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Cars 3 is a film that in many ways brings the career of Lightning McQueen full circle, but in order for it to do that, it was necessary that it go back to the beginning. I've already written about how Cars 3 brought back Paul Newman's character of Doc Hudson back, however, what's truly important about the fact that Pixar made the decision to bring back Doc is that they didn't simply do it on a whim. It was vital to the story that Cars 3 wanted to tell that Doc is part of the story. It's important for Lightning that he is there, and it's equally important for the audience. According to co-producer Andrea Warren...
In Cars 3, when Lightning McQueen finds himself recovering from a massive crash that might put him out of racing for good, he remembers how the exact same thing happened to his mentor Doc Hudson. Lightning is committed to making sure that what happened to Doc, being forced out of racing and left behind, doesn't happen to him. That premise essentially requires that Doc Hudson is in your movie, and just showing his picture wasn't going to be enough. For the impact to truly be felt we have to hear Paul Newman's voice. Of course, Doc Hudson has passed away in the movie, as Paul Newman has in real life, which only makes hearing that voice more impactful for Lightning.
Of course, as Andrea Warren points out, it isn't only impactful for Lightning McQueen. It is for the audience as well. Cars was the last movie that Paul Newman was involved in before he passed away, making the movie special for both fans of the movie and fans of Newman himself. When Lightning McQueen remembers Doc Hudson, the audience remembers Paul Newman, making those moments resonate for the audience.
If you're a fan of Paul Newman and/or the Cars franchise, I can say that you'll likely be very happy with what Cars 3 has done. Paul Newman's presence in the new film isn't forced or overdone. He appears where he needs to be and then the movie moves on. The lines feel like they were recorded specifically for Cars 3 as if somehow Newman knew what would be needed one day in the future. If Paul Newman were still with us it would be great to see him playing Doc Hudson again. The fact that he's gone makes his few moments in Cars 3 incredibly special. It may give you chills to hear that voice again. It did me.
Cars 3 opens in theaters Friday.