In the summer of 2006, the worlds of stock car racing and computer-generated imagery collided, giving audiences around the world the clever and entertaining Pixar movie, Cars. Now, it has been 15 years since we first heard Owen Wilson (who was at the top of the world) lend his voice to the successful, yet overly-confident, Lightning McQueen as the hot-shot race car learned a thing or two about not always taking the fast lane, and you might be wondering what he and the rest of the Cars voice cast have been up the past decade-and-a-half.
Well, you have certainly come to the right place, as we are about to get on the highway and get up to speed with all those familiar voices and everything they have done in recent years.
Owen Wilson (Lightning McQueen)
Coming out of the gate is Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, the hotshot, red race car who embarks upon the soul-searching journey after getting lost on his way to the final race of the Piston Cup. In addition to reprising his role in the second and third installments of the Cars franchise (as well as various short films), Wilson has gone on to team up with his old filmmaking buddy Wes Anderson multiple times over the past 15 years with another movie — The French Dispatch — on the way. In June 2021, Wilson joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the mysterious Mobius M. Mobius on the Disney+ streaming series Loki. If the shocking Season 1 finale is any indication, we’ll be seeing much more of Wilson in the MCU moving forward.
Paul Newman (Doc Hudson)
Paul Newman’s voice performance as Doc Hudson, the 1951 Hudson Hornet with quite a history, was the last non-documentary appearance by the Hollywood legend before his death in 2008. Archival recordings of the Academy Award-winning actor (The Color of Money) would later be used in 2017’s Cars 3.
Bonnie Hunt (Sally Carrera)
Sally Carrera, the law-practicing Porsche who represents Lightning McQueen when he brings chaos and destruction to Radiator Springs in Cars, is voiced by Bonnie Hunt. The longtime Pixar voice actor followed up her 2006 performance with the second and third Cars movies, as well as Toy Story 3 and its 2018 sequel, and 2013’s Monsters University. In 2021, Hunt lent her voice to the Disney+ streaming series Monsters at Work, reprising her role of Mrs. Flint from Monsters Inc.
Larry The Cable Guy (Mater)
There are few members of the Cars cast who have been connected to the franchise more than Larry The Cable Guy. Since voicing Mader, Lightning McQueen’s right-hand man and biggest supporter, in 2006, the Blue Collar Comedy star has appeared in all subsequent theatrical releases and a total of 11 short films, most of which centering on his character. He has even voiced the character in various video games and theme park attractions. He will reprise Mader once more in the upcoming Cars series on Disney+. Larry The Cable Guy has released multiple comedy albums and specials, documentaries, and reality shows since then.
Tony Shalhoub (Luigi)
In the years since he voiced Luigi, the yellow Fiat who owns Radiator Springs’ premier tire shop, Tony Shalhoub has concluded his celebrated run on the USA crime comedy series Monk and joined the cast of another successful series: the Amazon original The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. With the Primetime Emmy Award-winning show’s fourth season on the way, expect to see more of the prolific actor in the very near future.
Cheech Marin (Ramone)
Cheech Marin, one half of the iconic comedy duo known as Cheech and Chong, has remained as busy as ever since voicing Ramone, the lowrider with a paint shop, in the first Cars movie. Like much of the voice cast, Marin has reprised his role multiple times over the years, but he has also been up to quite a bit outside of the Pixar universe. In 2019 he appeared in the documentary The Cheech: An American Icon’s Crusade for the Chicano Art Movement, which focused on the actor’s decades-long work to preserve the art style while also bringing it to new audiences. He is also set to appear in the upcoming romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding alongside Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel, and Jennifer Coolidge.
George Carlin (Fillmore)
George Carlin’s portrayal of Fillmore, the Volkswagen Bus in Cars, was one of his final film appearances before the revolutionary comedian passed away in 2008. Even after his death, there have been multiple Carlin releases over the years, including the 2016 comedy album I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die. Carlin’s character Rufus from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure showed up (through the use of archival footage) in 2020’s Bill and Ted Face the Music.
