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Cars: What Happened To Doc Hudson?

"Cars" was a typical animated hit for Pixar, but the 2006 movie had a secret weapon in Paul Newman, a screen legend who had his own extensive history in professional racing to draw from for the movie. Newman's life as both a driver and owner was chronicled in the 2015 documentary "Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman." Others might have treated the job of voicing a talking car a little more lightly, but Newman brought a gravitas that somehow lent an emotional reality to talking cars. 

In "Cars," Newman portrayed Doc Hudson, a once-famous race car who retired into small-town obscurity after a crash. Doc lives in the small town of Radiator Springs acting as a judge and physician (er, mechanic) when he meets and agrees to train Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), a young race car who could use a dose of wisdom. 

Newman, unfortunately, died of cancer in 2006. Due to this, it's explained in the world of "Cars" that Doc died before the events of 2011's "Cars 2." The race car remains as beloved and influential as the actor voicing him, though, with the Piston Cup Championship being renamed the Hudson Hornet Memorial Piston after Doc. McQueen even sports the logo in races. 

Doc remains an important figure in 2017's "Cars 3" where McQueen's relationship with his mentor becomes central to the plot. Pixar even utilized unused Newman recordings in the movie for flashback scenes.

Doc Hudson was based on Paul Newman's love for racing

Paul Newman appeared as Doc Hudson in "Cars," the short film "Mater and the Ghostlight," as well as "Cars 3." While there were plans to keep Doc around, the creators felt Doc was too close to Newman's own personality for anyone else to play him. The character was actually birthed out of Newman's own love for racing. According to "Cars" and "Cars 2" director John Lasseter, a lot of what Newman recorded as Doc was actually just the screen legend waxing poetic about his true passion in life outside of acting. It was much of this dialogue that was used for "Cars 3."

"In between takes, he would tell me stories about great races, and you could hear the passion in his voice. So as we started Cars 3, we went back to every recording we did on Cars 1 and catalogued and listened to it all, and ended up with a lot of material that we could use. Lines that were cut from the original film and never used, as well as some of those pieces from in between takes," the filmmaker told Entertainment Weekly

Though Newman was gone when "Cars 3" rolled into production, the producers knew Lightning McQueen's (Owen Wilson) story as a now-aging race car required his mentor. In one cut monologue from the first film, Newman described the beauty of a race, cars racing lap after lap without touching. "Cars 3" director Brian Fee told USA Today the recording didn't sound much like acting.

"I don't believe he was acting. I think the actual real Paul Newman believed every phrase of that little rant he goes on," he said.