Audiences may think that John Lasseter created the ultimate ode to his childhood with Toy Story and Toy Story 2. However, it seems that what the writer-director is really passionate about is cars.

His father worked in the parts department for a Chevy dealer and Lasseter is a huge fan of NASCAR. While on a cross-country road trip with his family, Lasseter solidified the idea for his next animated feature, Cars.

Pixar has had enormous success with stories about inanimate objects before, but can the same story-telling success transfer to a world totally inhabited by cars that can talk? While other studios hire a particular actor and rely on that actor‚s personality to serve as the personality for the character, that's not the case with Pixar films, which are known to always put an emphasis on story and character development.

Providing the voices for Cars are Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin and Larry the Cable Guy. The voices of Richard Petty, Michael Keaton and George Carlin also star.

The premise for Cars is reminiscent of the Michael J. Fox comedy, Doc Hollywood, where Fox played a doctor whose car breaks down in a small country town while en route to Los Angeles for a position as a plastic surgeon. His stay opens his eyes to life‚s simpler pleasures and he winds up leaving the city to move back to the town.

In Cars, Wilson plays Lightning McQueen, a hotshot rookie race car who is unexpectedly detoured in a sleepy Route 66 town called Radiator Springs while heading to California for a big race. Newman, Marin, Larry and Hunt play some of the townsfolk he meets.

The real lesson in Cars is the value of friendship and the importance of taking time to enjoy what life has to offer. It‚s a message that spoke clearly to Larry the Cable Guy, a stand up comic best known for the catch phrase, "Get 'er done and his work with the Blue Collar Comedy tour. In Cars he plays Mater the Tow Truck.

"The whole theme of the movie is how I‚ve tried to live, like Mater himself. That‚s why it‚s such a cool character and strikes home to me. Mater is a good buddy and I always like to think of myself as a good buddy to everybody. He'd do anything for anybody to help out, which is what I would do as well," says Larry, who already owns his dream car, a 2000 Dodge on a 12-inch lift with 38-inch Mickey tires.

Cars is also an homage to Route 66 and the towns that still exist along the historic route. Marin used to travel to Texas with his family and appreciates a good road trip.

"Cars and car trips were always a big part of my life. You get to see the countryside and how big this country is and how it‚s mostly uninhabited. It just slows down time, especially now because my life is so hectic, and it shrinks the globe,‰ he says.

Does Marin find it funny that he‚s involved in a G-rated animated picture given his beginnings in R-rated films such as Up in Smoke?

"I've always been an animation fan and I always thought Up in Smoke should be PG anyway," Marin says with a laugh.

Either way, he wouldn‚t have passed on an opportunity to work with Lasseter. „For me, Toy Story was one of the best movies ever made and not only the best movie, but one of the best scripts I've ever seen," he says.

Marin plays a Œ59 Chevy Impala, named Ramone, who runs a paint body shop in Radiator Springs. "I liked the ‚58, a classic low-rider, but [Lasseter] wanted the '59 because of the tail fins. That was more the look of the movie and him being the writer and director we went with the '59," Marin jokes.

Cars is Larry‚s first foray into the animation process and while it was a bit of an adjustment from doing stand up, he made the most of the situation.

"There were two people in there with me, but we were all buddies,‰ he says. „If you know anything about me or a lot of other comedians, we can really entertain ourselves."

Cars releases in theaters June 9