Route 66

Last weekend, I finally saw Cars (2006).  What a good movie!  I didn’t expect from the big-eyed automobiles that I saw in the toystores that this computer animated flick from Pixar/Disney would have such lively characters, such a witty script, and such an evocative story.  One of its themes is the difference between the Interstate sensibility and the Route 66 sensibility.  (“Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”)

I grew up in a little Oklahoma town right on Route 66.  And our relatives lived way down that same road, so we did a lot of driving on that mother road.  In fact, the town where I lived looked a lot like Radiator Springs in the movie.  The “EAT” cafes, the motels shaped like teepees, the tourist traps, all of those glamorous neon signs, and other imagery from the movie gave me a nostalgia rush.  (Also the “Ghost Light” referenced in the movie would have been the mysterious apparition that occasionally appeared to freaked out motorists known as the “Spook Light,” just 20 miles or so from where we lived.  (No, I never saw it.  But we tried, venturing out on some scary drives.)  Then there was the teenager car culture that went with all of that, trying to turn our junkers into hot rods and dragging main.  And the road food. (We would never stop at a drive-in on Route 66, though such things had been invented.  We always stopped at a local restaurant for hour-long-lunches, finishing off with amazing pies.) In the words of the song, I got my kicks at Route Six Six.

It’s a good movie that can bring all of that back.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    A great movie that is. I bet you noticed that in the end, Lightning McQueen is depicted as a clear typos of Christ? (can’t tell in a blog how, it would spoil the ending)

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    A great movie that is. I bet you noticed that in the end, Lightning McQueen is depicted as a clear typos of Christ? (can’t tell in a blog how, it would spoil the ending)

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    You can almost never go wrong with a Pixar movie. Nearly every Pixar movie has been a great story worth telling. I feature them regularly in our family lunch and a movie bible study. In fact, I have to be careful to make sure we have movies outside of Pixar featured.

    I surprised a lot of people with the Christ figure reference in the ending.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    You can almost never go wrong with a Pixar movie. Nearly every Pixar movie has been a great story worth telling. I feature them regularly in our family lunch and a movie bible study. In fact, I have to be careful to make sure we have movies outside of Pixar featured.

    I surprised a lot of people with the Christ figure reference in the ending.

  • Cincinnatus

    To each his own, but I’ve always thought Cars was the worst Pixar film, a title it shares with Finding Nemo. And by “worst” I mean that I would not want to watch them again, and did not particularly enjoy them the first time I watched them.

    Perhaps those two, in contrast to other Pixar films (and I am a fan of Pixar, by the way), were more explicitly and singularly directed toward an audience of children.

  • Cincinnatus

    To each his own, but I’ve always thought Cars was the worst Pixar film, a title it shares with Finding Nemo. And by “worst” I mean that I would not want to watch them again, and did not particularly enjoy them the first time I watched them.

    Perhaps those two, in contrast to other Pixar films (and I am a fan of Pixar, by the way), were more explicitly and singularly directed toward an audience of children.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    John Lasseter was the director and one of the creative geniuses that has made Pixar what it is today. According to “The Pixar Story” documentary (a very good movie in and of itself), the inspiration for “Cars” came to him while he was taking his family on a much needed vacation after work was complete on one of the “Toy Story” movies. He rented an RV and took a road trip, at least a portion of which was on Route 66. When the movie was in development, the Pixar team spent days on the actual Route 66 for research.

    Pixar is a great example of the blessings that come from people executing their God-given vocation. They make fantastic movies. You will have favorites, but you will be hard-pressed to find one you don’t like (I guess Cincinnatus is the exception).

    Here are mine:

    Toy Story 2
    WALL-E
    The Incredibles
    Toy Story 3
    Cars
    Finding Nemo

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    John Lasseter was the director and one of the creative geniuses that has made Pixar what it is today. According to “The Pixar Story” documentary (a very good movie in and of itself), the inspiration for “Cars” came to him while he was taking his family on a much needed vacation after work was complete on one of the “Toy Story” movies. He rented an RV and took a road trip, at least a portion of which was on Route 66. When the movie was in development, the Pixar team spent days on the actual Route 66 for research.

