A few weeks ago we attended the Cars 3 Press Junket, interviewed the cast, saw the premiere and also had the chance to sit down with the director Brian Fee and the producer Kevin Reher. They shared so much about the animation and the character development of each character.
I wanted to be a graphics designer when I was in high school and my first few years of college. Somehow that morphed into computer programming and then when I graduated I became the writer that I am today. But I still have that huge interest in animation. My favorite thing about Cars 3 was how realistic everything in the movie was.
HOW DID THEY ANIMATE CARS 3?
Director Brian Fee said largely it had to do with their brand new renderer. Because of how far technology has come they are able to take it to another level. They can do things they couldn’t do on the first film and take us into a sense of realism.
“We want to be able to control how you feel but we want you to feel like you can smell the air.”
He also mentioned that they have to be careful…..
And our movie, you know, being a Cars film, more than maybe other Pixar movies lends itself to that, you kind of have to be careful with other movies, because they’re cartoon characters, and we have talking cars. I don’t know if you can get any more cartoon character than that [LAUGHTER] but we want them to look real, we want the car to look like it’s four thousand pounds. We want it to look, because everyone sees cars every day, everybody knows in your brain you know there’s reflections on cars.
You don’t necessarily look at these things when you’re on the road but you expect to see it, and we wanted to just lean into what we can take advantage of, and really go for it.
Kevin mentioned that they do extensive research too, that included taking a long wintery drive in a Camero.
Because Cars 3 looked so real I wanted to know if they ever have to pull it back so that it doesn’t look to real. Kevin said sometimes the animators get a little jumpy. With cars not being real people the animators sometimes took emotions too far, and made the cars too “bouncy”. Brain said that they had to remember that “less was always more.”
I wanted to know more about the scenery and if it can get too real?
Brain said not to him…..
Brian: For me it doesn’t, for this film, because we were trying to lean into that as much as possible. For me it’s whatever, whenever you don’t see a character’s face, because as soon as you see a character’s face you kind of know, oh, these are characters.
………I want you to recognize the most. But it happened to get these shots every now and then where the camera is behind the characters and you don’t see their eyes and you don’t see their mouth. And then we can do things with the camera that we wouldn’t do if we were on their face, we can lower it. We just there’s a language to the film to these characters, if you lower the camera too much- if you lower the camera on their face, their mouth gets really long and their eyes disappear, because the hood starts coming up and the eyes start coming down.
And then their mouth is really far away from that- there are all these things that we start to lose appeal on. So we have rules that we set up for ourselves when we’re shooting the front of them, but from behind, we’ll lower that camera and we’ll get those shots that you kind of feel are more like car commercial shots or just like really cool automotive language of a cool car movie. So I think that also helps the certain shots feel more real because certain things just kind of start to line up.
Then Kevin shared his ideas on the realism in Cars 3.
Kevin : We did back off on some of the lighting because it, we have a new renderer which is so powerful that at one point like this guy had four eyes, because there’s eyes on his hood and eyes in his windshield and we had to be like okay dial it back a little bit.
Brian: Yeah the reflections that we get, on the first Cars film everything had to be-
Kevin : [OVERLAPPING] Hand done-
Brian: -faked, so in order to get a reflection on the side of a car, you had to basically project what would be- what should be over there, let’s cast that onto the car. And now we just now we can just have it actually a real reflection that’s generated, which means we now have to animate the reflection, so there’s got to be characters, you’ll never see them upstream but we expect characters are moving over there. We have to build a set, we wouldn’t have built any set that you can’t see because that would be a waste of time, however it’s going to be reflected into the character, so we have to extend beyond what you’ll see. But then we have to pull back on our reflections because they can be so busy that you’re just staring at reflections.
And you’re not staring at their eyes, you’re not staring at their mouth, you’re not seeing them as characters, and so if anyone is ever lost in staring at their reflections, then I worry we’ve lost them [LAUGHS] because we’re trying to tell a story.
Q : Did you put any Easter eggs in the reflections?
Kevin : No I don’t think there are any Easter eggs in the reflections that I’m aware of
ABOUT THE STORY AND CHARACTERS:
Kevin Reher says the story is reﬂective of real-life champions. “Lightning McQueen has been racing for more than a decade,” says Reher. “He’s struggling with the kind of issues a lot of athletes face later in their careers. Do you go out on top or ﬁght until the end?”
THE CASTING OF CHARACTERS
Brian: The Casting? After we have a pretty good idea of the character, we know what we’re looking for, we just we start casting-
Kevin: [OVERLAPPING] Natalie and I, and I got two credits on this one I love that. So Natalie Lyon and I worked together and so we needed a really smart actress that- you know, one of the things about the side characters also is you have to get it right away. So when Natalie, when Kerry Washington opens her mouth as Natalie Certain, you have to get that she’s smart, accomplished, knows what she’s talking about and no bullshit.
