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Sure, beautifully executed minimalism in animation and simplicity in story can often be a good thing, but in the case of Cars, the story structure, especially, is an engine fail, bumping away on fumes with a visually unappealing look, despite of the up-to-date animation, which does look beautiful at times.
The emergence of DreamWorks Animation as a serious competitor for Pixar's dominance of the CG animation market may have been the inspiration (or lack thereof) that was less about trying to tell a genuinely interesting story and more about trying to keep up with a growing trend that started to over-emphasise the medium's flashy visuals and simple yet family-friendly humour over well-developed plots and characters.
All in all, close to being Pixar's biggest fail, the sequel, Cars 2, took that spot but this first movie is very close.