    Pixar is a great example of the blessings that come from people executing their God-given vocation. They make fantastic movies. You will have favorites, but you will be hard-pressed to find one you don’t like (I guess Cincinnatus is the exception).

    Here are mine:

    Toy Story 2
    WALL-E
    The Incredibles
    Toy Story 3
    Cars
    Finding Nemo

  • Larry Wilson

    I saw Cars when it first came out, but I recently rewatched it with my grandsons. Like Dr. Veith, I loved it. Maybe it’s for kids and those old enough to remember the pre-interstate days. I grew up near Pittsburgh and, during my childhood, my family took two memorable vacation trips to visit relatives in California. We drove across old route 40 to St. Louis, and then Rt. 66 to Los Angeles. A road trip in an old Chevy station wagon. Some of the scenery in that movie brought back good memories.

  • Larry Wilson

    I saw Cars when it first came out, but I recently rewatched it with my grandsons. Like Dr. Veith, I loved it. Maybe it’s for kids and those old enough to remember the pre-interstate days. I grew up near Pittsburgh and, during my childhood, my family took two memorable vacation trips to visit relatives in California. We drove across old route 40 to St. Louis, and then Rt. 66 to Los Angeles. A road trip in an old Chevy station wagon. Some of the scenery in that movie brought back good memories.

  • moallen

    We grew up in nearly the same place! I am familiar with the Spook Light and can remember folks driving out to see it. The driveway for the house where we were living in when I was born came off of Route 66 and was just down the road from the 66 drive-inn outside Carthage Missouri.

  • moallen

    We grew up in nearly the same place! I am familiar with the Spook Light and can remember folks driving out to see it. The driveway for the house where we were living in when I was born came off of Route 66 and was just down the road from the 66 drive-inn outside Carthage Missouri.

  • Kandyce

    I love Cars. In 2007, when I was moving from WI to Las Vegas in late August, driving an overstuffed beater of a car with no a/c, I chose a route that closely mirrored Route 66, largely inspired by that movie and my childhood romance with travel. I spent 5 days looking for Radiator Springs and almost found it’s cousin in New Mexico. I was sad to realize how hard it is to actually drive on Route 66 these days as portions of it are missing and I got a little lost more than once. But I did have some delicious pie on that trip.

  • Kandyce

    I love Cars. In 2007, when I was moving from WI to Las Vegas in late August, driving an overstuffed beater of a car with no a/c, I chose a route that closely mirrored Route 66, largely inspired by that movie and my childhood romance with travel. I spent 5 days looking for Radiator Springs and almost found it’s cousin in New Mexico. I was sad to realize how hard it is to actually drive on Route 66 these days as portions of it are missing and I got a little lost more than once. But I did have some delicious pie on that trip.

  • Joe

    I think the modern equivalent to Route 66 is the five mile rule. I have heard that some motorists have implemented a rule that when ever they stop for gas or food they must drive at least 5 miles off the interstate and into one of the towns that were bypassed.

    I love this idea in theory but in reality I am much to impatient …

  • Joe

    I think the modern equivalent to Route 66 is the five mile rule. I have heard that some motorists have implemented a rule that when ever they stop for gas or food they must drive at least 5 miles off the interstate and into one of the towns that were bypassed.

    I love this idea in theory but in reality I am much to impatient …

  • http://92state.blogspot.com Kurt Onken

    4yo son loves this movie (dad, too). Wants to watch it over and over again. Sings “Life is a Highway.” Now wants to watch NASCAR (dad, too…never was much interested before…actually kind of enjoy it now).

    My last 5 years in California were spent just off of Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga. Saw the “Historic Route” signs go up. Took a few trips east on the Mother Road. “Cars” really captures the melancholy that you feel in some of the towns you drive through.

  • http://92state.blogspot.com Kurt Onken

    4yo son loves this movie (dad, too). Wants to watch it over and over again. Sings “Life is a Highway.” Now wants to watch NASCAR (dad, too…never was much interested before…actually kind of enjoy it now).

    My last 5 years in California were spent just off of Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga. Saw the “Historic Route” signs go up. Took a few trips east on the Mother Road. “Cars” really captures the melancholy that you feel in some of the towns you drive through.


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