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    Cars 3D Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray 3D Blu-ray Disney

    Oct 25 2013 01:35 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    When Pixar’s Cars was released in the summer of 2006, it was the first Pixar film that didn’t score almost unanimous raves since A Bug’s Life. Truth to tell, there is less obvious wit noticeable in Cars for a first time viewer, but those who have given the film multiple chances on home video should notice that the film is actually loaded with humor, charm, and heart and can easily stand comparisons with its more heavily lauded brothers. This new 3D conversion offers an expanded world view of the little hamlet where the movie takes place and just enough interesting new visuals to warrant yet another look.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Disney
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
    • Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
    • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    • Rating: G
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 57 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
    • Case Type: keep case with leaves in a slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: ABC
    • Release Date: 10/29/2013
    • MSRP: $49.99

    The Production Rating: 4/5

    Not being a racing fan myself, I have nevertheless grown up and lived in the heart of NASCAR my entire life, so I understood completely the world of stock cars that the movie inhabits in its opening and closing race sequences. It‘s obvious the filmmakers have done their homework as well because despite the fact that this is an animated film, the sport is portrayed better than in any other movie about stock car racing that I‘ve ever seen. The abysmal Stoker Ace and the farfetched Talladega Nights poke fun at the sport in an inane and sometimes almost mean-spirited way. Cars doesn’t take any easy shots or low blows at the sport. And, for those who find racing a total turnoff, there is that wonderful lengthy middle section of the film that’s all about finding one’s soul and not allowing the world to pass you by that everyone can identify with, whether he knows who Jeff Gordon or Richard Petty is or not.

    Hotshot rookie race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) finds himself in a three-way tie for the coveted Piston Cup at the end of the regulation racing season. A race-off is thus scheduled for the following weekend between McQueen, longtime champion The King (Richard Petty) and perennial runner-up Chick Hicks (Michael Keaton). Egotistical to a fault and possessing no real friends of his own, Lightning through an oversight gets abandoned in Radiator Springs, an almost deserted town on the old Route 66, no longer the heavily traveled highway it once was before Interstate 40 made it near obsolete. Wrecking the road through town and insulting most of the citizenry with his superior attitude and sense of entitlement, Lightning must make restitution before the sheriff (Michael Wallis) will allow him to leave for his race. Over the next few days, he gets introduced to all of the town characters: grumpy old Doc Hudson (Paul Newman), good ol’ boy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), gruff Sarge (Paul Dooley), hippie Fillmore (George Carlin), and sardonic town lawyer Sally (Bonnie Hunt). They and plenty more town regulars help Lightning see the folly of his go-it-alone attitude, and their friendship combined with their surprising knowledge of things that might get him ready for the big race help him to grow into a real champion.

    Director John Lasseter is a huge fan of racing, and undoubtedly that’s why the racing scenes are so alive with spirit, excitement, and derring-do. What the animators achieve with these animated stock cars is truly mind-boggling, and the amount of activity that’s all animated during the races (not just all the cars on the track doing different things, but thousands of fans in the stands, in the infield, in the announcement and media booths) just never ceases to amaze. And once we get to sleepy Radiator Springs, we have a different kind of detail as each of the town characters gets such an individual look and personality that one almost forgets these are talking cars but rather thinks of them as people.

    And the people who are voicing these creations couldn’t have been better suited for their roles. George Carlin as a hippy-dippy hippie, Tony Shalhoub as Italian tire expert Luigi, Paul Newman as the crusty town sage, and Larry the Cable Guy as the loveable redneck Mater: genius casting all around! And Owen Wilson in the central role of Lightning segues beautifully from his cocky loner to a persona with genuine feelings and warmth. And using stars of NASCAR like Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty, and Dale Earnhart, Jr. in some important roles only increases the worthy credentials of the enterprise.

