This fun word is recognizable almost anywhere as the famous racer Lightning McQueen’s trademark catchphrase. Hailing from Pixar’s Studios (before it was purchased by The Walt Disney Company), the 2006 feature film Cars has created some of the best automotive characters we’ve seen to date! From the snaggle-toothed Mater to the sweet yet sassy Sally, the Cars cast is a high-speed, fast-moving, fun-loving bunch.
So where did the inspiration for all the Cars characters come from?
For that, we’ll have to take a look at the historic Route 66, one of the original U.S. Highways that became one of the most famous roads in America after serving as a major path for those who wished to travel west. The rising popularity of the highway resulted in the growing prosperity of communities along its path, and today Route 66 and its own characters have become American icons used in films, books, and television shows. Scroll down to see which historical pieces of Route 66’s story were developed into Cars characters!
This 2002 996-series Porsche 911 Carrera, voiced by Bonnie Hunt in the film, was inspired by Dawn Welch, owner of the historic Rock Cafe in Stroud, Oklahoma. Her restaurant is one of the most acclaimed along Route 66 and consistently supports a unique dining crowd of tourists and travelers. Dawn herself is quite the character, having told off famous country singer Garth Brooks when she was 14 after he played one too many pranks on her at Ken’s Pizza in Yukon, Oklahoma where they worked together. Looks like we know where Sally got her sass!
Michael Wallis provided the distinctive baritone voice of the old timer Mercury police car, telling a speeding Lightning McQueen, “Boy, you’re in a heap of trouble.” Besides being a superb voice actor, Michael served as a Route 66 consultant for the film, having written 14 books on the famous highway, including the bestselling book that shot him into prominence, “Route 66: The Mother Road.” While working on the film, Michael guided the Pixar crew on two tours of Route 66 to help conduct research for the storyline, animator, and characters.
The 1960s VW Bus, voiced by George Carlin, is a stereotypical hippie, his character unofficially based on Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire. Bob lived a hippie lifestyle along Route 66, driving up and down in his VW microbus, which is equipped with a solar panel for supplemental power, selling his intricate artwork. Today, his microbus is displayed at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac. The character Fillmore’s name is a reference to the Fillmore East, a venue that served as a prominent location for rock performances throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The lovable tow truck in Cars, voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, is a composite of NASCAR superfan Douglas “Mater” Keever of North Carolina, Dean Walker of the Kansas Historic Route 66 Association, and Harley Russell, a co-owner of the Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Oklahoma. Dean is known for being able to turn his feet backwards and is frequently found at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum in Baxter Springs, Kansas. Harley and his wife Annabelle performed musical numbers and offbeat comedy as the Mediocre Music Makers at their shop in Erick, which Harley himself describes as the “Redneck Capital of the World.” Harley’s speaking voice is actually said to sound very much like Mater’s!
Pretty neat stuff! Looks like the Pixar team really does their research for all their films! There are actually a number of Route 66 historical influences in Cars… do you know any others? Tell me in the comments section!
Get ready for some more Cars action, heading our way this week…