Cars 3D – Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

carsPixar’s landmark classic goes full throttle off the screen and into your living room for the first time ever in spectacular Blu-ray 3D! From the acclaimed creators of Toy StoryThe Incredibles and Finding Nemo comes a high-octane adventure comedy that shows life is about the journey, not the finish line.  Hotshot rookie racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is living life in the fast lane until he hits a detour on his way to the most important race of his life. Stranded in Radiator Springs, a forgotten town on the old Route 66, he meets Sally, Mater, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) and a variety of quirky characters who help him discover that there’s more to life than trophies and fame.  Treat your crew to turbocharged entertainment with this Cars 3D Ultimate Collector’s Edition. It’s flat-out fun with a sensational soundtrack, thrilling bonus features and revved-up picture and sound!

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After a long line of both critical and commercial hits with movies such as the Toy Story films, A Bug’s Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles, Pixar seemed to be unstoppable.  All of those movies were original, had a strong story, memorable characters, and appealed to both adults and children.  When John Lasseter’s Cars arrived on the scene, most believed that it would continue that incredible run, but the movie took a lot of critics and members of the audience off guard.  The movie still did well at the box office but not as well as their previous efforts and the reviews weren’t as kind either.  The movie was unlike the previous films as it was more contemplative and philosophical and took much longer to deliver its message before ending the film with their more traditional crowd pleasing finale.

Inspired by his own family’s cross country trip, Lasseter came up with a story about an alternate reality world where cars reign supreme with no human or animals in sight.  Even the bugs in the world are actual miniature Volkswagon bugs.  In this world, racing of course is very big and one of the most famous up and coming racers is Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) who is an arrogant jerk who has no concept of teamwork or caring about anything other than himself.  He will do just about anything to win a race, a sentiment shared by a fellow racer Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton) who’s even more selfish than Lightning.  After the two tie along with the reigning champ “The King” (Richard Petty) during the Piston Cup, a second race is scheduled in California where the three of them will race again to determine the final winner.

Along the way, Lightning hits a speed bump of sorts when he is accidentally detoured to the long forgotten town of Radiator Springs which was once a hot destination along Route 66 until a new freeway route diverted traffic away from it.  It doesn’t take long for Lightning to cause trouble and damage the town before he’s sent to the impound lot and forced to repave the road he destroyed.  Initially, the local judge who also serves as the town’s doctor, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) wanted him to just leave town, but changes his mind after the prosecutor Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt) convinces the other cars that the road needed to be repaired.  It doesn’t help that Lightning’s attorney representing him is Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but whose friendship and loyalty will end up showing Lightning what it means to have a friend.

The town’s other colorful residents include a pair of Ferrari fixated mechanics Luigi (Tony Shaloub) and Guido (Guido Quaroni), a retired Sergeant (Paul Dooley), a hippie (George Carlin), a rest stop owner (Jenifer Lewis), and a lowrider named Ramone (Cheech Marin).  The more Lightning interacts with these residents and especially Sally and Mater, he begins to understand that there’s more to life than just winning.  That point is brought home even more to Lightning, when he discovers that Doc Hudson is actually the famous racing car the Hudson Hornet, who is now hiding in the remote town bitter and angry at the racing profession that he believes abandoned him in his hour of need after he crashed.  Doc’s story and history really opens Lightning’s eyes to what could have been a possible future for him if he had continued to be the selfish win at all costs racer he once was.  Instead, he goes about not only fixing the town he partially destroyed, but also he tries to improve the lives of his new friends as well before he returns to the Piston Cup where he will once again have to face The King and Chick Hicks for the Cup.

There’s plenty to like about Cars, but I can also understand the criticisms that the film has received as the second act of the movie does move very slowly as the film literally forces Lightning and the audience to relax and slow down while we visit Radiator Springs.  I understand the decision behind that choice, but I also believe that it could have been trimmed more as the movie is almost two hours long.  That period is essential to the movie however, as it’s during that time that Lightning learns some important life lessons and makes the first real friends in his life.  It’s also the reason why the ending works as well as it does because it wouldn’t have been believable otherwise.  It’s those lessons and friendships that take place in Radiator Springs that informs the rest of the movie.  The final race is exciting and well done and ends the film with the excitement that Pixar fans have grown used to.  The cast chosen for this movie is uniformly excellent especially the laid back Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen.  The animation is superb and Pixar did an incredible job making the racing parts look realistic and fast moving.  While I prefer Cars 2 (an opinion that I seem to be alone on), there’s no denying that this film has a lot to offer too.