    Yes, at 117 minutes, it’s a bit too long for its own good. Perhaps the funny but overlong tractor tripping sequence and the leisurely drive that Lightning and Sally take into the countryside do slow the picture down a bit, but the scenes are so gorgeously animated and the feelings that the segments generate are so true that it would have been a shame to omit them. Cars ends with a hilarious series of scenes over the closing credits. Thankfully, this epilogue is offered as one of the bonus features on the regular Blu-ray disc without the distractions of the scrolling titles and in full high definition.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: 4/5

    The film’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the MVC (for 3D) or AVC (for 2D) codec. The high bitrate assures that the dazzling animation on display gets its ultimate presentation, and dazzling is certainly the right word for it. Bright, intensely colorful, and with textures and details (the rusty and scraped bodies of some cars, the digs and ruts in the roads, the gleaming chrome that adorns the bodies of the characters) that are almost palpable, Cars is a near-reference disc in anyone’s book. Apart from some slight, occasional moiré glimpsed in the grille work of some of the trucks, there are no video anomalies at all, and black levels (that asphalt road and the tires of the competitors) are all one could want. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.

    As with most Pixar 3D conversions, there is more attention paid to increasing the depth of the image than in offering much in the way of forward projecting effects. The race track scenes and Radiator Springs set in a vast desert valley may be worlds apart in terms of mood and motion, but the added depth gives each locale an astonishing added dimension that 2D just can’t offer. Had the film been animated with 3D in mind, the flying tires off of vehicles, the sparks and confetti and pieces of asphalt that fly forward could have come at the viewer directly (and with the 2.39 aspect ratio, the artists would have had all that letterbox space with which to play). As it is, there are momentary glimpses of in-your face activity (some microphones shoved at the camera protrude a little) but only one really superb effect, and it happens in the small window beside the closing credits: a truck carrying gooey tar loses its load which comes spilling forward and completely out of the frame and into the blackness of the space around it, the film’s one true nod to 3D forward projection. There was no crosstalk glimpsed at all with this title.

    Audio Rating: 5/5

    Though the disc packaging says the codec is Dolby TrueHD 5.1, my receiver readout reported Dolby TrueHD 6.1 EX. Regardless, the audio track for the film is awash in great sounding music (the superb Oscar-nominated song “Our Town“ is a standout), the roar of engines, the squealing of tires, and cheers of fans, jet flyovers, and on and on, all given astounding surround treatment. Pixar produces such superbly designed sound mixes for each of their animated films, and the lossless soundtrack here does it full justice. Dialogue is always discernible and a judicious use of directionalized dialogue just adds to the wonder that is this still-reference quality soundtrack.

    Special Features: 5/5

    There are no bonus features on the new 3D disc in the set, the one disappointing aspect of this release. Even some 3D trailers (Frozen’s 3D trailer has appeared on other discs) would have made a lovely addition to the package.

    The other bonus features are all found on the 2D Blu-ray disc, and they repeat the features on the last Blu-ray release of Cars.

    Cine-Explore: allows for interactive discussions, inserts of photographs and artwork, and branching featurettes to be placed throughout the film for easy manual access or automatic playback as user selected. A word of warning, choosing the automatic playback will stretch the 117 minute film to about three hours when everything is played.

    Audio Commentaries: In the Cine-Explore mode, the user may choose either director John Lasseter (my favorite of the two available) or a carousel of 12 production heads who chime in about various facets of the production that they were in charge of. Both tracks are crammed full of information with never a dull or quiet moment.

    Car Finder Game: Players are asked to identify 217 different cars throughout the movie avoiding cars that aren’t actually in the film (bogus versions of Miss Sally, for example). The game has the ability to be saved and returned to at a later date. Finding specific cars also opens up car guides which gives the specs on each car that’s identified.

    Mater and the Ghostlight (7:09, HD): has practical joker Mater getting his comeuppance by the other Cars characters.

    One Man Band (4:32, HD): the entertaining short that accompanied Cars in theaters dealing with rival musicians out to get a donation from a little girl.

    Epilogue (4:19, HD): the funny closing scenes of the film are offered here in full screen mode in so it can be viewed without scrolling credits.

    Boundin’ Cars (0:46, SD): the Easter egg from the original Cars DVD release puts Cars characters into one of Pixar’s famous shorts.

    Movie Showcase (6:33, HD): takes the viewer instantly to three scenes which the producers feel best represent reference quality material.

    The Inspiration for Cars (16:02, SD): details the two areas that required the greatest research from the team’s writers and animators before Cars could get underway: NASCAR and Route 66. The documentary shows the team at racetracks and in race cars being driven by professional drivers so they could better understand the speed and the way the cars and drivers operate. The tours of Route 66 to almost abandoned towns seem eerily similar in look and feel to Radiator Springs in the movie.

