As parents, we’re generally pretty blasé about the personification of inanimate objects in kids’ media. We’re used to wooden pull toys flirting with stuffies, oranges arguing with pears, poodles headbanging to System of a Down. We don’t even blink an eye when characters comprised of complex machine parts operate just fine without any human intervention – which is why recent comments made by Cars’ Creative Director Jay Ward totally blew our minds.
In an interview published Wednesday in ScreenCrush, Ward shared his personal theory about what happened to the world of humans by the time Cars came about. Spoiler alert: it’s kind of freaky.
“If you think about this, we have autonomous car technology coming in right now,” Ward says. “It’s getting to the point where you can sit back in the car and it drives itself. Imagine in the near-future when the cars keep getting smarter and smarter and after one day they just go, ‘Why do we need human beings anymore? They’re just slowing us down. It’s just extra weight, let’s get rid of them.'”
Essentially, the cars’ smart technologies have enabled them to transcend human civilization, and they’ve quite literally left us in the dust to die. (More ominously, there’s the possibility that the cars have somehow figured out how to kill us off, but let’s not think too deeply about that.) This explains why the entire Cars franchise references so much pop culture and so many distinctly human pursuits, minus the humans.
But here’s the even creepier part: when asked about how the individual cars got their personalities, Ward offers another unusual theory. “The car takes on the personality of the last person who drove it,” he explains. “Whoa. There you go.” Ergo, Lightning McQueen was once driven by a cocky American race car driver; Mater by a none-too-bright Southern boy with a huge heart; Flo by a sassy diner owner; and so on. (Honestly, we’re pretty curious about what persona our old crumb-strewn Honda Civic would take on in this fictional future, but we digress.)
It’s all kind of fascinating, and thanks to Ward, we’ll definitely never watch Cars the same way again. One last question, though: is “Life is a Highway” actually a fist-pumping, anthemic ode to the end of humanity, when the cars finally have the roads all to themselves?
We’ll never know for sure, but perhaps Cars 3 – set for release on June 16 – will provide some fuel for thought