Lightning McQueen – The protagonist of Cars

Lightning McQueen – The protagonist of Cars

Montgomery “Lightning” McQueen is the protagonist of the animated films Cars by Pixar Cars. Lightning McQueen is a fictional anthropomorphic production car and his appearances include the films Cars, Cars 2 and Cars 3, as well as the TV series Cars Toons and Cars on the Road. McQueen is a playable character in each of the Cars video game installments, as well as other Disney/Pixar video games. McQueen is the face of the Cars brand and is a popular mascot for Disney.

Lightning McQueen is a professional driver on the Piston Cup circuit, emulating the NASCAR Cup Series, and has seven Piston Cup victories during his career. In Cars 2, he competes in the short-lived World Grand Prix. At the end of Cars 3 he takes on the role of mentor to a new generation of drivers.

In the movies, Lightning McQueen is sponsored by Rust-eze Medicated Bumper Ointment and wears their decals. Her bodywork is red with yellow and orange decals, she has the number 95 on the sides and she has blue eyes. Her appearance undergoes updates through the films, but generally maintains the same image. Lightning McQueen has a brief appearance with no paint or decals in Cars 3.

The story of the character

During initial research for the first film, John Lasseter met with the designers at General Motors to discuss the new Corvette design. However, Lightning McQueen's appearance is not attributed to any single car model.

“He's the new rookie, he's pretty sexy, he's fast, he's different. He therefore he invented. We took the best of our favorite things, from GT40s to Chargers…just sketching them out, we made the look of McQueen.”

— Bob Pauley, one of two production designers on Cars
To create a cocky yet likable character for McQueen, Pixar looked to sports figures such as boxer Muhammad Ali, basketball player Charles Barkley, and football quarterback Joe Namath, as well as rap and rock singer Kid Rock.

“For other race cars, we looked at how race cars drive. For McQueen, we looked at surfers and snowboarders and Michael Jordan, these really great athletes and the beauty of how they move. You look at Jordan in his heyday against every other player, he's playing a different game. We wanted to have that same kind of feeling, so that when they talk about 'the rookie feeling', you see that he's really gifted.

— James Ford Murphy, animator director on Cars .
The end result is a character who, despite the usually meticulous "truth to the material" approach in which each car's animation is mechanically consistent with the respective model's capabilities, can occasionally break the rules to move more like an athlete than a like a car.

Lightning McQueen is not named after actor and pilot Steve McQueen, but after Pixar animator Glenn McQueen, who died in 2002.

Lightning McQueen's design is primarily inspired by and based on various Generation IV NASCAR cars; however, she has a curvy body like that of the Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Charger Daytona. The exhaust pipes are from the 70s Dodge Charger, but with four (two on each side) rather than two on one side or one on both sides.

Its body takes its cues from the shape of the Ford GT40 and Lola T70, along with suggestions of the cab of a 911s Porsche 90. His number was originally set to 57, a reference to John Lasseter's birth year, but was changed to 95, referring to the release year of the first Pixar film Toy Story. McQueen's engine sounds emulate a Gen 4 in Cars, a mix of a Gen 5 COT and Chevrolet Corvette C6.R in Cars 2, and a Gen 6 in Cars 3

Lightning McQueen in the 2006 film Cars

Lightning McQueen in the 2006 film Cars

Lightning McQueen is a rookie driver in the Piston Cup series and secretly disdains his sponsor Rust-eze, hoping to be picked up by the more prestigious Dinoco team. McQueen is portrayed as ungrateful, obnoxious, selfish and sarcastic. On his way to Los Angeles for a deciding race, McQueen begins to realize he has no real friends. After an encounter with a quartet of auto tuners, McQueen is separated from his transport truck, Mack, and ends up lost in Radiator Springs, a forgotten town along US Route 66. He is soon arrested and kidnapped there.

In Radiator Springs, local judge Doc Hudson, Sally and the other townspeople vote to have McQueen repave the street he destroyed as punishment. He rushes in and doesn't do it properly at first before reluctantly accepting Hudson's help. Meanwhile, McQueen learns about the history of Radiator Springs and begins to relate to its residents. McQueen befriends a tow truck named Tow Mater and falls in love with Sally. During his time in the city, McQueen begins to care about others rather than just himself. He also learns an expert turn from Hudson and some unorthodox moves from Mater, which he then uses in the playoffs.

On the final lap of the race, McQueen witnesses a crash behind him and misses out on the win to help Weathers finish the race. However, McQueen is praised for his sportsmanship, so much so that the owner of the Dinoco Tex racing team offers to hire him to succeed Weathers. McQueen refuses, instead choosing to stick with his sponsors Rust-eze for being able to get him where he was. Tex respects his decision and instead offers to do him a favor whenever he needs it. McQueen uses the favor for a ride in the Dinoco helicopter for Mater, making Mater's dream come true.

