Lightning McQueen

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Lightning McQueen
Cars character
Lightning McQueen
First appearance Cars (2006)
Created by John Lasseter
Voiced by Owen Wilson (Cars, Mater and the Ghostlight, Cars: The Video Game, Cars 2, and Cars Toons: Tales from Radiator Springs)
Keith Ferguson (Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales, Cars Mater-National Championship, Cars Race-O-Rama, Cars 2: The Video Game, and Cars Toons: Tales from Radiator Springs)
Nickname(s) Stickers
Species Stock car racing vehicle
Gender Male
Occupation Piston Cup Racer, Mater's best friend, World Grand Prix racer (in Cars 2)
Significant other(s) Sally Carrera

Lightning McQueen, typically referred to by his surname McQueen, is an anthropomorphic racecar in the animated Pixar film Cars (2006), its sequel Cars 2 (2011) and TV shorts known as Cars Toons. He was named after Pixar animator Glenn McQueen (who died from melanoma in 2002), not actor and noted racing buff Steve McQueen.[citation needed] He is based on generic NASCAR vehicles, but with design influences from the Mazda Miata and Dodge Viper.[citation needed] Late in the original film, he is painted much like the Chevrolet Corvette C1.[citation needed]


During the initial research for the film, John Lasseter met with General Motors designers to discuss the new Corvette design[1] but subsequent changes to the storyline left both Lightning McQueen and rival Chick Hicks as generic.

“He’s the new rookie, he’s sexy, he’s fast, he’s different. So he’s invented. We took the best of our favourite things, from GT40s to Chargers… just sketching them out, we came up with what McQueen looks like.”

—Bob Pauley, one of two Cars production designers[2]

In order to create a cocky but likeable character for McQueen, Pixar looked at sports figures like boxer Muhammad Ali, basketball player Charles Barkley, and football quarterback Joe Namath, as well as popular musician Kid Rock.

“For the other race cars, we looked at how race cars drive. For McQueen, we looked at surfers and snowboarders and Michael Jordan, these truly great athletes and the beauty of how they move. You watch Jordan in his heyday against every other player, he’s playing a different game. We wanted to have that same type of feeling, so that when they’re talking about ‘the rookie sensation,’ you’re seeing that he is really gifted.”

—James Ford Murphy, Cars directing animator.[2]

The end result is a character which, despite the usually-meticulous approach to "truth to material" in which each car's animation is mechanically consistent with its respective model's capabilities, can occasionally bend the rules to move more like an athlete than a motorcar.[citation needed]

He is voiced by actor Owen Wilson in Cars, Cars 2, Mater and the Ghostlight, the Cars video game and the Cars Toon The Radiator Springs 500 ½. He is voiced by Keith Ferguson in most of the Cars Toons, Cars Mater-National Championship, and Cars Race-O-Rama.[citation needed]

In the original film, Lightning is one of the three contestants in a Piston Cup tiebreaker race before an audience of "more than two hundred thousand cars" in Los Angeles, California. It is revealed in a sequel[which?] that he won the Piston Cup from 2007-2010.[citation needed]

Lightning McQueen appears in Kinect Rush: A Disney/Pixar Adventure.[citation needed]


Ice sculpture of Lightning McQueen.
Lightning McQueen
Lightning McQueen
Lightning McQueen as seen on Disney On Ice.

Cars takes place in a world populated by anthropomorphic transportation. The film begins with the last race of the Piston Cup championship, which ends in a three-way tie between retiring veteran Strip "The King" Weathers, infamous runner-up Chick Hicks, and rookie Lightning McQueen. The tiebreaker race is scheduled for one week later at the fictional Los Angeles International Speedway in California. Lightning is desperate to win the race, since it would allow him to leave the unglamorous sponsorship of Rust-Eze, a rust treatment for old cars, and allow him to take The King's place as the sponsored car of the lucrative Dinoco team. Eager to start practice in California as soon as possible, he pushes his big rig, Mack, to travel all night long. While McQueen is sleeping, the exhausted Mack drifts off and is startled by a gang of four reckless street racers, causing McQueen to fall out the back of the trailer and into the road. McQueen wakes in the middle of traffic and speeds off the highway to find Mack, only to end up in the run-down town of Radiator Springs and inadvertently ruin the pavement of its main road.

After being arrested and impounded overnight and guarded by a rusty but friendly tow truck named Mater, McQueen is ordered by the town's judge and doctor Doc Hudson to leave town immediately. The local lawyer Sally Carrera insists that McQueen should be given community service to repave the road, to which Doc begrudingly agrees. McQueen tries to repave it in a single day, but it turns out to be shoddy and he is ordered to repave the road again, which takes several days to complete. During this time, he becomes friends with several of the cars, and learns that Radiator Springs used to be a popular stopover along the old U.S. Route 66, but with the construction of Interstate 40 bypassing it, the town literally vanished from the map. McQueen also discovers that Doc is really the "Fabulous Hudson Hornet", a three-time Piston Cup winner who was forced out of racing after an accident in 1954 and quickly forgotten by the sport. McQueen finishes the road, which has invigorated the cars to improve their town, and spends an extra day in town with his new friends, before Mack and the media descend on the town, led by a tip to McQueen's location. McQueen reluctantly leaves with the media to get to California in time for the race, while Sally chastises Doc after discovering that he had tipped off the media to McQueen's whereabouts, not wanting to be discovered by them instead.

