Cars 3 is aiming to surprise and delight moviegoers with a story that can appeal to people of all ages through “powerful” themes, the crew tells us.

Hypable visited Pixar and attended a Cars 3 press day at the Sonoma Raceway in March. While there, we sat down with director Brian Fee and producer Andrea Warren.

Cars 3 follows a turning point for Lightning McQueen: Like all of us, the red racer is getting older, and aging means accepting new challenges and new phases of life. As previewed in the initial teaser trailer, Lightning pushes himself too hard as he races against a newer generation, potentially putting himself in grave danger.

It wasn’t like Lightning was forced to go up against cars who could clearly beat him. The problem was he didn’t realize he’s no longer a modern racer, and he doesn’t listen to the advice he’s given. Mentorship, moving through different phases of life, and self-reflection are the most prominent themes in the film, according to Cars 3’s team.

“There is always more to learn about yourself,” Warren tells Hypable. “Just because something in your life shifts or changes for any reason, you don’t have to just try to hold on to what was. You can welcome what could be and what is. And in doing so, discover all sorts of new things about yourself.

She says that this theme appeals to people of all ages. Kids deal with it when “they’re transitioning from kindergarten to first grade, or moving to a new school.” For adults, you deal with it when, for example, you’re changing jobs.

Director Brian Fee believes the big message in the film is mentorship. He says there’s a scene in the movie — which Hypable didn’t get to see during the press event — that really drives the mentorship theme home.

“I come at it from a parent. [There are those times when] I can think I’m trying to tell my daughter something, I’m trying to show them something, [but] they’re not paying attention.”

“‘Blah, blah, blah, dad. We’re bored. Blah, blah, blah,'” he says, impersonating his kids. “Then you come back a week later and you see them in their room doing the same thing [I advised] … They were always listening.

“The pride you get, the feeling like you’re helping them, you are raising them, you are making them a better person … I think Doc and McQueen had that after Cars 1. I think Doc and McQueen would have had that relationship and McQueen never fully realized or appreciated what Doc got out of it.”

Lightning meets with several stock car racing legends who knew Doc well.

With Doc gone, the theme of mentorship will be on display between Lightning and a new character named Cruz, though the original Doc relationship won’t be far from Lightning’s rearview mirror. “We’re using all three of those generations to try to tell different versions of the same story,” Fee says.

For Cruz and Lightning, mentorship and entering a new phase of life will go hand in hand, says Warren. “I like the notion of being in a situation where you’re a little out of your element, or you’re a little uncomfortable, you feel like maybe you’re the only one and you’re looking around and feeling different.”

This, in turn, will help Cruz and Lightning find the confidence they need for the next phases of their lives.

Cars 3 rolls into theaters June 16, 2017.

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