How Pixar made us like Lightning McQueen


Posted May 4, 2022

Virtual crew…My sister (Katie) emailed after the last update and said:

“Wow, I never realized how films do that with the hero. Okay, so now I need to see what Lightning McQueen did to get us to like him before he ridiculed his crew.”

Good point Sis! For those of you interested, here’s how Pixar did it:

There are four general categories for Empathy Intentions.

1) Cool Factor

2) Not as Bad

3) Endearment

4) Relatable Person or Problem

With CARS and Lighthing, they used:


If your hero is skilled, intelligent, strong, confident — the audience is on board. Lightning was fast, popular…and the audience wants to be with the cool cat. But this isn’t enough!


Chick Hicks was the competing, green race car. Hicks was so arrogant and selfish that he was willing to put lives at stake in order to win. Ego isn’t cool, but killing others to get what you want? That’s way worse.

The audience instantly wants Lightning to smoke this Chick Hicks guy.

That’s how “not as bad” always works. Right away, in the beginning of the film, they show us a bad guy who is worse than our hero.

If you have a hero with major issues, or a character who is a thief or some other villain (Michael Mann’s HEAT is an example), make sure someone else is worse, and you’ll be okay.


Most of us can’t relate to being a race car. We can relate to what a rookie feels like. The new kid on the block. The underdog. And that’s how they positioned Lightning McQueen. And this tactic always works.

So there you go…Pixar is genius. Cars, Finding Nemo/Dory and so many others just CRUSH story telling like nothing else.

In fact, did you know Cars also uses personality colors? Similar to Enneagram. But that’s another conversation entirely.

Hope you enjoyed!

Kyler Boudreau

P.S. Going to send the teaser out to you tomorrow!