Have you ever wished you were a fly on the wall in Pixar Studios when a film is developing? Me too! Today, you’re in for a real treat. During my Cars 3 press event in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to sit down with the CARS 3 writers for a special “Story of Our Story” presentation – and now I’m sharing all of those insider details with all of you! Read on for more about the Cars 3 story.
I was invited as media to cover this press event. All opinions are my own.
Cars 3 Story
Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!
The “Story of Our Story” presentation included writers Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, and Mike Rich and CARS 3 Story Supervisor, Scott Morse.
Mike Rich shared that he was chosen as one of the early writers for Cars 3. Working with this iconic character was definitely a challenge for the team of writers. He adds, “The one thing we didn’t have was he didn’t have a problem. He didn’t have a dilemma. The last race we saw Lightning McQueen he was on top of the world. He was a champion racer. So we knew what we would have to do with McQueen is make him vulnerable and take him down a notch.”
So what would the Cars 3 story be about? Rich added, “If you consider the fact that Cars 3 is really kind of a third act of the overall story, it makes sense that McQueen is now past the halfway, probably a little bit further past the half way point of his career as well.” As part of their research, they met with athletes like Kobe Bryant, Jeff Gordon and Michael Jordan who have been in the same position Lightening McQueen is now facing.
Bob Peterson mentions, “In all these films we look for a universal truth that everyone can sort of identify with whether it’s toys or fish or whatever as long as there is something we can all learn from, a parable that is being told about life in a universal way. In this case, it was what do you do when you’re not as fast any more and you have people behind you that are faster. Do you crumble or do you rise up and change?”
Rich shared another interesting fact with us, “there is a line that we would put in the film because I had heard it from an athlete who was asked the question how do you know when things are changing, how do you realize it and the answer is the kids will tell you.”
The Next Generation
Next, we learned about the new additions to Cars 3, like Jackson Storm. Rich explains “For us it was a great opportunity to just create a kid who was kind of a mirror image of McQueen, but has much more of an edge than McQueen had in the first story but has the speed and has the technology in how the sport has changed. For McQueen, Jackson Storm really represents a generation that can take from McQueen and McQueen’s career and the sport that he loves more than anything in the world and has grown to love. It’s an example of who he was.”
Peterson adds, “It’s interesting because it’s a mirror but his generation is colder. You see these older guys and they are having fun together and there’s camaraderie. Up come these new guys and it’s more about technique and winning and you sense kind of a warmth sliding out of the sport and that’s why you feel a little unnerved when all these rookies start replacing him.”
More about the Cars 3 story writing process
Research trips. Peterson shares, “One of the most fun parts of this process is living in the material, living in the source of the material, trying to immerse yourself in that acetic and really understand the emotions and stories and history of what you’re trying to put up on the screen and have truth in the materials.” The team visited sporting events like the Daytona 500, and the American south to dig up as much deep history as they could. They walked old ghost tracks, and talked with vets like Richard Petty, and others that were apart of the sport.
After their research, they formed a summary of what the film would be about, and then presented it to John Lasseter for approval. Rich tells us, “I was telling the story and I got to the 3rd page and all of sudden I looked up and a tear, a single tear rolled down John Lasseter’s face. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a really wonderful career. For me I thought afterwards, that’s the closest I’ll ever getting reading a script to Walt Disney.”
Once they had the green light on Cars 3, the process began with a ton of writing, editing, and so on. Scott Morse told us, “That in a nutshell is how we approached the initial writing phase on these things. You get the movie up and running, you get the emotional on the page but at the end of the day you’re making a movie, you have to make it visual and use that film language that is going to live in your hearts and your minds.”
We attended a few additional presentations about Cars 3, which I’m excited to share with you all very soon! For now, check out the latest Cars 3 trailer below, and stay tuned for more insider information!
Look for Cars 3 in theaters this summer (June 16th)!