The Cars franchise has varied in quality throughout its three cinematic releases, but there’s always been something quite charming about the friendship between Owen Wilson‘s Lightning McQueen and Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater. Pixar knew what the film’s strengths were and with each project kept that at the base of its hard; no matter where the story leads it. That very same thing can be said with Pixar’s true first animated series, Cars on the Road.
Across the various episodes, the duo is on the road for a few days to take part in the wedding of Mater’s sister. Besides the surprise revelation of Mater’s family background–which has quite a fun twist that doesn’t overstay its welcome–and some more fun between the leading pair, there’s something quite special with the Pixar series. Each episode is its own little storyline that offers something quite fun and a great time.
Steve Purcell and his team tried to offer something fun with each episode, such as playing around with different genres, film tributes, and generally just taking these iconic characters and putting them into surprising scenarios. While one episode explores the pre-historic history of the Cars universe with a Ray Harryhausen animation twist, another will give us The Shining with a vehicular twist.
The series doesn’t revolutionize anything and there’s no real need for it to do so. From the opening, the show knows exactly what it’s about and doesn’t try to be anything else. What helps with that aspect is that these episodes are pretty digestible. You’ll get through an episode in just around seven to eight minutes, which includes credits and it helps give each episode a quick pace.
The show goes by fast and still has its memorable moments. McQueen goes through quite a bit of hell this time around, as the poor guy has to live through a haunted mansion and even face his fear of clowns; a highlight of the season. Mater is as enjoyable as he’s always been and the show doesn’t change their characters much; mostly just sees how their personalities would work or even clash depending on the situation.
We also get some new additions this season with characters like Quinta Bruson‘s Ivy and Dana Powell‘s Mato. They are fun additions but don’t really take much of the focus away from our leading duo. There is a point in the story where they make it seem like they’ll have someone joining them for the road but that storyline is swiftly scrapped. In a way, it did make you wonder why they included it besides for a few gags and it was a shame not to explore how their dynamic would change with a new friend tagging along.
The animation is great and everyone looks the way you’d expect them to. As stated earlier, there is an episode that pays tribute to claymation that highlights the attention to detail. A lot of this series feels like a love letter to the many genres and films where the franchise started. There aren’t any major twists and turns but a simple joyful ride with two close friends.
Cars on the Road is just a great time and has something for everyone. Kids will just have a blast with Mater and McQueen’s usual dynamic while also enjoying how these two play off of each other. In the meantime, adults will get a blast out of Easter eggs from Mad Max, The Shining, and more sprinkled throughout the series. In a way, it could be the perfect jumping-off point for anyone wanting to spark their kid’s curiosities about some classic films when they start asking why a bunch of cars are driving through the desert challenging strangers to survive the Thundercone.