As I mentioned in my Cars 3 Story post, I am following up with even more insider information about the making of Disney Pixar Cars 3. If you didn’t catch my previous post, definitely give it a read so that you have the full backstory on the new Cars movie!
So what goes into the making of a movie? Let’s talk about the Disney magic of filmmaking….
I was invited as media to cover this press event. All opinions are my own.
The Making of Disney Pixar Cars 3
While in San Francisco earlier this year, I had the opportunity to sit down with Disney filmmakers to talk about Cars 3. Here are a few highlights from the presentations.
Start to Finish: Pixar’s Production Pipeline
The presentation begins with Supervising Animator Bobby Podesta. He shares that he’s been on the Cars films since the beginning – 16 years off and on! “We have to start with character first,” so the animators and story artists cram themselves in a room and as Bobby mentions, “anything goes.” From there they come up with ideas and begin to build sets, shorts, storyboards, and move down the pipeline. “We’re kind of like MacGyver it’s just kind of duct tape to try and get that gag to sell.”
Story is King
Supervising Technical Director Michael Fong, shares “story is king is about the story. It’s the most important aspect of the movie. It means that everything the animators do and effect artists do is in-service with the storytelling. **Spoiler Alert** Fong also shares, “The story point of the crazy eight sequence is that McQueen is out of his element and he’s overwhelmed with legitimate fear and anger and embarrassment and this is on top of already being afraid for his career. This is all to drive a wedge between him and Cruz later on. It’s the fear that he has that he’s going to lash out at Cruz. But if crazy eight is too funny or too much of an effects spectacle we’ve lost the legitimacy of it all…Without tangible realism we’re not doing the best storytelling.”
Story is King permeates through every single department. Fong adds, “In my opinion this is probably Pixar’s greatest talent but it is also one of our greatest strengths. The grounding in the acting, the truth to materials, the visual realism in the effects, it’s all there to make the storytelling that more relatable to life.”
Where the rubber meets the road
We also heard from Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch. He shared, “we are primarily responsible for all the natural phenomenon (water, fire, smoke, sand, dust and debris, anything that are characters interact with).
Mud is hard to replicate. Jon mentions, “So what’s so hard about mud? It’s one of those substances that it’s not really a liquid, it’s not really solid, it’s somewhere in between most of the time. And that’s just really difficult for us to replicate in the computer.” McQueen does not want to be stuck in the mud with Mrs. Fritter barreling down the path. It’s a pretty intense scene in the film. Jon adds, “We did a lot of research, looked at all kinds of crazy things on the Internet, just kind of really understand what we were going to capture. How mud moves, how it breaks up, what it looks like so that we could try to replicate it. So we did tons and tons of experiments.” With the help of the lighting department, the effects worked out just right to create the perfect animated mud for the film.
The Next Generation
During the next session, we spoke with Production Designer Jay Shuster, Characters Supervisor Michael Comet and Directing Animator Jude Brownbill to learn more about the design process that went into creating the Cars 3 characters.
Storm Vs McQueen
In the art department they draw 100s of sketches of each character, keeping in mind that it’s character first and car second. Jay shares, “I will focus on giving you an idea of how these designs evolve into a complete design ready for the big screen.” Adding, “McQueen is the center of this film as well and of course he’s back and better than ever as his classic race trim with new graphics and a new sense of purpose. We also needed to design McQueen’s rival, a next generation racer who would push McQueen to the brink of extinction. So we asked ourselves what would a racer car design in McQueen’s league look like 20 years into the future. Enter Jackson Storm.
Here you can see the contrast between McQueen and Storm. Jay explains, “Storm’s profile is low to the ground as opposed to McQueen’s upright posture. In further refinement, I thought we wanted to add a little bit back into this design, the DNA of stock car and NASCAR. A little bit more mass and muscle back into the car. McQueen is still the soft, muscular guy. McQueen has his iconic lightening bolt of course. We wanted Storm to have an iconic symbol as well. We took the international symbol for hurricane and transformed that into Storm’s iconic S.”
The team visited Daytona 500 back in 2015 and showed the car designs to people like Ray Evernham. Jay adds, “We were seeking a blessing of sorts from people in the business.”
Did you know they begin with clay? It’s true! Jay told us that their designs don’t begin in the computer, but in clay sculpts. They take pictures of every angle of the sculpture and then draw overtop of them…honing and perfecting the shapes in the process.
Jude Brownbill, Directing Animator, describes Cruz as a powerful, modern, next GEN car with the heart and love of racing like McQueen. Jude adds, “She’s a powerful trainer. She is full of enthusiasm and energy but she doesn’t really know how to harness the power.” When designing Cruz they wanted to echo her from the body design to her mouth. Jude shares, “We experimented with mouth shapes that reflected her personality and highlighted her big grin.” Also mentioning, “We asked for some new controls that we never had before on the first two movies, which was to take the peak of her eyeliner and move it out or move it in to be able to shape that, to push that attitude to her lids and the directionality of her eyes.”
We also heard from Michael Comet Character Supervisor. He describes their work as an “assembly line process” adding, “the character team is essentially responsible for taking the concept art out of the art department and bringing it into the computer and providing it downstream to departments like animation.” He explained that they also set the car up to be rigged or articulated for animation, and “that’s basically setting up puppet like controls so it can be animated by the animation department.”
Once everything is ready to go, the animation department takes over, preparing the cars (characters) for the big screen.
I hope you enjoyed this insider look at the making of Disney Pixar Cars 3!
All of the experts we spoke with have a real passion for the film. It’s their baby that they’ve worked so hard on. Cars 3 is officially in theaters June 16th! I’ve had an opportunity to see a portion of the film, and it’s incredible. You and your family will really enjoy it!
Check out the Cars 3 trailer below for more:
This is the first Cars movie I saw in theaters. It was so good. Now I need to watch the others!