In recent years, Pixar has really gone all-in when it comes to sequels. Between 1995 and 2015, the studio released a total of just four sequels: Cars 2, Toy Story 2 & 3, and Monsters University. But Pixar began a franchise binge in 2016, with Finding Dory being the first of four planned sequels to be released in as many years. The next one to arrive is Cars 3, which looks to single a major turning point in the franchise. So, is Cars 3 the last Cars movie, or is Pixar going to keep this sequel train rolling for the foreseeable future?
The plot of Cars 3 sure makes it sound as if it could end the saga, if that's what you want to call the Cars franchise. The movie brings the focus back on Cars' protagonist Lightning McQueen, after the misguided sequel Cars 2 focused on Larry the Cable Guy's Mater and became Pixar's only major critical failure in the process. The plot centers on Lightning facing off against a younger generation of technically-superior racers, hoping to prove that he still has something less in the tank — so to speak. And though it feels like it could be the perfect cap to the series, I wouldn't count on Cars 3 being the final Cars movie.
While no sequel to the film has been announced yet, one hasn't been ruled out either. Franchise producers Kevin Reher and Andrea Warren have broached the subject of a fourth film while making their press rounds for Cars 3, and they are definitely open to doing another one. "I don't know, there might be," Reher told Dirk Libbey of Cinema Blend when asked if there would be a Cars 4. "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." It's worth mentioning that Toy Story 3 was considered the final film in that franchise, until the "good story" idea came along for Toy Story 4. This time around, Pixar isn't even pretending that Cars 3 is the end, so I'm doubting it will be.
There's another incentive for the Cars franchise to continue, and that's money. The series is a money-making machine when it comes to merchandise, raking in over $10 billion in sales before Cars 2 was released. That's a staggering number, and with Disney building an entire Cars Land at their California Adventure theme park in 2012 — at the expense of over a billion dollars — it's clear that the Mouse House expects big things from the franchise.
But what would a Cars 4 even look like? There's a chance it could focus on some of the new characters introduced in Cars 3, since there are a bunch, and it may even end up being a female-led film. There are thoughts that newcomer Cruz Ramirez — voiced by Cristela Alonzo — could become a fan-favorite. "It'll be interesting to see if Cruz is a breakout character, kind of like Mater was," Reher said. "Does it resonate with people. Would she be involved in a 4, who knows?"
Although Cars 3 seems like it could be the end of a trilogy, I wouldn't count on it. Odds are a Cars 4 will arrive sooner rather than later, making this one franchise that could keep on riding for years.