Behind the wheel | Disney*Pixar’s CARS 3 Long-Lead Press Day

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"Behind the wheel | Disney*Pixar’s CARS 3 Long-Lead Press Day"

Once again, kicking into high gear, the appeal of an unstoppable franchise built on speed and adrenaline, Disney•Pixar’s CARS triples up on our favorite character Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) as he returns to the racetrack to take on a younger rival. Raising the stakes as it shifts into gears upon a new story alongside new characters, CARS 3 without doubt will strap its audience to their seats as it embarks upon its most adventurous ride yet.

Back in late March, yours truly was granted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What was it, you ask? I was one of a handful of journalists who was invited to take a road-trip. A trip to Cali to participate at a special long-lead press day at Pixar Animation Studios and Sonoma Raceway for an exclusive “Behind the Scenes” look at CARS 3.

Located in Emeryville (Pixar) and Sonoma (Raceway), this was by far one of the most unique trips I’ve ever been asked to join. I’ve done Disney-Disney, WB and Blue Sky, but never Pixar – one of Hollywood’s best and leading animation studios. One that’s brought forward some of the best animated titles to date: TOY STORY, RATATOUILLE, MONSTER’S UNIVERSITY, WALL-E, UP, THE INCREDIBLES and finally… CARS – one of their most successful animated features, now full-blown franchise. It doesn’t stop there, boys and girls. Lest we forget they’re also the ones who introduced the world to the famous task lamp and ball!

Pixar Animation Studios Task Lamp & Ball (Photo: Lee Romero)

Three features later, CARS continues to lure in people of all ages. These titles provide enough fun, funnies, and interesting characters to keep the little ones’ attention-span afloat, but simultaneously provide palpable story-lines to tug at the emotions of an adult. From its two predecessors, and without doubt its third (in theaters June 16), it’s an overall journey of passion and will.

Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo) – Cruz Ramirez is a sunny-but-fierce unconventional trainer at the Rust-eze Racing Center. She expertly arms the team’s talented rookies with cutting-edge tools to tear up the track—but she nearly stalls when her longtime idol Lightning McQueen shows up. While she’d love to help him find his way back to the top, she knows the competition is faster than ever, and victory is all about speed—or is it? | ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

After an enjoyable footage screening, a quick Q-and-A, and networking reception at the studio, followed by some downtime activities at the racetrack the next day, it was time to roll up our journalistic sleeves and get into it. As I sat with the film’s leading animators, writers, and producers I was amazed, but not surprised at how much work and timing goes into producing these magical movies. Having had one major question lingering (of which I needed to ask over and over for different perspectives), as an established franchise, I was dying to know what challenges or simplicities are there in tackling another film of similar substance.

Sterling (voice of Nathan Fillion) is a brilliant businesscar who runs Rust-eze Racing Center—one of the most successful elite training facilities in the country. Despite his dapper appearance and obvious wealth, Sterling comes across as unassuming and laid back. But business is business, and Sterling is driven to ensure all of his investments pay off. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

As per Supervising Animator, Bobby Podesta expresses, “It needs to be what it was, but kind of a better version without you noticing there’s anything different.” And that’s a fact seeing as the gorgeous footage we were shown worked up nostalgia, but sprinkled with charming changes. Of course, the object is to appease its fanbase. “Brian [Fee, film’s director] said it well, ‘These have ceased to become our characters. They’re really the world’s characters.’” says Effects Supervisor, Jon Reisch who’s adamant in making sure nothing deters the franchise’s fanbase from feeling connected to all characters. This even applies to new ones who have been introduced in its sequels. Although similar in many ways, “Sequels have their own nuances. You don’t want to tell the story twice. You don’t want someone saying, ‘Oh, I saw this already,’” says Producer, Kevin Reher. As he opens a bit more on the franchise’s arc. “The challenge of telling a compelling story is always there,” says Co-Producer Andrea Warren.

Natalie Certain (voice of Kerry Washington) is a highly respected statistical analyst who knows her numbers. Book-smart and mathematically gifted, Certain is a fresh voice in the racing world. While she may earn top marks in her ability to evaluate a racer’s stats, she could be underestimating the importance of determination. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

And that’s where a lot of the obstacles come, because unlike live-action film shoots, animation is based on computers. Storyboards are worked on set-by-set with all of it coming straight out of one’s mind. The aspect of cutting and reshooting has a bit of a different angle as there’s constant eyes and micro-managing on every single piece that’s produced. Supervising Technical Director Michael Fong mentions, “We start our day, every day with animation dailies.” And this goes on and on and until the last minute pretty much. Fong continues, “It will be done by set date for release.

Miss Fritter (voice of Lea DeLaria) loves the smash-and-crash life of demolition derby. A local legend at the Thunder Hollow Speedway, Fritter’s formidable school-bus size is intimidating, but it’s her smoke stacks of doom, razor-sharp stop sign and crazy collection of her victims’ license plates that usually steers her opponents in the other direction. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

By release date? As we speak Team CARS 3 is going back-and-forth with the film still. And reason being, “If you come up with something that fixes a problem, it could unravel three problems,” says Scott Morse, Story Supervisor. However, rest assured in the end, the product won’t fail. It never does. Have you seen the others? Even though there’s a unstoppable approach with such a heaving hitting title, “We do establish goals for each department so that we know we’re going to come out ok, ” says Andrea Warren.

DO THE MATH — In Disney•Pixar’s “Cars 3,” Kerry Washington lends her voice to Natalie Certain, a highly respected statistical analyst who knows her numbers. Book-smart and mathematically gifted, Certain is a fresh voice in the racing world. While she may earn top marks in her ability to evaluate a racer’s stats, she could be underestimating the importance of determination. “Cars 3” opens in U.S. theaters on June 16, 2017. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

As a whole, a lot that goes into these films raises the level of appreciation once one digs deeper within the other side of what’s playing on silver screen. For more of an in depth feeling regarding the project my usual rawdio is provided. (Below) I do recommend it, because from what I saw, this new adventure of CARS is going to be dope multiplied by one-hundred. I recommend revving up your motors as I am. Its’ going to be an amazing joyride.

© 2017 Disney/Pixar