Recently Disney launched their ambitious Disney Movies Anywhere platform, a kind of virtual locker that allows you access to all of your favorite Disney movies that syncs with your iTunes account and occasionally offers you exclusive behind-the-scenes material or, in this case, a brand new animated “Cars” short entitled “The Radiator Springs 500 ½.” As long as you’ve got a Disney Movies Anywhere account you can watch it for free, right now. And it’s pretty damn cute.
The short, part of the wonderful “Cars Toons” series, is one of the first with the “Tales from Radiator Springs” label (most of the previous installments have been branded “Mater’s Tall Tales” and involve the bucktoothed tow truck getting into outlandish, highly improbable adventures), one that opens up the world a bit to encompass the world of Carburetor County. (It also not so coincidentally reinforces how amazing it would be to actually visit Radiator Springs, like, say, at Carsland at Disney California Adventure…). In this short, co-directed by Rob Gibbs and Scott Morse (a comic book creator responsible for the beloved “Soulwind” series), a leisurely stroll through the land just outside of Radiator Springs becomes a high-octane descent into madness when some off-road racers challenge Lightning McQueen to a cross-country rally. Things, somewhat predictably, get silly. (We love the little car whose sole purpose in the short is to provide expertly timed rim shots.)
The short is really funny and reinforces how breathtakingly gorgeous the entire “Cars” universe really is. It was beautifully animated at Pixar’s Emeryville campus (Pixar’s Vancouver studio, which was initially formed to help with the short films, quietly closed its doors last October) and features a jaunty score by Mark Mothersbaugh. What makes this short an even bigger deal is that, in addition to “Cars” regulars Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shalhoub and Cheech Marin, Owen Wilson returns to the series for the first time since 2011’s “Cars 2.” And from the sounds of it, he’s still having the time of his life.
So, before you head down to the beach, while you’re liberally applying sunscreen or making sure that your cooler is filled with the proper chilled libations, take six minutes and watch “The Radiator Springs 500 ½.” Even if you’re not a fan of the “Cars” franchise, it’s hard to deny the humor, charm, and gorgeous craftsmanship of this short.