Our Exclusive Review of Radiator Springs 500½ – The Characters, the Die Cast Cars & The Details

Radiator Springs 500 and a Half Review

Pixar’s latest tale, Radiator Springs 500½, is packed full of fast-paced action, eye-catching camera angles, and puns atop of puns. All this adventure is balanced against a leisurely stroll as the townspeople retrace Stanley’s original frontier route as he discovers Radiator Springs. Before you read any further if you haven’t already watched the six-minute and twenty-second short film, be sure to head over to Disney+ and watch it for free.

Radiator Springs 500 and a Half Screencap

PLOT SUMMARY

The town of Radiator Springs is just about to kick off their annual “Stanley Days” celebration (in honor of their town’s founder) when Mater spots a cloud of dust in the distance. A group of Baja racers has sped into town looking for Lightning McQueen (having heard he was the fastest race car around). Shortly thereafter the Baja racers insult Stanley prompting Lightning to utter, “Looks like our leisurely drive just turned into a race”.

Mater informs the racers of their course with a series of extremely quick and confusing directions which sets up the ensuing chaos. While the racers are speeding their way across the terrain, Mater leads the rest of the gang on the relaxing frontier path. When Mater and crew arrive back in town, they wonder where the racers are (they should be back by now). As the racers speed back into town after dark, they are humbled by Stanley’s bravery – they can’t understand how a car like Stanley could have traveled on such a treacherous journey (not knowing that they took a completely different path).

THE CHARACTERS

Radiator Springs 500 and a Half Screencap of Flo
Flo in her “Roaring 20’s” Gatsby outfit (perfect pun on cars having 20″ wheels”)

We had previously mentioned how excited we were to see a few of our favorite Radiator Springs characters with new paint jobs, but after seeing all of the characters, we really think Pixar did an outstanding job giving the entire gang an early 1900’s look (since Stanley founded Radiator Springs in 1909). At one point, Flo even jokes that she’s, “roaring her 20’s” as Lightning McQueen asks, “Everyone dressed for adventure?” That was just one of many puns which are spread across the entire short – in fact, we love the quirky nature of the jokes as the Rimshot Pitty rolls into frame hitting his drums with the signature, “ba-dum-crash”.

The Baja racers are designed with the same amount of detail and style as their Radiator Springs counterparts. Personally, we love Shifty Sidewinder’s design the most (voiced by Danny Mann – another veteran of vocal work in Pixar films) – you just can’t go wrong with a Volkswagen Baja Beetle in vibrant green. We also loved the reference to True Grit by naming one of the characters Blue Grit (voiced by Jess Harnell – Fun meal Zurg in Small Fry among many others). Idle Threat (voiced by John Cygan – Twitch in Toy Story 3 among many others) has the open-wheel design of Francesco Bernoulli and Sandy Dunes (voiced by Pixarian Steve Purcell – co-director of Brave) is the instigator of the Baja group.

Radiator Springs 500 and a half Dirt Racer Names

I know I’ve talked about this before (on our podcast as well as in additional posts), but I can’t wait for the Baja racers to be released as a set of die-cast characters (details below). Additionally, I hope we see a larger series from this short with the Radiator Springs group all decked out in their throwback looks.

THE DETAILS

I have to admit that when I first heard the summary for the story a while back, I was perplexed at how they could fit all of that content into roughly six minutes. True to CarsToons form though, this entry into the Tales from Radiator Springs catalog found its way to balance humor and action in a way that left me wanting more. The camera angles blew me away and the dispersed lighting between the clouds of dust as the cars raced by was jaw-dropping. 

Another detail that I absolutely loved was when the camera cut to the point-of-view angle, the audio details also changed. For instance, in the screenshot above, as the camera cut to this angle, the audio followed suit including more detailed sounds of rocks and debris hitting the inside of Lightning’s wheel wells. I know I should expect nothing less from Pixar’s team, but these little details floor me every time.

I also appreciated the moment when the race first started and the cars sped off of Radiator Springs’ Main Street how the loose dirt at the edges of the pavement picked up and swirled in proper vortex patterns.

Radiator Springs 500 and a Half screencap
Brilliant warmth in the lighting and subtle water movement in the reflections.

I have already watched Radiator Springs 500½ several times and I look forward to watching it again and again as I attempt to pick up more of the subtle nuances scattered throughout. One moment that I can’t help but make a connection to the original Cars movie is when Sandy Dunes says to McQueen, “How’s our dust taste city boy?” This sounded so close to Sheriff saying, “Get a good look city boy?” while he was being “operated” on by Doc Hudson in the original movie. 

The story was originally conceived by John Lasseter, Rob Gibbs, and Jeremy Lasky and was directed by veteran Cars Toons director/co-director, Rob Gibbs. It should also be noted that this is also one of the final projects worked on and finalized at Pixar Canada.

Radiator Springs 500 and a Half screencap

DIE CAST CHARACTERS

While we can’t be 100% certain that any of the final die-cast cars will in fact look exactly like the images below, the folks at Take Five a Day posted these images of the toys a few months ago and I can’t wait to get a closer look when they hit store shelves (no word on a release date yet).

DISCUSS

Now that you’ve seen Radiator Springs 500½ we’d love to hear your thoughts on the short – leave a comment below and let us know, or cast your vote on the Pixar Post Forum (scale of 1-5) and chat about the short in more detail.

HOW TO WATCH THE SHORT

Radiator Springs 500½ will be shown exclusively on Disney Movies Anywhere (as a part of the iPhone/iPad app, or online). UPDATED: You can now watch the short on Disney+. All you have to do is log in and click the Discover button then select the short to watch it. You can read more details regarding Disney Movies Anywhere in our post highlighting a Pixar Easter Egg hunt video (also exclusively released on the site). You can also download the Disney Movies Anywhere app in the iTunes App Store by clicking the button below.

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