As an extremely lucrative Pixar franchise, Cars was released in 2006 and treated us to Californian scenery, the legendary Route 66 and race tracks. In 2011, Cars 2 took us on a world tour through Tokyo, Paris, Porto Corsa and London. Cars 3 is due to be released in 2018-2019 and shall feature an all-new world of which we know nothing yet. In the meantime, the movies have spawned spinoffs with the Cars Toon series, which takes place in various locations other than Radiator Springs.
The artists have thus designed a vast world populated solely by vehicles: cars obviously, but also boats, planes and helicopters. Yet Pixar Animation Studios have gone even further by creating scenery peculiar to the world in which they appear. Indeed, though not instantly noticeable as first glance, viewers need to scan an overall shot to view all the intricate details, of which the procedure is neologically described as car-ification. That is to say a world where the automobile world is firmly rooted within the scenery.
This feature will present many details that set the Cars franchise apart from all the studio’s other productions.
The state in which Cars is set, California, features hints of car-ificaton. Mountains are indeed shaped like old cars. You can indeed make out mudguards as well as a radiator grill, and even headlights. Ornament Valley is the name of the location in which these mountains illustrating Monument Valley – a legendary Californian landmark – are set.
Not only is the scenery car-ified, but so are the names of all the locations. Starting with Radiator Springs, which alludes to car radiators. This small Californian town is set in Carburetor County. And a carburetor is a mechanical device that blends air and fuel.
On the map one may read Cadillac Range. This place is inspired by Cadillac Ranch, an actual location which is a sculpture made up of ten Cadillac automobiles which are half-buried nose-first in the ground. The car-ified version is well and truly presented in the Cars movie with tilted rocky mountains which you can see in the background.
Willy’s Butte is furthermore based on a Pontiac ornament.
Axlerod drives by a mountain which is shaped like a car.
One highly unobtrusive detail nonetheless car-ifies the sky in the movie: the vapor trail that forms behind the airplanes features tire tracks.
Even the animal world has undergone a car-ification procedure. The bugs you see in Cars distinctly reappear at the end of the movie in a post-credits scene. Viewers indeed notice that they are ladybugs (Vroomaroundus Bugus), portrayed by the world-famous VW Beetle.
Cows have also been treated to a motorized counterpart by being turned into tractors.
Here is a concept art depicting this transformation.
In Cars 2, pigeons are portrayed by means of small planes of the same colour as the birds you see in Paris.
The well-known gas station (that serves as a hangout bar) in Radiator Springs is called Flo’s V8 Café. A V8 is a type of engine. And when you look at the structure of the station, you see pistons and connecting rods.
Sally’s Cozy Cone Motel is a series of traffic cones used to delineate a course. They are based on California’s Wigwam Motels, a chain where tepees are used instead of cones.
Finally, the Wheel Well Motel features a car wheel on its façade.
Small, discreet elements are to be found here and there to further characterize the automobile world. Starting with Doc Hudson’s medical logo, which features cables and a monkey wrench where you would normally see a doctor’s caduceus.
Inside the Radiator Springs courthouse, it is usually said that justice is blind and weighs up the pros and cons by means of a scale. The painting you see behind Doc illustrates this idea.
The airport McQueen and his friends use to enter a world race features monkey wrenches at the front.
The magazines you see are based on actual famous ones: Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone.
Let us now leave California to venture out to Tokyo, Japan. The capital’s famous Tokyo Tower is topped with a spark plug.
The capital’s Rainbow Bridge, where McQueen and the other cars race, is made up of spare parts.
You only catch a glimpse of it but the Tokyo Imperial Palace is shaped like a car and the bridge outside it is supported by mechanical parts.
The Kabuki-Za (a Japanese theater) features the front of a Bentley.
An engine towers over the sumo wrestlers.
The gong is actually a hubcap.
Finally, Haneda Airport is supported by shock absorbers which you see inside. The control tower outside is shaped like a nut and bolt.
Drinks vending machines have been replaced by machines that sell car parts.
Samurai helmets are adorned with tailpipes.
This restaurant’s neon sign features a nut held between chopsticks.
Finn can be seen outside a building that offers Carate lessons (meaning Karate), and where you can also learn Carkido (Aikido) and Carfu (Kung Fu).
