Four years ago, I got the incredible opportunity to visit Pixar in Emeryville, Calif. for the first time, to do interviews for Monsters University, and the thing that most stood out to me when I was there was just how much inspiration you feel, just being surrounded by all of the artistic creativity going on within its walls. Saying that I was excited to return, this time to get an early look at nearly 45 minutes of Cars 3, is a massive understatement.
In the latest installment of the Cars franchise, everyone’s favorite race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is back, but he’s not a rookie anymore. Blindsided by the new blazing-fast racer Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer), the legendary McQueen finds himself questioning his place in the sport that he loves and turning to race trainer Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) to help him get back in the game. As part of the experience, Collider got to spend the day at the Sonoma Raceway, participating in presentations about how the story, production design, animation and effects all came together to create what we’ll get to see in theaters on June 16th, and we’ve compiled a list of 18 things that we learned about that process.
Cars 3 is the third act in the overall Cars franchise. Cars 1 is when Lightning McQueen is young, brash and cocky, and he’s got everything in the world going right for him. He’s talented and he has speed, and that works to his advantage. Cars 3 is the opportunity to show him later in his career, which reminded the filmmakers of athletes who are late in their career having to decide whether to retire or adapt and deal with adversity.
- Cars 3 is a return to Lightning McQueen’s story, and to continue telling his story, the filmmakers wanted to go back to the tone of Cars 1. “Despite the fact that they’re talking cars,” said director Brian Fee, “Cars 1 is one of the more realistic movies we’ve ever done at Pixar, as far as the world. It’s the real world, and they’re real people with problems. There was always a weight to the air, so that was important for us to try to capture again.”
- For Lightning McQueen, this is a more personal story, of where he is in his life and his career, who he’s always been and who he needs to be. It’s his own personal journey of who he is.
- Cars 3 is less about the town, so they leave Radiator Springs to go on this journey. You can see the influence the town has had on him, but it travels to the South because that’s the root of racing in America.
- There was a crew of about 250 to 260 people, at the height of the film’s production, and everything – the sets, characters, layout, animation, visual effects, lighting and rendering – starts with and comes from the story.
- There are a dozen base models for the cars, but then from those models, they do a multitude of shading and color variants for hundreds of different versions. There are over 1,500 different variants of the cars in Cars 3.