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Let’s Talk About That Cars 3 Ending and What Alternatives Were Discussed

2017 Disney Pixar.

If you’ve not yet made it to theaters to see Cars 3 – this might not be the read for you! If you have seen the film, we wanted to take a second to discuss that ending and what we think it could mean for the future of Cars, or if it ruled out a future altogether.

Do we think the latter? No, but it did change the films in a way that we genuinely weren’t expecting. The film was about Lightning McQueen’s big comeback and ended up being a moment where McQueen gave the spotlight to someone else, someone who never thought it would be theirs.

When we first met Cruz Ramirez, she was at the ‘Rust-eze Racing Center’, which was a lot less training than it was a place to ‘show off’ and she was meant to be McQueen’s trainer, However, the things she taught him didn’t have anything to do with treadmills and virtual reality race tracks.

At first, McQueen was frustrated with Ramirez and didn’t want anything to do with the center, but as time progressed and he took his future into his own hands, he started to benefit from Ramirez’ company, even if he didn’t realize it at the time. From the race down the beach to the impromptu demolition derby, and even the trek to find Doc’s mentor, Smoky – Ramirez was right there.

It’s during the big race, the one that should determine his future, that he realizes how much bigger everything he experienced with her was, and he gives her the opportunity to finish the race. After a quick paint job, she takes the course and after some motivational speaking – this time from McQueen, she finishes in first. Her first place finish was kicked off by McQueen, so since he was listed a winner, his future was in his own hands.

What happened next is what set the tone for future films, and it happened in a big way. McQueen became Ramirez’ trainer and also decided to continue racing, but his colors changed – more reminiscent of Doc Hudson’s, and his goal seemed to be to get Ramirez in top shape, not focusing so much on himself for the win.

A quote from Doc Hudson, McQueen’s mentor stands out to us at this point.

“There was a lot left in me, I never got a chance to show ‘em.” – Doc Hudson

There were many times in the film where McQueen felt that he still had a lot left in him as well, but in becoming a trainer as well as continuing his own racing journey; he proved that he could ‘show em’ in a different way. It no longer focused on the win, the trophy, the finish line – instead, it was about instilling hope and pride in someone else.

So, does this mean that McQueen has finished his final formal race and will just race in his spare time now? That remains to be seen, but we don’t think he’s finished just yet, we are convinced instead that this will make him a stronger competitor.

The ending of the movie wasn’t something that came to the creators of the film easily, in fact, it was a bit of a journey to get it right, and now they say it’s probably the most obvious ending for the film, but when they were making it, it didn’t seem that way at all.

Peter at Slash Film spoke with Brian Fee about other endings that they considered for the film.

‘We had McQueen winning the race.  Then we had a version where McQueen and Cruz would both be in the race.  We had a version where it was more of a comeback story with a mentorship undercurrent.  So McQueen was not allowed to race.  We didn’t find that out until the very end.  And he had to find a way to get on the track and prove everybody wrong.  And we had a version where him and Cruz both were gonna race the race against each other.  Didn’t work.  ‘Cause who do you root for, you know?’

He also said that one version made it feel like the movie was over before the race even began, and that didn’t do anything for anyone.

We had a version where he let her race. He let her race from the very beginning.  He just showed up and entered her instead of him.  And he never took any laps on the track.  That didn’t work ’cause it felt like the movie was over.  It felt like emotionally the movie was over before the race even started ’cause he had already gone through that emotional threshold.  And when it doesn’t matter how many loose ends there are to tie up, once the characters are emotionally done with the movie, it feels like the film’s over, right?  So that didn’t work.  It seems obvious.  I can tell you, and you’ll probably be like well yeah, why would you try that?  But we try all these things.

Eventually, however, they got it right – and we agree, the ending couldn’t have been more perfect.

We tried McQueen and Cruz both racing.  We tried McQueen just beating her.  We tried her just beating him.  Nothing.  It was all of this was all hollow.  It was all an obvious wrong, wrong, do it again, figure something else out.  And it took, it basically took what we’ve got on the screen now to finally feel like: of course.  Of course, that’s it.  It seems obvious now, but these things are never obvious to us on any of these movies while we’re making them.

While some are convinced that Cars 3 is the perfect ending place for all of the films, we think it’s a fresh start for a new beginning and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

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