Paul Dooley (Sarge)
In years since he first voiced Sarge, the old military Jeep that puts Lightning McQueen through a vehicular boot camp in Cars, Paul Dooley has continued to be one of the best character actors in film and television, though the majority of his output has been on the small screen recently. In the past few years, Dooley has popped up here and there on shows like Parenthood, Workaholics, Shameless, and Life in Pieces.
Jenifer Lewis (Flo)
Jenifer Lewis is another member of the Cars cast that has been busy as ever in the years following the film’s 2006 release. Since taking on the role of Flo, the owner of Flo’s V-8 Café all those years ago, Lewis has appeared multiple times in the franchise as well as other animated movies like The Princess and the Frog and The Addams Family. Since 2014, Lewis has portrayed Ruby Johnson on the successful ABC sitcom, black-ish. On top of all of that, Lewis published an autobiography called The Mother Of Black Hollywood, which featured stories from her life and career, including experiences with everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Aretha Franklin.
Richard Petty (Strip “The King” Weathers)
Strip “The King” Weathers, the Plymouth Superbird trying to get one more victory before retiring from the Piston Cup circuit in Cars, was voiced by NASCAR legend Richard Petty. Following a legendary career that saw him win a record 200 races, Petty retired from NASCAR in 1992 and has since become one of the brand’s most notable figures whether it be providing commentary during races or being a general presence at race tracks around the country.
Michael Keaton (Chick Hicks)
In the years following the release of Cars, Michael Keaton, who played the race car known as Chick Hicks, has given some of the best performances of his career and it doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down anytime soon. Within the past decade, Keaton has starred in Birdman, Spotlight, The Founder, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. In 2022, Keaton will once again play Vulture in the upcoming Marvel movie Morbius, and return as Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Flash.
Katherine Helmond (Lizzie)
The role of Lizzie, the Model T Ford in Cars, is just one of the many performances from the late Katherine Helmond, who passed away at the age of 89 in 2019. The legendary actress appeared in movies like Time Bandits, Overboard, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas throughout her career, but the lion’s share of her work was on the small screen. With credits that include Who’s the Boss?, Coach, and Everybody Loves Raymond, Helmond was about as prolific as it gets.
John Ratzenberger (Mack)
John Ratzenberger, who has appeared in nearly every Pixar movie dating back to Toy Story in 1995, voiced Mack, the sleep-deprived semi truck in Cars. In the years following the film’s 2006 release, Ratzenberger has mostly performed voice work on the film side of things with the majority of those being in Pixar movies and shows like the 2021 Disney+ streaming series Monsters at Work.
Joe Ranft (Red)
Joe Ranft, who wrote, co-directed and voiced Red in Cars, tragically passed away in an accident in August 2005, a little less than a year before the film’s release. The movie and subsequent video game were dedicated to his memory. Ranft was honored again years later in a Soul Easter egg.
Jeremy Piven (US)/Jeremy Clarkson (UK) (Harv)
Depending on where you watched Cars, Harv, Lightning McQueen’s manager (whom you only hear and don’t see throughout the movie) was voiced by Jeremey Piven (United States) or Jeremy Clarkson (United Kingdom). Piven, who won multiple awards for his performance as Ari Gold, a fixture of the Entourage cast, has gone on to star in shows like Mr. Selfridge and Wisdom of the Crowd in recent years. He will appear in a number of upcoming movies, including All-Star Weekend, The Walk, and Last Call. Clarkson, a former host of the British car show Top Gear, currently leads The Grand Tour on Amazon and the UK version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
The Cars cast is one of the most insane to be put together, even for Pixar’s standards. However, this is barely making a dent in the list of race car drivers, media personalities, and celebrities who appeared in the movie. With cameos from Bob Costas, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and actors from earlier Pixar films in the Cars end credits scene, there’s just so many names. And who knows, maybe some of these names will pop up in upcoming Disney movies.