At the speedway, McQueen's mind is not fully set on the race, and he soon falls into last place. He is surprised to discover that Doc Hudson, who is decked out in his old racing colors, has taken over as his crew chief, along with several other friends from Radiator Springs to help in the pit. Inspired and recalling tricks he learned from Doc and his friends, McQueen quickly emerges to lead the race into the final laps. Hicks, refusing to lose, sends Weathers into a dangerous accident. Seeing this and recalling Doc's fate, McQueen stops just short of the finish line, allowing Hicks to win, and drives back to push Weathers over the finish line. The crowd and media condemn Hicks' victory and give praise to McQueen's sportsmanship. Though offered the Dinoco sponsorship deal, McQueen declines, insisting on staying with his current sponsors as an appreciation of their past support. Later, back at Radiator Springs, McQueen returns and announces that he will be setting up his headquarters there, helping to put Radiator Springs back on the map.

Cars video game[edit]

In the Cars video game, written by Pixar and considered a continuation to the story started in the movie, Lightning McQueen finds himself at the start of the next Piston Cup season. With the help of the citizens of Radiator Springs, McQueen readies to start his quest for the Piston Cup, taking lessons in powersliding from Doc, boosting from Fillmore, and racing backwards from Mater. With his new skills, Lightning once again makes a championship run in the Piston Cup, much to the irritation of Chick Hicks.

Fearing his title is in jeopardy, Chick enlists the assistance of The Delinquent Road Hazards - DJ, Boost, Wingo, and Snot Rod — the same rowdy cars who detoured McQueen to Radiator Springs, to hijack McQueen's racing gear from Mack on Interstate 40. Lightning is able to retrieve his equipment and bring the delinquents to justice before winning the next race, which sends Chick into a frenzy. Lightning challenges Chick to a Grand Prix in Radiator Springs, followed by one more Piston Cup race in L.A.. Lightning wins these events, taking the Piston Cup in his sophomore season.

At the end, Lightning, Mater, and Sally decide to take a celebratory trip across the country. When asked if he brought his trophy, Lightning notes he did not, but left it in a good place, revealed to be at Doc Hudson's clinic next to the racing legend's own three Piston Cups.

Though Lightning McQueen is still sponsored by Rust-eze, players are able to unlock McQueen with a Dinoco paint job while playing as him in Story Mode, Arcade Mode, and VS. Mode.

Cars 2[edit]

At the beginning of the movie, Lightning's shown to have won four Piston Cup titles in a row and has returned to Radiator Springs in the off-season, even sending his pit crew away on vacation. While McQueen is happy with his victories, he misses his friend and mentor, Doc Hudson, who had died sometime between the first and second films. McQueen enjoys his time with his best friend Mater and his girlfriend Sally Carrera before learning about the first ever World Grand Prix, sponsored by former oil tycoon Miles Axelrod to promote his new biofuel, Allinol.

Even though he's invited to join, Lightning has declined, until he sees on television the Grand Prix's favorite to win, Francesco Bernoulli, taunting and trashing talking about him, which Lighting's friends do not appreciate. Only after Mater calls in on the television show to defend McQueen does Lightning intervene and decides to join the race after all, after his friends in Radiator Springs unanimously decide to fill in as his pit crew, with Mater joining only when Sally convinces Lightning to let him come as his spotter.

Upon arriving in Tokyo for the pre-race party, Lightning becomes embarrassed by Mater's antics throughout the party, making him start to regret bringing him along. It continues in the first race through Tokyo. Lightning initially dominates the race but Mater, who is unwittingly caught up in a spy mission with Finn McMissile and Holly Shiftwell, has a miscommunication with McQueen that ultimately costs him the race. Angered, McQueen confronts Mater afterwards, telling him that he doesn't need Mater's help anymore, explaining the latter's "fantasies" as his reason of why he doesn't take Mater along to his races.

Feeling hurt, Mater decides to head back home, only to end up continuing his "mission" with McMissile and Shiftwell and McQueen ends up feeling guilty that he would mistreat his best friend and continues feeling sad about it as the Grand Prix continues to Italy. There, while at a party for his pit crew members Luigi and Guido, who have met up with their family, he is told by Luigi's aunt and uncle that even the best of friends will argue every now and then, which inspires Lightning to patch things up with Mater.

