Cars fans, pack your bags and get ready to hit the road. The new Disney+ original series Cars on the Road follows Lightning McQueen and Mater as they head east from Radiator Springs on a cross-country road trip to meet up with Mater’s sister.
Cars on the Road isn’t the first series in the Cars universe. Disney-Pixar previously released two iterations of Car Toons (Mater’s Tall Tales and Tales from Radiator Springs). However, Cars on the Road takes a slightly different approach than these shorts. The individual episodes run a bit longer (averaging 8 minutes each), and also form an overarching (albeit loosely connected) plot.
Each episode of Cars on the Road sees Lightning McQueen and Mater make a different stop along their cross-country roadtrip. There they encounter roadside attractions, different towns and environments, and new characters that affect their journey.
Honestly, it’s kind of surprising the Cars franchise hasn’t done a road trip plot before; it makes a lot of sense for the universe and the characters. The angle for Cars on the Road is unique, but much like an actual road trip, the stops along the way can be hit or miss. The references to films like The Shining and Mad Max: Fury Road show off a fun, imaginative spirit. However, some adventures feel stunted by their short run times (or stretched to fit 8 minutes).
I also wish each episode felt more connected to the overarching plot and emotional theme of Mater’s family reunion. 90% of the character growth and emotional resonance is stuffed into the final episode of Cars on the Road, making it feel more uneven as a series. It sort of straddles the line between “overarching plot” and “standalone adventures” in an awkward way. That keeps the show from being as enjoyable as comparable Disney+ series like Baymax! and Dug Days.
That said, this series is made for kids who are Cars fans. At its core, it’s just a chance to see Lightning McQueen and Mater having new adventures together. Whether the duo stop at the dinosaur park or the circus, kids will be along for the ride.
Cars on the Road begins streaming on Disney+ Day, September 8.