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Fans and pundits alike were surprised when the first teaser trailer for Cars 3 — Disney–Pixar‘s latest installment in a series known for cute and quirky talking vehicles — took a decidedly dark, hyper-real turn. The 50-second clip featured the franchise’s lead racer, Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), spinning through the air in a slow-mo wreck with the sobering proclamation, “From this moment, everything will change.” The preview bore a much closer resemblance to something like Ron Howard‘s gritty racing drama Rush than the lightweight fare of the first two Cars movies.
The tone of Cars 3, it turns out, is much more in line with its predecessors, especially the 2006 original. At the threequel’s Disneyland press junket, we asked the filmmakers what inspired the grim teaser, which commanded the internet’s attention.
It was a matter of necessity, producer Kevin Reher said of the preview, which debuted last November, a good seven months before the film’s release. The car-crash scene, which triggers Lightning McQueen’s eventual Rocky-esque comeback story, was complete, whereas the rest of the film was not.
“We got letters from kids going, ‘Are you killing Lightning McQueen?‘” Reher admitted. “We’d write back and say, ‘No, no, no. He’s going to be OK. Trust me.”
Lightning McQueen himself was a fan of the dark teaser. “I thought it was kind of cool, they made it look heavy,” Wilson said. “But I think that’s what’s good [about] these Pixar movies. There’s an emotion to them.”
Cars 3 opens Friday.
Watch the cast speculate what happened to all the people in the Cars universe:
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