McQueen wins the second race in Porto Corsa, Italy, though many cars end up damaged on the Casino Bridge, which causes the public to blame Allinol, which is fueling all the cars in the race, but is actually due to Professor Zündapp (Professor Z for short) sabotaging the cars' race by igniting Allinol with EMP weapons disguised as World Grand Prix cameras. Zündapp and a criminal organization of lemon cars are planning to sabotage the World Grand Prix under their unseen superior to turn all vehicles in the world against alternative energy and rely on gasoline. Miles Axelrod decides to remove Allinol from the final race, allowing the cars to choose their own fuel. Lightning decides to stay with Allinol based on advice from his friend and pit crew member Fillmore. Upon hearing this, Zündapp gets his orders from his superior that McQueen mustn't win the last race and instead be killed. Mater overhears this and tries to warn McQueen, but is captured along with McMissile and Shiftwell before doing so.

Lightning goes on with the third and final race of the Grand Prix, in London with Sally and most of the gang from Radiator Springs coming to London to help support him and find Mater (with the help from Scotland Yard and the Army). Axelrod also pays a temporary visit to McQueen, giving his full support to win the final race and show the world what Allinol can actually do. The race begins but Zündapp tries to destroy McQueen with the infrared beam that he had used to sabotage the cars in the previous races, but it inexplicably fails for some unknown reason. This causes Zündapp to go with Plan B, which turns out they decide to use a bomb that had been planted on Mater's air filter to blow up McQueen as a backup plan. Mater, who is unaware of the bomb planted on him, escapes and tries to warn McQueen just as he comes for a pit stop, until McMissile and Shiftwell tell him about Zündapp's plan.

McQueen,upon seeing Mater, tries to apologize to him, but Mater, terrified, tries to drive away to avoid possibly killing McQueen, though McQueen takes pursuit, until the bomb is out of range of Zündapp's detonator. After stopping in an empty intersection, McQueen finally realizes what's happening when Mater explains it to him and when Shiftwell and McMissile appear with a captured Zündapp. They fight off Zündapp's henchmen, with help from their friends from Radiator Springs, as well as Scotland Yard and the Army. Just when all hope is lost, as no one cannot diffuse the bomb from Mater (not even Professor Z nor his henchmen can deactivate it), Mater realizes the final clues pointing out to the true identity of Zündapp's superior behind the criminal plot of sabotaging the World Grand Prix, Miles Axelrod himself. Mater also figured out that Axelrod came up with the idea of creating Allinol to give alternative energy a bad name to the world, as he still owns the largest untapped oil reserves in the world alongside the lemon criminals.

Upon learning this, Mater is initially unable to take action, seeing that people take him as a fool because of his silly personality, but McQueen convinces him to stand up for them in order to prove his point. It was then Mater races to Buckingham Palace with McQueen, where he angrily confronts Axelrod of it, pointing out the leaking oil incident back in the party in Japan and the bolts depicted in the photo of the unseen mastermind. Axelrod attempts to deny Mater's claims, calling Mater insane and delusional, but eventually was forced to deactivate the bomb with a voice command to prevent killing himself, proving Mater's claims correct. After Mater shows that Axelrod's engine proving to be exactly the same one in the photo, Axelrod is soon arrested, along with Zündapp and his henchmen, on the charges of conspiracy to crime, murder, arson, and embezzlement, and an investigation is made over the World Grand Prix and the Allinol following Axelrod and the Lemons' arrest. Amazed that Mater has actually foiled a criminal conspiracy plot by using his own wits, McQueen officially declares to Mater that he can come to all of his races from now on, much to Mater's delight. McQueen also served as a witness alongside his friends as Mater gets knighted by the Queen for foiling Axelrod's plans completely.

After McQueen, Mater, and the gang return to Radiator Springs, they receive a visit from Finn and Holley, who wish to pick up Mater for a new mission (to which Mater respectfully declines). With the World Grand Prix unfinished (due to the investigation that followed Axelrod's defeat), Lightning gets the other racecars in the race (including Francesco) to join him in a new race at Radiator Springs with nothing at stake. Before the race begins, Fillmore reveals that Sarge actually replaced McQueen's Allinol with his organic bio-fuel–since he was skeptical what Allinol can really do after what happened in Japan and Italy–which explains why McQueen escaped the radiation in the first place. This was backed up when Holley pointed out that the investigation concluded that Allinol was actually gasoline engineered to ignite by the EMP beams to discredit alternative energy, just as Mater earlier suspected. The film ends with Lightning taking first place during the Radiator Springs Grand Prix, and Mater ends up joining, thanks to some new rocket boosters that he had got from Finn and Holley.

Lightning's paint job at the beginning of this movie is almost the same as it was in the first movie (his large lightning bolt is repainted dark red, and a smaller bolt is threaded through his number), though it is modified for the World Grand Prix with green-tinted flames on the end of his large bolt and a Piston Cup logo on the hood instead of his usual Rust-Eze Medicated Bumper Ointment sponsor, his reflective lightning decals are removed, he has a different spoiler, and his sticker headlights and taillights are replaced with actual working lights.


  1. ^ Ann Job (May 7, 2006). "New movie rekindles love affair with cars". 
  2. ^ a b Pete Lyons (May 29, 2006). "CARS' Guys: Here are some fans who made the film". AutoWeek. 

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