personally like seeing this franchise more as a series like Cars on the Road – Fully developed and leaving me wanting more. Now bring on season 2!
Cars on the Road premieres on Disney+ on Disney+ Day, September 8th.