And you have to get that because you don’t have the time or the screen time to do a backstory for her or how she got there and all kinds of things. And so and Armie Hammer who is the nicest man in the world could channel his inner jerk [OVERLAPPING] and he’s so terrific at being sarcastic and everything else and yet if you talk to him in person besides being very handsome he’s super charming and really nice and they- you just- they immediately got what that character was going to be based on a character description that we were given.
And we come up, we usually come up with probably three actors that we like, you have to kind of be okay with Plan B or Plan C and then we go to John Lasseter who still approves all casting and we take a picture of the character, who he’s going to be talking to. So Jackson Storm talking to McQueen and we do kind of nonsensical theater. And we have lines from the Lone Ranger or lines from Social Network talking to McQueen, talking to Owen and see how it’s going to play off so that you don’t end up with voices that are too similar.
And part of it is there is the aspect of you just want the quality of the voice to match the image, wouldn’t Jackson have a strong voice deeper than a kind of thin- a thin voice, we wanted him to be a powerful car, so there needed to be broadness to his vocal range. Other times I think for Fritter we only put one voice in the crowd, wasn’t Lea the only one we did.
Kevin: We had one other one but Lea- I’m a big Lea fan I have all of her albums.
Brian: We could not find the clips for her for whatever reason because we were-
Kevin: We couldn’t have obscenities [LAUGHTER] it’s really funny when you see animation swearing but we just- [LAUGHTER]
Brian: We were so excited about her and then we pulled the clips and we would listen to it from Orange Is the New Black and then put her on and it just wasn’t – it wasn’t who Fritter needed to be. But she’s actually when you think about taking her visual off and you just listen to the voice, which is another thing we do, we don’t listen- we don’t try to watch their facial acting, a lot of actors get a lot of it out of their being and their facial expressions.
We’re looking for the actors that do it with just their voice, or at least it jumps out. And we weren’t for whatever reasons, she’s really mild, her vocal performance in Orange Is the New Black is milder than you would think when you take her face and her presence out of it, so they weren’t going to work and we knew if we put this in front of John, he was going to say no.
Kevin : [OVERLAPPING] But some of her standup so we pulled up some of her standup
Brian: Her standup is great, so she did her own audition, because we didn’t want to let it go, we wanted her to be in the movie.
So we sent her some script pages, she read the script pages at home in her iPhone and did her own audition and so that’s what we used [LAUGHTER]
Kevin: And she’s actually on the sound track during Riding on the Freeway of Love with horns and backup singers because she’s a singer and then again Easter eggs and little eggs, she is Boo in Orange is the New Black so her first moment is when she goes Boo ………….and then when she says I’m- you’re going to feel the wrath of the Belleville Unified School District.
She actually went to Belleville High school and even then we get crazy like even license plates like the license plate on Natalie Certain is Kerry Washington’s birthday and New York where she was born and we- and we have production babies and we have Kerry Washington’s son and Armie Hammer’s son in the production babies at the end.
Brian: And Cristela actually informed how we wrote that character, so one of the things we looked for when we cast Cruz was we spent a lot of time. Cruz might have been the hardest character.
Because we wanted to get it right, spent a lot of time on her for casting too but Cristela had that voice, you know, it’s kind of like you line up a bunch of people in a room that are going to audition and they’re all wearing gray sweaters, Cristela was the one who’s voice was like the bright red sweater [LAUGHTER] and we went to her standup act and we were already in love with her humor and her liveliness and her she’s just this infectious laugh and she just she starts talking and you want to hang out in her.
And there’s a part in her comedy act where she gets, she stops telling jokes and she gets really serious and she talks about her mother, very touching stuff for her.
Kevin : Who passed away-
Brian : And there’s such a soul in her voice when she stops telling jokes, and that’s when we knew oh this is, she’s got to be the right one. And then we ended up rewriting the character because Cristela had a story about growing up wanting to be a comedian in a border town in Texas and her mother told her, we don’t do that, we clean houses, And she was trying to protect her, but just the fact that she had to break through that barrier, that actually informed- after we cast her we went back and- because we’re always tweaking and evolving characters as much as we can and we rewrote Cruz’s backstory with that in mind.
Kevin: We also have to make sure that the voice, you’re sending ostensibly a young Latina on a road trip with McQueen, we didn’t want to it was great, we never got any notes like are they dating, are they in love- you know, we never-…………………………What about Sally, you know, we never got any of that, because you really got that they were mentor mentee or that they were going on this journey together but it wasn’t about love or romance or any of that stuff.
Like CARS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PixarCars/
Follow CARS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixarcars
Follow CARS on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pixarcars/
Subscribe to the Disney/Pixar YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/DisneyPixar
Visit the official CARS 3 website here: http://movies.disney.com/cars-3
CARS 3 is now in theaters!