2D Video                        3D Video  

For a movie that came out in 1996, Cars looks incredible both on Blu-ray and in this new 3D version of the film. These 1080p (2.39:1) transfers offer some stunning images that look amazing even after all of this time.  Colors just jump off the screen, especially during the racing scenes and the cool scene in Radiator Springs when all of the neon signs are lit up.  The black levels are very dark and solid and the image looks incredibly pristine with no scratches or blemishes to speak of.  I love these Pixar transfers that are delivered straight from the digital tap to Blu-ray as they always look amazing.  The 3D version looks just as good as the 2D version, but the added depth really make it a much better viewing experience.  While there isn’t a lot of gimmicky jump out of the window effects, this new 3D version offers an impressive amount of depth that really brings the racing scenes and the open highway to life and offers a sense of realism that the 2D version doesn’t have.  I was also happy to see that there’s no ghosting present in this version which was a little surprising considering how old the film is.  This is a gorgeous looking film in both formats although I personally prefer the 3D version the most.



The original Cars Blu-ray had an uncompressed LPCM 5.1 mix that sounded really good, but this brand new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is even better and much more immersive.  This is a very lively mix that always has something going on to make you feel like you are there.  The dialogue is crystal clear and is never drowned out by the music or the sound effects no matter how much is going on.  The sound effects really put you into the center of the action especially during the races where the sounds of the crowd, the engines, the screeching tires, and everything else just envelop the entire room.  Directionality is spot on perfect as each channels delivers the effects in the exact placement needed to create a wall of sound all around you.  There’s also plenty of ambiance to enjoy during the quieter scenes in Radiator Springs.  This lossless mix is just perfect in every way possible.

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There’s some decent extras but this release isn’t up to par to the other recent Disney/Pixar releases.  The best part of these extras for me is the behind the scenes documentary that’s broken up into seven parts which really covers the production well.  All of the extras except for the deleted scenes and the Cars-themed “Boundin”‘ short are in high definition.

  • Cine-Explore/Audio CommentariesCine-Explore is an interactive commentary that uses a dashboard interface to allow you to choose between hearing director John Lasseter or hearing from the more technical oriented production team.  As the movie plays, it’s overlaid by a collection of picture-in-picture images and clips, including concept drawings and several storyboard sequences.  You can choose whether you want to control it or let it do it automatically but I don’t know why anyone would want to keep hitting the button themselves.  There’s a lot of good information here but it may be overwhelming to some people.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Documentary – This seven part documentary is the best extra on the set and it covers just about everything involved in the production of this movie.  The chapters include: “Radiator Springs,” “Character Design,” “Animation and Acting,” “Real World Racing: Getting Geeky with the Details,” “The Hudson Hornet,” “Graphics” and the “Darrel Waltrip Museum Tour.”
  • The Inspiration for Cars – This fourteen minute featurette talks about how Route 66 served as the inspiration for the movie and the research trip that John Lasseter and the Cars team took along the route to get pictures and a feel for the place as part of their pre-production of the movie.
  • Animated Shorts – We get a collection of animated shorts including: “Mater and the Ghostlight”, “One Man Band”, and a Cars-themed version of the earlier Pixar short “Boundin.'”
  • Epilogue – The last four minutes of the film is included but minus the credits which allows us to see the Pixar Cars-themed parodies of their earlier movies without any distraction.
  • Deleted Scenes –  John Lasseter introduces a collection of unfinished deleted scenes that were cut from the movie for various reasons.
  • Cars Finder – This is an interactive scavenger hunt game for kids that includes a lot of cars to find during the run-time of the movie.
  • Movie Showcase – There’s four scenes combined together to make a demo reel to show off the capabilities of Blu-ray.
  • 2D Blu-ray Copy of the Film
  • DVD Copy of the Film
  • HD Digital Copy of the Film



Cars may not be my favorite Pixar movie to date, but it is enjoyable to watch and I really liked seeing it in 3D with this new Ultimate Collector’s Edition.  The Blu-ray’s video and audio quality is reference worthy and the extras are also good but not as extensive as I would have hoped for.  The great thing about this edition is that you will get a copy of the movie for you to enjoy no matter where you are at thanks to the multiple formats included.  I’d go with the 3D version myself, but all of them look and sound incredible.

Order your copy today! 



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