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This Cars 3 feature is brought to you in collaboration between The Rock Father and Disney•Pixar. Interviews edited for clarity.

“I have two daughters, and one day my daughters told me rather abruptly that certain things were for boys and certain things were for girls,” recalls Cars 3 Director Brian Fee. “And if something was, quote ‘for boys,’ they automatically didn’t have an interest in it or didn’t feel like they could have an interest in it. That was a red flag and it just kind of killed me that society puts those kind of labels on things, and that they, at such a young age, were already feeling those labels.” Sitting in on a press conference at Sonoma Raceway ahead of the release of Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3, I couldn’t help but flash back to something that I’d written on this very site back in 2011, and how much things have changed in just six years. It was then that I asked, “Is Cars 2 Forgetting that Little Girls Like Cars TOO?” In the years since, I’ve echoed that sentiment, as the father of two daughters myself. While it wasn’t necessarily the film at the time, the merchandising of Cars 2 was aimed firmly at one segment of the audience. With Cars 3, Pixar crashes the gate on all levels, delivering a movie that’s truly for everyone.

In Cars 3, the focus on life-changing career moves for Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is certainly a big deal, and throughout this turning point in his life, he’s accompanied with a new character – racing trainer Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo). By putting Cruz right alongside McQueen, there should be absolutely no doubt that when it comes to Cars, it’s a franchise for the family.

“In Cruz, I see my daughters, so that storyline is very important to me,” adds Fee. “And also as a parent of said daughters, McQueen’s storyline reflects the moment that you wake up and realize what it really feels like to be a parent, and what it really feels like to help someone accomplish something.”

Cars 3 Director Brian Fee (right) with Producer Kevin Reher and Co-Producer Andrea Warren

“The real message of the movie for me is buried in McQueen’s story, and it’s about finding purpose in life. What is important to you when you’re twenty is no longer probably necessarily what’s important when you’re forty five. We go through changes where life does have new meaning, and that’s the discovery he’s on. When you’re twenty years old, you spend all your time doing everything for yourself. But, when you realize the joy you get out of helping someone else find their potential — that’s something I identify with, and that’s McQueen on a great scale.”

For boys and girls alike, they will see in Cruz some things that they’ll likely identify with. “I think there’s a lot for kids in this movie, and our hope is that kids can relate to Cruz,” says Fee. “Our hope is that everybody knows what it’s like to feel like you don’t belong.” Having seen a large chunk of the film as of this writing, there’s some deep messaging here (as you’d expect from Pixar), but there’s also a lot of high-octane fun.

“Of course we’re just looking for humor whenever we can do it,” assures Fee. And if you dig racing (and even if you don’t), you’re in for a treat. “There’s more racing in this movie than I think we’ve ever had in any Cars movie. I’ve even had people that don’t particularly like racing tell me that this was the best racing they’ve ever seen ’cause it’s part of the story. At Pixar, we just try to make sure everything we’re doing is story based. Even if you happen to dislike racing, we hope that you’re engaged in the story. You’re not thinking about racing. It’s about expanding the world and expanding what the characters are going through. And take them to new places.”

Disney•Pixar’s Cars 3 opens on June 16, 2017 in theaters everywhere. Cars 3 merchandise is available for boys and girls, men and women alike, at retailers everywhere!

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