What are you doing to us Pixar?

Is it just me or does the new trailer for Cars 3 make anyone else feel really old? It came on prior to Pirates of the Caribbean 5 at the cinema this weekend and perhaps I am overthinking things but it seems to be a story about the inevitability of ageing.

It should be no revelation, of course, that the clever makers of Pixar films are adapting their themes to suit their longtime fans as they grow up. Just consider the Toy Story franchise. The original was an intriguing concept when we were seven and our worlds consisted of very little but our favourite toys, games, and imagination. Toy Story 2 tugged on our heartstrings four years later when, on the cusp of adolescence, we weren’t quite done with our toys but were reluctantly, guiltily, starting to outgrow them. Then came Toy Story 3, with Andy going off to college and leaving the gang behind just as we turned 21 and officially entered the new chapter of adulthood.

If I have understood the trailer for Cars 3 correctly, this timeline continues. Because this film – which arrives as we turn 28 and consider the upcoming junction of entering our thirties – is apparently about the unstoppable march of time and the pain of disappointed ambitions. No, seriously; watch it right now and judge for yourself.

In Cars 3 we will see our old hero, Lightning McQueen, facing off against a faster, stronger, younger opponent. “Get ready for what’s coming,” intones Doc Hudson’s wisened voice at the start; he himself a character already established to be at the stage in his career where he’s done ‘doing’ and started teaching. The beat drops, the incredible CGI animation starts. We’re then introduced to Storm Jackson, the next generation of championship race car, the new rookie.

You may know this car. He’s that cute size-eight kid who just started at your company six months ago. The one who eats whatever she wants at lunch because her metabolism hasn’t given up on her yet; who sprints up two flights of stairs without arriving at her meeting just a little bit out of puff; who still bubbles with enthusiasm as she goes about her day because the corporate world hasn’t worn her down. Yet. Oh yeah, we all know a Storm.

The trailer continues: we see Lightning spin out and crash, echoing the fate of his mentor in the first film. We see him being repaired – “You’ll never be the racer you once were”- and introduced to a host of new technologies and innovations which are just slightly beyond his ken. “The racing world is changing,” the narrator continues, heavily implying that Lightning must either adapt, or exit. (By now, the salty cinema popcorn is starting to give me heartburn and I’ve received yet another Snapchat invitation which will never be accepted.)

We see McQueen training, trying to recover, determined to win despite the insurmountable odds. “You can’t turn back the clock, kid”. That’s Doc Hudson again, triggering an existential crisis and a call to my psychotherapist. All this time I thought I was the bright young thing, but what if I’ve missed my opportunities? What if what I am now is all I’ll ever be? After all, your twenties are all about your potential, but by thirty-something you’re supposed to have it all figured out, right? Damn you Pixar!  (If this thought process depresses you, I should warn you that Pixar’s next film is essentially about death…)

The Cars 3 trailer reaches it’s crescendo. “You’ll never be as fast as Storm, but you can be smarter.” At last, here’s a glimmer of hope for those of us with a spark of ambition left. Indeed, we are both older and wiser. We shouldn’t envy those cute little things in their twenties, because it’s not their fault they were born in the 90s (ugh) and they just haven’t realised how hard real life can be. Yet.

“I decide when I’m done,” whispers McQueen to bring the trailer to an end; a battle cry for older viewers everywhere. It leaves me hopeful that’s what the movie is actually about; continuing to pursue your dreams even when they seem unreachable. About still running, even if we’re not as fast as we once were. Remember, the race isn’t over ‘til the chequered flag waves. Let the Storms of the world be shiny and new, let them be speed and noise and thunder. We can still be Lightning if we want to be. 

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