McQueen returns to Radiator Springs to establish his racing headquarters. He resumes his relationship with Sally and becomes Hudson's student.

Lightning McQueen in the 2 film Cars 2011

Lightning McQueen in the 2 film Cars 2011

Five years after the events of the first film, McQueen, now a four-time Piston Cup champion, returns to Radiator Springs to spend the off-season with his friends. McQueen's reprieve is broken when he is invited to participate in the inaugural World Grand Prix, sponsored by former oil tycoon Miles Axelrod, who hopes to promote his new biofuel, Allinol.

At a pre-race party in Tokyo, Japan, McQueen is embarrassed by Mater and regrets bringing him along. After losing the first race due to Mater's involvement with spies Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell (which McQueen was unaware of), McQueen lashes out at him and tells him he no longer wants his help, forcing him to Leave. Later, McQueen won the second race in Porto Corsa, Italy. However, multiple cars were damaged during the race, leading to controversy and growing fears for the safety of Allinol. In response, Axelrod decides to remove Allinol as a requirement for the final race in London. McQueen chooses to continue with Allinol, unknowingly putting himself in danger.

During the London race, McQueen sees Mater and apologizes for his outburst in Tokyo. When McQueen approaches him, Mater gets away due to a bomb planted in his engine compartment that will explode if McQueen gets too close. Out of remote detonator range, McQueen catches up and realizes the spy mission was real.

McQueen goes with Mater and the spies to confront Axelrod, who is later revealed to be the mastermind behind the plot, and force him to disarm the bomb. After the arrest of Axlerod and his companions, McQueen happily declares that Mater can come to all races from now on if she wants. Back in Radiator Springs, it is revealed that McQueen's supply of Allinol was swapped for Fillmore's organic fuel by Sarge before the start of the World Grand Prix, thus protecting McQueen from harm during the London race.

McQueen's paint scheme in this film is almost identical to the first film (his large bolt is repainted dark red, and a smaller bolt is threaded through his number and has only three sponsor stickers on either side), although it is modified for World Grand Prix with green colored flames at the end of its large bolt and a Piston Cup logo on the hood instead of its usual Rust-eze sponsor. Its reflective lightning bolt decals are removed, it has a different spoiler, and its adhesive headlights and taillights are replaced with actual working lights.

Lightning McQueen in the 3 film Cars 2017

Lightning McQueen in the 3 film Cars 2017

Five years after the events of the second film, McQueen, now a seven-time Piston Cup champion and racing legend, competes in the series with his longtime friends, Cal Weathers and Bobby Swift. He appears high-tech rookie racer Jackson Storm and starts winning race after race. McQueen goes too far as he tries to compete with Storm in the last race of the season, seriously injuring himself in a dangerous crash. After recovering, McQueen trains with Cruz Ramirez during the offseason in hopes of beating the Storm. McQueen's new sponsor Sterling tells him that he will have to retire if he misses his next race, where Sterling plans to profit from McQueen's retirement merchandise.

After several failed attempts at training, McQueen decides to seek out Hudson's old pit chief Smokey, and eventually meets him at Thomasville Motor Speedway in what appears to be the Great Smoky Mountains. Completing this training, McQueen races for the first half of the Florida 500, with Smokey as crew chief, before retiring and giving Cruz a shot at stardom, with him as crew chief. Cruz and McQueen share the victory thanks to Lightning starting the race and the pair receive a sponsorship with the united Dinoco-Rust-eze brand. McQueen embraces the role of mentor to young talent, with Cruz as his student.

He reverts to the type of body he had in the first film, but the paint job features a cross between the lightning bolts seen in the first film and the flames seen in the second film. The bolts are solid rather than halftone, the Rust-eze logos have been enlarged, and it has fewer sponsor stickers than the first film. It also sports a second paint scheme before its crash (with slightly desaturated red paint, a modernized version of the Rust-eze logo, and different lightning bolts), a third "training" paint job where it is darker red with yellow metallic accents and a fourth "demolition derby" paint job where it's all mud brown and numbered 15. At the end of the film, McQueen is decked out in a "Fabulous Lightning McQueen" blue paint job reminiscent of Hudson's.

Technical data

Original name Montgomery Lightning McQueen
Original language English
Author John Lasseter
Studio The Walt Disney Company, Pixar Animation Studios
1st appearance in Cars – Roaring Engines
Original entry Owen Wilson
Italian voice Maximilian Manfredi
Place of birthto United States of America
Birthday 1986