My nephews love Lightning McQueen and have about a thousand toys bearing his likeness. So when I learned about the Ultimate Lightning McQueen, I had to get it, even though I had never seen Cars (or Cars 2 for that matter). For those who aren’t on Sphero’s mailing list, Ultimate Lightning McQueen is a remote controlled car that costs US$300, and here’s why it costs so much money:
Ultimate Lightning McQueen is not just an RC car. This is a robot that has animated eyes and mouth, reacts to touch, and can recite tons of lines from the movies either randomly or in pre-programmed scripts. Basically, it’s the toy robot that little Sean always dreamed of.
With the toy on the way (it arrived last night!), I felt like I should finally watch Cars beforehand so that I knew the basics about Lightning. So that’s what we did, and it turns out that Lightning is a real jerk. Like so much of a jerk that he doesn’t have a pit crew because he can win on his own. So much of a jerk that he doesn’t change his tires, which naturally give out on the last lap and cost him a win. So much of a jerk that when he gets lost in a small town and is pursued for speeding he wrecks the whole main street.
Lightning eventually does redeem himself in a very weird way, but here’s the thing: my nephews have such short attention spans that I guarantee they have not ever watched this movie past the opening race. They will have watched that race a thousand times but probably have no idea that Lightning ever becomes less self-involved or that he ever needed help. So it is a good thing that Ultimate Lightning can say so many lines, because I am going to be choosy with my catchphrases. That way, maybe I can redeem Lightning in real time and teach my nephews that they do indeed need a pit crew (/more applicable sports metaphor), just like Lightning eventually figures out.
For good measure, we also watched Cars 2, which is more Mater’s story than Lightning’s (though Lightning doesn’t miss the chance to be a jerk to Mater in the sequel). Just like in the first movie, Lightning wins with the help of his friends. It would be a mystery why he is so loved, except that he is definitely the coolest looking racecar in the movies and that’s really all the explanation required, isn’t it?
And now, we have Cars 3 to “look forward to”. My hopes are not high, because these movies definitely aren’t Pixar’s best work. Still, it’s something I know our nephews will love and now that they’re old enough to go to the movies, something that we’ll probably get to enjoy with them, and that’s good enough to make me genuinely excited about Cars 3 even though I thought the first two movies were entirely forgettable.
It also makes a US$300 Lightning McQueen toy feel like a bargain, because I know our nephews are going to lose their little minds when they see it in action. Ultimate Lightning McQueen is everything I could have expected – it blinks, it looks around, and moves as though it is alive. It is truly animated in every sense of the word. As a bonus, it is a powerful little car that is really responsive, does donuts on command, and has a turbo button. Because who doesn’t love a turbo button? Having tried it out, I am even more excited to show off Ultimate Lightning McQueen to Lightning’s three biggest fans!