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|First appearance||Cars (2006)|
|Created by||John Lasseter, Joe Ranft|
|Voiced by||Larry the Cable Guy|
|Inspiration||1951 International Harvester tow truck|
|Species||1951 Chevrolet boom truck|
|Occupation||Owner of Tow Mater Towing & Salvage, Lightning McQueen's best friend and successor as his crew chief|
|Significant other(s)||Holley Shiftwell|
Tow Mater, or simply Mater, is a character in Cars and its sequels, Cars 2 and Cars 3 as well as Cars Toons. He is voiced by Larry the Cable Guy and inspired by a 1951 International Harvester tow truck. Portrayed as Lightning McQueen's best friend and sidekick, he had a breakout role in Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales and in other media related to Cars.
Mater's design is based on a 1951 International Harvester boom truck once used to lift equipment from mine shafts in Cherokee County, Kansas. The Route 66 town of Galena is named for the lead sulphite ore galena, to which the series of small mining towns around Baxter Springs owe their boom and subsequent bust. The original truck is currently based at a former Kan-O-Tex Service Station in Galena; the station was restored as a Route 66 diner and souvenir shop by Four Women on the Route one year after the film's 2006 release.
Mater's driving skills include a claim to be "the world's best backwards driver," an ability picked up from none other than Dean Walker, a Kansas Historic Route 66 Association president known in Riverton as "Crazy Legs Walker, the Ambassador of Crazy Feet on Route 66" for his ability to twist his feet backward and walk in reverse.
Mater takes his nickname from construction superintendent and die-hard NASCAR fan Douglas "Mater" Keever, who provides the voice of one of the RV's watching the big race ("Well dip me in axle grease and call me slick!"). The RV's vantage point at the race is modelled on a "Redneck Hill" at Charlotte Motor Speedway favoured by hardcore fans in tents and pop-up campers.
"My name's Mater... Yeah, like tuh-mater, but without the tuh."— Douglas "Mater" Keever, using a nickname picked up early on his maternal grandparents' tomato farm
The character Mater speaks with a hick Southern redneck accent with a dash of hillbilly twang and frequently uses incorrect syntax. The real-life person who was the inspiration for Mater's voice is Harley Russell from Erick, Oklahoma on Route 66. Harley's natural voice has the same sound and same mannerisms as Mater. Mater's final personality was based on his voice actor, Larry the Cable Guy, and he uses many of Larry's catchphrases, including "Git-R-Done" during the final race sequence and "I don't care who you are; that's funny right there" during the tractor tipping scene. Larry the Cable Guy spent time with Harley Russell to learn the voice for the character. A Cars "Rev'd Up" DVD released as a 2006 bonus in Target stores describes Mater as inspired by a 1957 Dodge truck.
Mater's color was originally baby blue as shown in a flashback; however, over the years he has rusted into a patchwork light brown/orange color with some of the blue still showing through. He is missing his hood and his left headlight. In the short Mater and the Ghostlight, his right headlight fell out as well. During the first Cars movie credits Mater fished his hood from a cliff up in Tailfin Pass, and his hood showed more of its original color than the rest of Mater. But then Mater sneezed, causing the hood to fall back down the cliff. His license plate number is A113. Mater is also capable of racing, as well as being the (self-proclaimed) world's best backwards driver. He attributes his skill to his rear-view mirrors and his own philosophy: "Don't need to know where I'm going, just need to know where I've been." He teaches Lightning this skill and is proud when he uses it in the Piston Cup race, proudly telling Chick's stunned pit crew "I taught him that!" This was further noted in Cars 2, when Mater drives backwards away from McQueen (so that he can get the bomb that was strapped in his air filter away from McQueen's reach), he was able to avoid himself from crashing, an act that left Darrell Cartrip saying, "He's gotta be the world's best backwards driver".
In Cars 2, Mater displays a vast knowledge of automotive parts and engines. He correctly answers a code question concerning the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia asked by British intelligence agent Holley Shiftwell, leading her to mistake him for an American agent she is supposed to meet. Later, when Shiftwell and her partner Finn McMissile show Mater a photograph of a mystery car's engine, he identifies it on sight and points out the spare parts being used to keep it running. His knowledge helps McMissile and Shiftwell capture Sir Miles Axlerod, the main villain of this film. Mater is given an honorary knighthood by the Queen.
He runs "Tow Mater Towing and Salvage" and is the first to befriend and support Lightning throughout his adventure in Radiator Springs. During the film, Mater shows Lightning how to do "Tractor-Tippin'" and how to drive backwards without crashing, a technique which Lightning uses to counter Chick Hicks' dirty racing in the Piston Cup tiebreaker. In the end, McQueen asks Tex to give Mater an opportunity to fly in a Dinoco helicopter like he always wanted, saying to Sally that Mater is his best friend.
Mater's friendship with Lightning McQueen has grown rather than diminished, with a lengthy best-friend handshake to prove it. Mater values every dent made during his adventures with Lightning as symbolic of their friendship. In an attempt to defend his friend against rival racing opponent Francesco Bernoulli, Mater gets Lightning to race in the World Grand Prix. Lightning in turn invites Mater to join him, and they set out from Radiator Springs to Tokyo for the first race. Mater is soon mistaken for an American secret agent and caught up in the world of spies. Agent Holley Shiftwell plays Mater's love interest; Mater is mesmerized by her beauty and falls for her immediately. During the first race, Mater accidentally causes a miscommunication that costs McQueen to lose the race; resulting in McQueen lashing out at Mater and telling him that he doesn't want his help any more. In fact, McQueen suggests that Mater's antics are the reason why McQueen doesn't normally take him along to his races. Feeling saddened and very guilty, Mater decides to return home, only to continue his 'mission' with the British agents. Mater also appeared to be a true agent when he solved the mystery of the World Grand Prix in London, where the third and final race takes place. At the end of the film, he decided to compete in the unofficial Radiator Springs Grand Prix with McQueen after getting a pair of rocket jets.
Mater and the Ghostlight
The short film follows Mater's day-to-day activities after things have returned to normal in Radiator Springs. Mater likes to play scary pranks on other characters until a blue light begins haunting him. His final prank is his most successful: Lightning McQueen sees a tow hook hanging from behind a stack of cans and, assuming that Mater is hiding behind it, approaches to foil the prank. Mater then jumps off of the roof of Flo's café, screaming behind McQueen, who then is startled and knocks over the pile of cans, revealing that the hook was actually from the sign of Mater's place of business, thus a decoy. Everyone starts to laugh at McQueen for having fallen for this clever trick, and Mater teases, "Whoa, Buddy. You look like you seen... the Ghostlight!"
Sheriff admonishes him for "mocking the Ghostlight," a character of urban legend amongst the cars. The Ghostlight is described as a "glowing orb of blue, translucent light" that haunts Radiator Springs, and hates nothing more than the sound of clanking metal – a sound frequently made by Mater's rickety shell. Sheriff continues to tell the story of a young couple lost in the area, whose only remains were "two out-of-state license plates." He then concludes with an overly cheerful "Well, g'night." The population of Radiator Springs then leaves within seconds, leaving a very nervous Mater by himself.
As he reaches his garage he is first frightened by a "lightning bug" (a tiny flying Volkswagen Beetle with bright headlights). As he relaxes, a bright blue glow suddenly appears behind him and he goes into a blind panic, driving around in a frenzy, first going along the main road, then going through the tractor field, past Frank, then around Willy's Butte, and doing a lock-strafe move after that, until he is exhausted. The Ghostlight however was revealed to be a glowing blue lantern to Mater's towing cable hung up by McQueen and Guido.
The short ends with Mater finally collapsing on the road before finally realizing that it's just a blue lantern. It was then the rest of the folks surround him and laugh at him, revealing the joke as retribution for the pranks he did to them (with his best friend Lightning laughing the loudest and throwing in a "Gotcha!"). The credits roll and after them there is a closing shot where the frightened Mater finds he has a huge construction vehicle behind him, snarling and carrying the license plate "Banshee." Mater does not realize who it is though and warns it of the Screaming Banshee before driving off, bidding the confused Banshee good night.
Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales
Mater is the main character in the animated short series, A Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales. Each tale begins with Mater telling a story of something he has done in the past. In the story, Mater finds himself in an inescapable predicament. When McQueen questions Mater over whether the events in the story actually occurred, Mater responds, "Don't you remember? You was there too!", and continues the story including McQueen's sudden participation. The cartoons end with Mater leaving the scene, often followed by characters or references to the story that was being told, putting up a possibility that the story might be real.
Mater appears in all Cars video games to date. In the sequel video game Cars, Mater is a playable character in the Arcade Mode, "Tractor Tipping", and "Rustbucket Race-O-Rama" levels. He does commentary for the race in "Radiator Springs Grand Prix" and "Radiator Springs GP". He teaches McQueen how to drive backwards in "Mater's Backwards Lesson". Mater is a playable character in both the Story and Arcade Modes of Cars Mater-National Championship. The Cars Race-O-Rama video game introduces new rivals to Mater: Bubba, Tater and Tater Jr., all of them tow trucks. However, Tater and Tater Jr. later befriend Mater. Mater also makes an appearance as a playable character and figure in Disney Infinity.
In popular culture
- In 2006, Hollywood automotive body customiser Eddie Paul created Lightning, Sally and Mater as the real-life vehicles brought by Mack on a 41-city Cars promotional tour.
- Real life replicas of Mater and Lightning McQueen are shown at Disney California Adventure Park at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA and Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot (as plants due to the sequel, Cars 2) of Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, FL. In addition, unofficial replicas have been created by fans of the movie.
- Ron Warnick (November 12, 2006). "Meet Mater's inspiration". Route 66 News. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- Ron Warnick (October 5, 2006). "Inspiration for Mater is found". Route 66 News. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
- Keith Stokes. "Four Women on the Route - Galena, Kansas". Kansastravel.org. Retrieved 2012-08-18.
- Michael Wallis; Suzanne Fitzgerald Wallis. The Art of Cars. Chronicle Books. p. 4.
- Scott Meeker (June 10, 2006). "Riverton man inspired 'Cars' character". Joplin Globe.
- Steve Daly (June 19, 2006). "Meet the Mater: Steve Daly chatted with North Carolina's Douglas Keever about his life since Pixar used his nickname for their lovable tow truck in Cars". Entertainment Weekly.
- "Back then, folk didn't drive to make great time, they drove to have a great time". Birmingham Mail. 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2013-06-09.
- "Get Your Kicks on Route 66! And Some CARS History". The Buzz: The Official Disney Store Blog. 2012-04-14. Retrieved 2013-06-09.
- Latham, Tanner (2010-04-28). "Erick, OK: Mediocre Music Makers". edgeoftheroad.typepad.com. Retrieved 2013-06-09.
- In the short "Mater Private Eye", part of the Mater's Tall Tales series, it is explained that he lost the headlight when a gangster named Clyde popped it out with a screwdriver.
- "Cars (2006)". moviefone. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
- Buchanan, Jason. "Cars 2 (2011) Synopsis". Fandango. Rovi. Jason Buchanan. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
- "A-List Auto Shop". Popular Mechanics. October 1, 2009.
- Picable – Photo Page: The Real "Tow Mater"
- "Meet Utah's real-life 'Mater'". KSL-TV. 2011-06-30. Retrieved 2012-08-18.