Cars 4: Will Pixar Ever Release the Movie?

By Klein Felt Posted:
Cars 4 Pixar Lightning McQueen Mater

After a highly successful trilogy of films, fans started to wonder if Pixar will ever make and release Cars 4

The hit high-octane animated franchise earned the beloved animation studio over $1.7 billion and is now one of Disney's biggest merchandising properties. 

The last Cars and its colorful cast of characters were heard from was in 2017, seemingly closing out the rollicking film series after more than a decade on-screen. 

However, with a renewed franchise-focused mandate from Disney (with films like Toy Story 5 and Frozen 3 getting greenlit), a fourth Cars movie now feels more possible than ever.

Will Pixar Ever Make Cars 4?

Cars Pixar

As of now, no official confirmation of Cars 4 has made its way out to the public. 

In the lead-up to Cars 3's 2017 release, the director of that film revealed that he "[didn't] know the future of the franchise" as part of an interview with CinemaBlend:

"I don't know. I'm not sure. I actually don't know the future of the franchise. I don't know where we'll go after that. I don't know if we'll make one. If we do, will it be more McQueen? This is the third act but I don't know how many acts he has in his life. Will other characters be main characters, at this point I have no idea. I think anything's possible."

That is not to say it would never happen though. In that same conversation, Lee added that if "there's a good story to tell...[it would be] worth investing" in a fourth film:

"I don't know, there might be. If there's a good story to tell I mean our heads kinda break after having gotten this one done, like oh my god what could you do the further adventures of? But like any sequel, from 'Toy Story 4' to Incredibles, as long as there's a good story to tell it's worth investing, we do love these characters, we love them as much as the public does."

Of course, a lot has changed since that 2017 interview, yet Disney has remained tight-lipped on a potential Cars 4

However, franchise star Larry the Cable Guy (who played the beloved tow truck Mater), thinks a fourth film could and should happen.

In a 2020 conversation with Popculture, the comedian-turned-Pixar-staple said that he had not heard anything about Cars 4, but given the recent investment from Disney into the Carsland theme park at California Adventure among other Cars-themed ventures, one would think the studio "probably [has] got to keep putting fuel in the tank:"

"That was a fun thing to do. Obviously it's one of the only Pixar movies. It's got its own theme park. I just feel that they probably know that they've got this Disney thing up and going. You would think if you put in a billion-dollar theme park, you probably got to keep putting fuel in the tank. You would think. So I don't know."

Disney has shown interest in the IP as of late by releasing the Cards on the Road shorts on Disney+ in 2022, which could indicate it is ready to do a full-scale fourth movie.

When Could Cars 4 Release?

Cars poster

Cars 4 currently does not have a place on the Pixar slate, at least publicly. 

The animation powerhouse does have three open dates on the calendar though, meaning Cars 4 could slot into any one of those over the next couple of years. 

Those three untitled projects on the Pixar release calendar are set to arrive on June 13, 2025, March 6, 2026, and June 19, 2026. 

Traditionally, Pixar is known to release its more high-caliber titles in that June slot, so if a Cars 4 is coming, June 2025 or 2026 feels like the most natural fit. 

Seeing as 2026 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Cars franchise, it seems fitting that if a fourth film is in development, it would come out then to celebrate two decades of Lightning McQueen and friends. 

What Could Happen in Cars 4?

Lightning McQueen Mater

Coming out of Cars 3, series protagonist Lightning McQueen seems to have left his racing days in the rearview, instead opting to train the young and starry-eyed racing fan, Cruz Ramirez. 

So, should Disney want to dip its dipstick back into the oil pan of the Cars name (especially if it wants to focus on Lightning again), it may have to venture beyond the traditional racing story the franchise has become accustomed to. 

Star Owen Wilson previously told CinemaBlend that he thinks Cars 4 could broaden its genre horizons, "maybe [seeing] Lightning McQueen in sort of like a thriller:"

"Well, I kind of trust Pixar to kind of come up with the stories because they have such a great track record with doing these movies that work for kids and also that grown-ups and parents find entertaining. I would imagine that if they do do another one, it'll be something pretty cool. But yeah maybe like Lightning McQueen in sort of like a thriller. Maybe that could be something."

This would not be the first time the Cars franchise took a stab at a genre film, putting out a full-on spy story in 2011's Cars 2

The film could also see Wilson's Lightning McQueen perhaps fade into the background a tad, with Cristela Alonzo's Cruz taking on the mantle of franchise figurehead.

Cars 3 director Brian Fee teased "a different character as the star" of a potential fourth film (via SlashFilm):

"I think there could [be a different character as the star] if it feels right.  I mean, I think never say never.  And I think you can make a good movie about anything if you have, if the audience can connect.  Right, I think that's what it boils down to.  Can the audience relate to the story?"

In a separate conversation, he teased that this new protagonist could potentially be Alonzo's Cruz:

"It'll be interesting to see if Cruz is a breakout character, kind of like Mater was. Does it resonate with people. Would she be involved in a '4,' who knows?"

Who Would Return for Cars 4?

Cars poster Pixar

Should Disney and Pixar want to jump back into the driver's seat for a Cars 4, fans can expect several familiar faces to return for another rubber-meets-road adventure. 

The Cars cast has cemented itself in a way since the 2006 original, with Owen Wilson headlining a cast of colorful characters from across the world of competitive racing and the sleepy town of Radiator Springs (which is the subject of Disney's Carsland at California Adventure). 

Here is every character and actor expected to appear in Cars 4:

Owen Wilson - Lightning McQueen

It would not be a Cars movie without the series' main character Lightning McQueen. Cars 3 saw Owen Wilson's racing superstar "Kachow" his way to pit row, opting to train the next generation of racers as a pit chief rather than participate in the races themselves. 

Larry the Cable Guy - Tow Mater

Just as much as Lightning McQueen makes a Cars movie, Larry the Cable Guy's lovable oaf of a tow truck, Mater, does as well. This goofball from Radiator Springs has traveled the globe with his best friend Lightning, even dipping his tires into the world of international espionage in 2011's Cars 2

Cristela Alonzo - Cruz Ramirez

Introduced in Cars 3, Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) has the potential to take the baton from Lightning McQueen as the franchise protagonist of Cars going forward. After coming out of her shell and realizing she could be a racer herself, Cruz now works under the tutelage of Lightning, on the professional racing circuit. 

Also expected to return are the residents of Radiator Springs that made the first Cars film the success it was. This includes:

  • Bonnie Hunt - Sally Carrera
  • John Ratzenberger - Mack
  • Tony Shalhoub - Luigi
  • Guido Quaroni - Guido
  • Lloyd Sherr - Fillmore
  • Cheech Marin - Ramone
  • Katherine Helmond - Lizzie
  • Paul Dooley - Sarge
  • Jenifer Lewis - Flo

Cars, Cars 2, and Cars 3 can be streamed now on Disney+. 

- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.