The “No Smoking” logo here is illustrated by a symbol that forbids the use of fuming tailpipes.
A fountain is to be seen in the centre of Carsoli (Luigi and Guido’s hometown); it represents the six Maserati Brothers (the famous car manufacturers). The building behind it is adorned with radiator grills, headlights, mudguards and wheels.
The statue is also reminiscent of the Fountain of Neptune in Bologna (Italy).
The mountains of this fictitious town are shaped like cars.
The Casino is built on a mountain, the shape of which recalls the 1948 Fiat 500 Topolino.
Its façade has also been car-ified.
Inside this casino, you see slot machines shaped like gas pumps or dice the likes of those you hang from a rear-view mirror. The interior is also car-themed.
The buildings you see behind the Pope feature radiator grills and headlights.
The Carmani shop may be a reference to the Armani brand. Carmani is also a rim brand.
Viewers only catch a glimpse of it, but the Colosseum has also been given a car-themed makeover as wheels are to be seen on its façade.
Let us now head off to Europe, with a first stopover in Paris. The most famous buildings of the French capital have undergone a car-ification procedure. The symbol of our country, the Eiffel Tower, has been mechanized. It is topped by a spark plug and the bottom of its frame is modeled after rim spokes. You can also spot the Trocadéro that features air filters on its sides.
The Arc de Triomphe looks to have an oil pan on its top.
The Louvre Museum has not been spared and has been adorned with radiator grills and cars that fill in as statues.
This is nothing compared to Notre-Dame Cathedral. Both towers have been given a radiator grill makeover whilst the sides of the cathedral are exhaust lines. 24 “car-goyles” furthermore adorn the edifice.
Not that far from the Cathedral lies the Pont des Arts (please note also that the two cars on it are meant to be John Lasseter and his wife). The bridge you see in the background includes suspension parts. In the centre, a headlight sits atop a radiator grill which the Seine runs by.
The other legendary capital landmark, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, loses its curvy shapes to squarer ones that call to mind radiator grills.
Lastly, the Flea Market becomes the “Marché aux Pièces”, meaning “Spare Part Market”. Its car-ified façade features headlights.
Let us now travel across the Channel and head over to London. Westminster features radiator grills and spark plugs under each pennant.
London’s famous clock tower Big Ben (referred to as Big Bentley in the movie), has undergone car-ification treatment with pieces typically belonging to a Bentley car, including the manufacturer’s logo. Artists have once again changed its inscription. On the actual Big Ben one may read: “DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM” (meaning “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First”). In the movie, viewers can read “DOMINE SALVAM EAC CORONAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM” (meaning “God Salvage Crown Victoria the First”), which is a reference to the Ford Crown Victoria sedan.
Buckingham Palace becomes motorized and sports a statue outside the Queen’s home featuring cars, mudguards, wheels and headlights.
The symbol of royalty has furthermore seen its animals replaced by cars.
The dome crowning St. Paul’s Cathedral features various car parts: headlights, spark plugs, pistons…
In actual fact, the Admiralty Arch has a Latin inscription etched on its façade: “ANNO DECIMO EDWARDI SEPTIMI REGIS VICTORIÆ REGINÆ CIVES GRATISSIMI MDCCCCX”, meaning “In the tenth year of King Edward VII, to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens, 1910”.The artists have changed this motto to “ANNO DECIMO EDWARDI SEPTIMI REGIS VICTORIÆ CORONÆ AUTOCESTA GRATISSIMI MDCCCCX”, meaning “In the tenth year of King Edward VII, to Crown Victoria, from most grateful highways, 1910”. This is yet another reference to the Ford Crown Victoria.
London’s famous Tower Bridge (renamed Tyre Bride) has also seen its architecture endowed with mechanical parts: wheels, mudguards and headlights at its base, radiator grills at the top of the towers and suspension blades supporting its cables.
In Cars 2, Trafalgar has been renamed Trafalgear and Piccadilly Circus has become Petroldilly Circus. Street names such as Sixth Gear Road and Tyre Iron Street follow the theme.
The logo signaling the entrance to the Tube goes from being circular in real life to a spur gear once it has been car-ified.
The photos used for this article have been taken from Wikipedia. Special thanks go to Pierre L. for having helped us draw up this article.