All your favorites are back in Disney’s Cars 3, including Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) and Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). In the new movie Lightning, who is not a rookie anymore, has lost his spark. He is blindsided by a new bunch of up-and-coming racecars who are sleeker and faster than he is. His biggest competitor now is Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer).
After McQueen suffers a dramatic and devastating crash on the track, he is determined to come back. Enter Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo), a high-tech, unconventional and steadfast trainer at the Rust-eze Center.
Kerry Washington also joins the franchise as Natalie Certain, a respected statistical analyst who pretty much writes Lightning off as a has-been.
Cars 3 opens on June 16th 2017, and was directed by Brian Fee and produced by Kevin Reher. The cast and creators got together to talk about their new venture. They were at the Anaheim Convention Center, where the movie premiered just a few steps away from Disneyland.
Cars 3 Press Conference – Actors Kerry Washington, Armie Hammer, Cristela Alonzo, and Owen Wilson ©2017 Disney via Getty Images, photo by Alberto E Rodriguez

Why do you feel the audience relates to these characters so much?

Owen Wilson: I think the animators did a pretty good job. There’s something human or inviting about the expressions (in their faces.) I think that makes the cars more relatable and lifelike to people; that’s a big part of it.

Armie, tells us about your racer, Jackson Storm, and how he impacts Lightning’s world?

Cars 3 – Crowd favorite Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer) ©2017 Disney•Pixar

Armie Hammer: He’s part of this class of racers called the next gen and they’re faster, they’re smarter, they’re better looking. But at the same time there’s not the same heart, spirit and love in it. It’s just a technicality. So that’s a big paradigm shift in a world where so much of it is for the love of the game.

Cristela, how does your character jump in to try and help Lightning?

Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) alongside elite trainer Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo) ©2017 Disney•Pixar

Cristela Alonzo: Cruz Ramirez is a great little character that I loved playing. What I like about her is that she’s very good at what she does. But, at the same time, she still has doubts about herself, regarding the same skill that she uses to coach the cars to become the best that they can be.

I think that she’s very relatable to both boys and girls in that they might have doubts about things and don’t know how they’re going to pull something off. At the end of the day you realize that the only way to make sure that you can do your best is to just go for it and trust your instincts. I think that’s something that we all struggle with at times. Just try your best and see what happens, and I love that about her.

Kerry, you play a strong female character in this movie, can you talk about her?

Cars 3 – Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington) ©2017 Disney•Pixar

Kerry Washington: I do think it’s fun to see women in film who are brave, smart and courageous, but also teachable. Women who balance having extraordinary talents and intellect. [They] are also humble enough to learn the lessons they have to learn by the end of the film. To learn that you have to step into your greatness… And to learn that it’s not as simple as numbers, that heart and passion is the most important thing.

I’m just really happy to be a part of this franchise. I’ve been a fan for such a long time. It’s a pleasure to be a part of this family.

At the core of the movie is the friendship between Lightning and Cruz. Can you talk a little about that?

Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo) and Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) ©2017 Disney•Pixar

Owen: We all need encouragement and everybody sometimes falls a little short or fails, and the idea that we’re part of a community I think is a really important message for everybody.

Most of the time we (as actors) are recording by ourselves. [Pixar] wanted us to record [together] because a big part of the movie is the support that Cruz gives me and that I hopefully give her.

Cristela: One thing that I love about this relationship is this movie resets so many relationships on such a strange and unique level. It’s refreshing to see a relationship between a boy car and a girl car and they’re not romantic. It’s a sincere mentorship.

The movie does has a strong theme of mentorship in it. Who mentored you in your career?

Cars 3 Press Conference – Kerry Washington ©2017 Disney via Getty Images, photo by Alberto E Rodriguez

Kerry: I would have to say Shonda Rhimes, my boss at ABC on Scandal. It’s great to have a mentor who’s a friend, I really look up to her as a leader and a mom and a citizen of the world. I think she’s pretty badass. Can you say that at a Pixar press conference?

Cars 3 Press Conference – Armie Hammerat ©2017 Disney via Getty Images, photo by Alberto E Rodriguez

Armie: In this job you get a chance to work with so many people, who know so many things that you don’t. So I feel like I’ve had so many different mentors in my career. It would be hard to pick one. I feel every time you work it’s an opportunity to get a new mentor for that period.

Cars 3 Press Conference – Cristela Alonzo ©2017 Disney via Getty Images, photo by Alberto E Rodriguez

Cristela: For me it was my mom, who was an immigrant who came from Mexico and sacrificed so much so that I would have this shot to live my dream. With her I learned that hard work, being nice and giving it your all was the best way to succeed.

Also, in eighth grade my teacher forced me to go into theatre. He saw something in me and changed my schedule without me knowing.

I grew up in a border town and acting is miles away from that. My teachers really taught me that if I wanted a dream I could go do it. Which is why I love this movie so much because it has the same theme.

Cars 3 Press Conference – Actors Owen Wilson ©2017 Disney via Getty Images, photo by Alberto E Rodriguez

Owen: My parents and Jim Brooks, who was the person who brought us out to Los Angeles gave us our big break, so certainly him.

Cars 3 Videobytes

Owen, Armie and Kerry were asked how the movie resonated with them as parents?

Producer Kevin Reher and Director Brian Fee were asked about the decision to bring the voice back of the late actor Paul Newman for this movie. He played Lightning’s mentor The Fabulous Hudson Hornet, aka Doc Hudson.

Road To Perdition – John Rooney (Paul Newman) ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane