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A dark, heart-pounding 'Cars 3' trailer signals attempt to put the franchise back on track

Disney and Pixar released the official teaser trailer for its third installment of its "Cars" franchise and it's...dark.

The previous two films, which feature Lightning McQueen, a once-selfish race car, and his best friend Mater, a tow truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, were lighthearted. It seems "Cars 3" could have a very big tonal shift.

The trailer features Lighting McQueen spinning out of control during a race before flipping into a fiery cloud of wreckage. The screen fades to black and the words "From this moment, everything will change" appear.

Twitter users were quick to comment about the teaser, calling it "sad," "emotional" and "dark." Others, began sharing their theories for what the trailer means for the franchise.

"Now that's how you shake things up," Paul Dergarabedia, senior media analyst for comScore, told CNBC.
"This trailer says this is not your typical 'Cars' movie and literally puts a serious spin on what has traditionally been a very bright and cheery franchise."

Disney did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.

Pixar, which merged with Disney in 2006, has released a new film about once a year since 1995. The animation company, which works independently from Disney Animation, has garnered great success in the industry with films like "Finding Dory," "Inside Out" and its "Toy Story" franchise.

Its "Cars" franchise, however, has not preformed as well for the company. While, the two films have garnered a significant amount at the global box office, "Cars" and "Cars 2" are middle of the pack when it comes to Pixar's box office successes.

"Cars" earned $462 million at the box office in 2006 and "Cars 2" brought in about $562 million. Here's how those figures compare to other Pixar releases:

To be sure, garnering more than $460 million globally is nothing to snuff at, but the "Cars" franchise isn't just lagging behind other Pixar films at the box office, it didn't fare very well with critics or audiences.

"Cars" and "Cars 2" are the worst rated movies to be released by Pixar. "Cars" received a fresh rating of 74 percent from Rotten Tomatoes and "Cars 2" was given at 39 percent rating.

"'The tag line 'From this moment, everything will change' sounds like a challenge to the critics, most of whom were not kind to 'Cars 2' and looked at the first 'Cars' movie as a fun and entertaining romp, but lacked the emotional depth and heart of earlier Pixar films," Dergarabedian said.

Only three other films created by the company have earned a score less than 90 percent: "Brave," "Monsters University" and "The Good Dinosaur."

So, perhaps a tonal shift is what is needed to spark success for this franchise.

"If the braintrust at Disney and Pixar have sought to shake up the 'Cars' universe, they certainly have succeeded," Dergarabedian added.

The film is due in theaters in the summer of 2017.