    Deleted Scenes (14:00, SD): five deleted scenes which can be selected individually or all run in a single montage. They all have introductions by John Lasseter.

    Documentary Shorts (55:52, HD): For those who don’t choose to let the featurettes play automatically from the Cine-Explore feature, they can also be selected individually from a separate user menu. They cover Radiator Springs, the design of the characters, the animation and acting, the real Hudson Hornet, the graphics created for stickers and insignias on the cars, and a tour through Darrell Waltrip‘s car museum.

    Promo Trailers (HD): Planes, Frozen, The Jungle Book.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    Cars may not be Pixar’s finest hour, but it’s more than fine enough under any circumstances. Featuring breathtaking animation, a story that one can easily find identifiable aspects to, and characters that one won’t soon forget, Cars is an outstanding and highly recommended Blu-ray release. Those who are 3D equipped will likely enjoy the more spacious-looking visuals and the occasional pop-out effect that 3D provides.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:

    • Adam Gregorich likes this


    Adam Gregorich
    Oct 25 2013 03:13 PM

    Good point about needing multiple viewings to really enjoy it.  I'm also not a NASCAR fan, and thought it was OK after the first viewing.  After repeated viewings I have a much greater appreciation for it.  Glad to see it arrive in 3D.

    Neil Middlemiss
    Oct 25 2013 04:51 PM

    Thanks for the review, Matt. This is one of the films that I have in mind to watch with my son when he's old enough to be able to enjoy them (in all honesty, I have a running list in my head of films that I can't wait to watch with him :).


    He's about to turn 17 months and it looks like I'll need to pick this one up so that we can eventually enjoy it in 3D together as well.

    Besides, this film's success gave rise to that wonderful new attractions section at California Adventure in Disneyland!

    Brendan Surpless
    Oct 27 2013 02:28 PM

    Cars, and its sequel, were the only two Pixar films that I never initially watched in theaters. 


    Perhaps it was the lack of interest in the subject matter, like you mentioned, Matt. Upon viewing them, especially the original (not so much the latter,) Cars has sneaked its way onto my list of one of my favorite Pixar films to show my godson. 


    While it never rises to the levels we've come to expect from Pixars' efforts (for obvious reasons,) the film is really quite enjoyable. 

    Ted Van Duyn
    Oct 28 2013 09:14 AM

    What makes this film so unwatchable for me is that it's the most mediocre thing I've ever watched. There isn't a lot of originality to it, the characters are all jerks, the resolution is ham-handed, the story line is predictable and Mater is one of the worst comic relief characters that I have seen in a movie. It's just...bleh.

    ...Mater is one of the worst comic relief characters that I have seen in a movie. It's just...bleh.


    Agreed on that.  A little Larry the Cable Guy goes a long way and he was the worst part of the sequel.


    The first Cars was a revelation for me, considering I didn't see it in the theater.  I enjoyed it just fine and like the soundtrack.  It's sappy and sentimental for some people.


    The end, though, was a bit much.

    If you have DPL IIz or Aud DSX in your AVR...(along with Yamaha Presence and Pioneer "height"....whatever Pioneer actually calls it)


    This disc is a reference for "height channel".

    "Though the disc packaging says the codec is Dolby TrueHD 5.1, my receiver readout reported Dolby TrueHD 6.1 EX."

    It was the same thing with e.g. some of the shorts in "Pixar Short Films vol.2". DD 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks were actually EX.

    Then I again I believe EX is always "matrix" so it's usually listed as "5.1 EX", not 6.1 (which would be discrete).

    My processor lists it as "TRUEHD-EX 6.1". EX has always been referred to as 6.1 matrixed and ES as 6.1 discrete as far as I know.


    My copy had two snaps in the audio, both repeatable, and seem to fall on cuts and a couple of audio dropouts as well, not repeatable. My original PCM copy doesn't have those issues.

    I had no dropouts during my viewing of the 3D version. I used a Panasonic 320 player.

    Adam Gregorich
    Nov 12 2013 03:38 PM

    I had drop outs on Monsters U on my first gen Oppo, no dropouts on this on my Panasonic player.

    Adam Gregorich
    Nov 12 2013 03:38 PM

    HTF had the opportunity to talk with Josh Hollander, Director of 3D Production for Pixar, and Bob Whitehill, the 3D Stereoscopic Artist who worked on bring Cars to 3D.