I received an all expense paid trip from Disney to attend the #Cars3Event. The opinions expressed here are my own and I received no monetary compensation. #PuppyDogPalsEvent #ABCTVEvent #TheToyBox #BornInChina
We all enjoy watching animations on tv, but I don’t know that I realized how many steps were involved in the process of actually making the films. From an idea to a concept, writers then anticipate a green light to move forward and start writing the story – but that is just the beginning.
When I sat down with Cars 3 writers and producers on our trip to Sonoma Raceway, I learned just how intricate Pixar’s production pipeline can be. We learned insights to the inner workings of Pixar and found out how they are able to bring the next generation to life.
As we listened to Bobby Podesta, supervising animator on Cars 3, he shared the most important backbone of a PIXAR story: Emotional Relatability.
Podesta said, “Emotional relatability is the thing that drives everything. It’s not just a story about a lamp, but a story about being a parent. And it’s not a story about being a fish, it’s a story about overcoming your obstacles. This is really true for everything we make and that’s the same for Cars 3.”
Podesta went on to talk about the various meetings involved in a film’s production. He said they cram themselves into a room where ‘anything goes’. From the meetings, they take the ideas and drawings to the storyboard and vice versa. The discussions turn into tests, effects and refinement – all an expected part of the production pipeline.
We also heard from Jude Brownbill (Directing Animator), Jay Shuster (Production Designer) and Michael Comet (Characters Supervisor) about the process of bringing the next generation of characters to life. We found out a character isn’t as simple as sketching out a car – you have to consider the voice, the personality and the image it conveys simply from looking at it.
In 2006, when we were first introduced to Lightning McQueen, you probably noticed he was at the top of his game when all the other cars were a bit outdated. In Cars 3, we see the next generation of racers who are sleeker, faster and a bit better than their predecessors. “We start with a blank sheet of paper. The goal is to use shape, paint and graphic to create a character that contradicts McQueen in every possible way.
After hundreds of sketches, McQueen was bright, round and flowing, but Storm needed to be smooth and sleek, since he was to be the antagonist for Lightening. It was a matter of taking his design and making it a complete opposite of Lightening.
The character images were shown to racing industry professionals to see if their new designs made sense. Jay Shuster explained how the process of creating an animated car is similar to what the auto industry does. So after a consultation with representatives at Ford, characters were shaped from molded clay sculptures and later developed into velum overlays with eyes and other features. Michael Comet explained how they digitally painted and did rigging (a process of moving it around like a puppet). They would move the eyes and mouth and simulate expressions to ensure it all worked together. Jay Shuster said, “It’s a constant process of tearing down and building up to perfect the designs.” And I’d say the end result is worth it.
So what was the hardest part of Cars 3? Mud. Imagine a Demolition Derby where you’ll see mud everywhere: on the ground, on tires and in the air… but what’s so hard about that? Jon Reisch, Effects Supervisor, said since mud is not a liquid or a solid, it’s more difficult to animate. The teams all come together to make it work, fine tuning with the set shaders to make sure that the ground around the mud puddle looked wet, etc. Reisch said, “The challenge for us was doing that and 160 shots, coordinating across half a dozen departments all while keeping true to the consistent, very crafted, realistic look.” They definitely did it though. And they used the designs of the characters to make the mud look like mud and interact with the characters.
I can’t wait to see the final production of Cars 3 in theaters on June 16! Check out a few of these scenes in the trailer below: