WHEN IS BORN CARS?
Who is Cars??
Cars is a 2006 American computer-animated comedy-adventure film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed and co-written by John Lasseter, it is Pixar's final independently-produced motion picture before its purchase by Disney in May 2006. Set in a world populated entirely by anthropomorphic cars and other vehicles, the film stars the voices of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman (in his final acting role), Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Tony Shalhoub, Cheech Marin, Michael Wallis, George Carlin, Paul Dooley, Jenifer Lewis, Guido Quaroni, Michael Keaton, Katherine Helmond and John Ratzenberger. Race car drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mario Andretti, Michael Schumacher and car enthusiast Jay Leno (as "Jay Limo") voice themselves. Cars premiered on May 26, 2006 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, and was theatrically released on June 9, 2006 to mostly positive reviews from critics. It was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Animated Feature, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. The film was released on DVD on November 7, 2006 and on Blu-ray in 2007. The film was accompanied by the short One Man Band for its theatrical and home media releases. Merchandise based on the film (including scale models of several of the cars) broke records for retail sales of merchandise based on a Disney/Pixar film, bringing an estimated $10 billion for 5 years after the film's release. The film was dedicated to Joe Ranft, who was killed in a car accident during the film's production. A sequel, titled Cars 2, was released on June 24, 2011, and a spin-off film titled Planes, produced by DisneyToon Studios, was released on August 9, 2013, which was followed by its own sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, released on July 18, 2014. A series of short animated films titled Cars Toons debuted in 2008 on Disney Channel and Disney XD. A second sequel, Cars 3, was released on June 16, 2017.
In a world populated by anthropomorphic talking vehicles, the last race of the Piston Cup championship ends in a three-way tie between retiring racing veteran Strip "The King" Weathers, dirty-playing frequent runner-up Chick Hicks, and brash rookie Lightning McQueen. The tiebreaker race is scheduled for one week later in California. Lightning is desperate to win the race, since not only would it make him the first rookie to win the Piston Cup, but also allow him to leave the unglamorous sponsorship of Rust-Eze, a bumper ointment company, and allow him to take The King's place on the prestigious and lucrative Dinoco team. Eager to start practice in California as soon as possible, he pushes his big rig, Mack to travel all night long. While Lightning is sleeping, Mack drifts off and is startled by a gang of four reckless street racers, causing Lightning to fall out the back of the trailer and onto the road. Lightning wakes in the middle of traffic and speeds off the highway in search of Mack, but instead accidentally ends up lost in the rundown desert town of Radiator Springs, where he inadvertently ruins the pavement of its main road in his panic.
After being arrested and impounded overnight, Lightning is ordered by the town judge Doc Hudson to leave town immediately. However, the local lawyer Sally Carrera, requests that Lightning should instead be given community service to repave the road, to which Doc reluctantly agrees. Lightning tries to repave the road as quickly as possible, but does it so shoddily that he is forced to repave it again. During this, he befriends several of the town's residents and learns that Radiator Springs used to be a popular stop along the old U.S. Route 66 forty years ago, but it was bypassed with the construction of Interstate 40 and thus was mostly forgotten. Lightning also discovers that Doc is the "Fabulous Hudson Hornet", a three-time Piston Cup winner whose racing career ended with an accident in 1954 after which he was quickly forgotten by the sport. Lightning finishes repaving the road, which reinvigorates the town's residents, and spends an extra day in Radiator Springs with his new friends. However, Mack and the media descend on the town after having been tipped off to Lightning's whereabouts. Lightning reluctantly leaves to reach California in time for the race while Sally chastises Doc upon discovering that he was responsible for tipping off the media.
At the tiebreaker, Lightning races distractedly as he misses Sally and his other new friends, and he soon falls into last place. He is then surprised to discover that Doc has taken over as his crew chief and several other cars from Radiator Springs are helping in the pit. Inspired and recalling tricks he learned from Doc and his friends, Lightning quickly emerges to lead the race into the final laps. However, at the last minute, Chick, refusing to lose to The King again, sideswipes The King and sends him into a dangerous crash. Recalling Doc's fate, Lightning stops just short of the finish line, allowing Chick to win, and drives back to push The King over the finish line. The crowd and media condemn Chick's victory, but are impressed with Lightning's sportsmanship. Though offered the Dinoco sponsorship, Lightning declines and insists on staying with Rust-Eze out of loyalty for their past support. Back at Radiator Springs, Lightning reunites with Sally and announces that he will be setting up his racing headquarters there, putting Radiator Springs back on the map.
Cars was the final Pixar film worked on by Joe Ranft who died in a car accident a year before the film's release, aged 45. The film was the second to be dedicated to his memory, after Corpse Bride. The memorial showed the roles he had done in the other films directed by John Lasseter during the credits. This is also the last (non-documentary) movie for Paul Newman before his retirement in 2007 and his death in 2008. It turned out to be the highest-grossing film of his career.
The genesis of the film came in 1998 as Pixar began wrapping up production on A Bug's Life. At that time, Jorgen Klubien began writing a new script called The Yellow Car, which was about an electric car living in a gas-guzzling world inspired by The Ugly Duckling, an idea triggered by the poor reception his fellow countrymen gave the Mini-El car. Some of the original drawings and characters were developed in 1998 and the producers agreed that Cars could be the next Pixar film after A Bug's Life and be released in early 1999, particularly around June 4. However, the idea was scrapped in favor of Toy Story 2. Later, production resumed with major script changes, like giving Mater, Doc and a few other characters bigger parts.
John Lasseter said that inspiration for the film's story came after he took a cross-country road trip with his wife and five sons in 2000. When he returned to the studio after vacation, he contacted Michael Wallis, a Route 66 historian. Wallis then led eleven Pixar animators in rented white Cadillacs on two different road trips across the route to research the film. In 2001, the film's working title was Route 66 (after U.S. Route 66), but the title was changed to Cars in order to avoid confusion with the 1960s television series of the same name. In addition, Lightning McQueen's racing number was originally going to be 57 (a reference to 1957, Lasseter's birth year), but was changed to 95 (a reference to 1995, the year Pixar's first film Toy Story was released).
In 2006, Lasseter spoke about the inspiration for the film, saying: "I have always loved cars. In one vein, I have Disney blood, and in the other, there's motor oil. The notion of combining these two great passions in my life—cars and animation—was irresistible. When Joe (Ranft) and I first started talking about this film in 1998, we knew we wanted to do something with cars as characters. Around that same time, we watched a documentary called 'Divided Highways,' which dealt with the interstate highway and how it affected the small towns along the way. We were so moved by it and began thinking about what it must have been like in these small towns that got bypassed. That's when we started really researching Route 66, but we still hadn't quite figured out what the story for the film was going to be. I used to travel that highway with my family as a child when we visited our family in St. Louis."
Years later in 2013, Klubien said the film was both his best and most bitter experience because he was fired before it premiered and because he feels Lasseter wrote him out of the story of how the film got made.
For the cars themselves, Lasseter also visited the design studios of the Big Three Detroit automakers, particularly J Mays of Ford Motor Company. Lasseter learned how real cars were designed.
In 2006, Lasseter spoke about how they worked hard to make the animation believable, saying: "It took many months of trial and error, and practicing test animation, to figure out how each car moves and how their world works. Our supervising animators, Doug Sweetland and Scott Clark, and the directing animators, Bobby Podesta and James Ford Murphy, did an amazing job working with the animation team to determine the unique movements for each character based on its age and the type of car it was. Some cars are like sports cars and they're much tighter in their suspension. Others are older '50s cars that are a lot looser and have more bounce to them. We wanted to get that authenticity in there but also to make sure each car had a unique personality. We also wanted each animator to be able to put some of themself in the character and give it their own spin. Every day in dailies, it was so much fun because we would see things that we had never seen in our lives. The world of cars came alive in a believable and unexpected way."
Unlike most anthropomorphic cars, the eyes of the cars in this film were placed on the windshield (which resembles the Tonka Talking Trucks, the characters from Tex Avery's One Cab's Family short and Disney's own Susie the Little Blue Coupe), rather than within the headlights. According to production designer Bob Pauley, "From the very beginning of this project, John Lasseter had it in his mind to have the eyes be in the windshield. For one thing, it separates our characters from the more common approach where you have little cartoon eyes in the headlights. For another, he thought that having the eyes down near the mouth at the front end of the car feels more like a snake. With the eyes set in the windshield, the point of view is more human-like, and made it feel like the whole car could be involved in the animation of the character. This decision was heavily criticized by automotive blog Jalopnik.
In 2006, supervising animator on the film Scott Clark, spoke about the challenges of animating car characters, saying: "Getting a full range of performance and emotion from these characters and making them still seem like cars was a tough assignment, but that's what animation does best. You use your imagination, and you make the movements and gestures fit with the design. Our car characters may not have arms and legs, but we can lean the tires in or out to suggest hands opening up or closing in. We can use steering to point a certain direction. We also designed a special eyelid and an eyebrow for the windshield that lets us communicate an expressiveness that cars don't have." Doug Sweetland, who also served as supervising animator, also spoke about the challenges, saying: "It took a different kind of animator to really be able to interpret the Cars models, than it did to interpret something like The Incredibles models. With The Incredibles, the animator could get reference for the characters by shooting himself and watching the footage. But with Cars, it departs completely from any reference. Yes they're cars, but no car can do what our characters do. It's pure fantasy. It took a lot of trial and error to get them to look right."
Lasseter also explained that the film started with pencil and paper designs, saying: "Truth to materials. Starting with pencil-and-paper designs from production designer Bob Pauley, and continuing through the modeling, articulation, and shading of the characters, and finally into animation, the production team worked hard to have the car characters remain true to their origins." Character department manager Jay Ward also explained how they wanted the cars to look as realistic as possible, saying: "John didn't want the cars to seem clay-like or mushy. He insisted on truth to materials. This was a huge thing for him. He told us that steel needs to feel like steel. Glass should feel like glass. These cars need to feel heavy. They weigh three or four thousand pounds. When they move around, they need to have that feel. They shouldn't appear light or overly bouncy to the point where the audience might see them as rubber toys." According to directing animator James Ford Murphy, "Originally, the car models were built so they could basically do anything. John kept reminding us that these characters are made of metal and they weigh several thousand pounds. They can't stretch. He showed us examples of very loose animation to illustrate what not to do."
Character shading supervisor on the film Thomas Jordan explained that chrome and car paint were the main challenges on the film, saying: "Chrome and car paint were our two main challenges on this film. We started out by learning as much as we could. At the local body shop, we watched them paint a car, and we saw the way they mixed the paint and applied the various coats. We tried to dissect what goes into the real paint and recreated it in the computer. We figured out that we needed a base paint, which is where the color comes from, and the clearcoat, which provides the reflection. We were then able to add in things like metallic flake to give it a glittery sparkle, a pearlescent quality that might change color depending on the angle, and even a layer of pin-striping for characters like Ramone." Supervising technical director on the film Eben Ostby explained that the biggest challenge for the technical team was creating the metallic and painted surfaces of the car characters, and the reflections that those surfaces generate, saying: "Given that the stars of our film are made of metal, John had a real desire to see realistic reflections, and more beautiful lighting than we’ve seen in any of our previous films. In the past, we’ve mostly used environment maps and other matte-based technology to cheat reflections, but for Cars we added a ray-tracing capability to our existing Renderman program to raise the bar for Pixar."
Rendering lead Jessica McMackin spoke about the use of ray tracing on the film, saying: "In addition to creating accurate reflections, we used ray tracing to achieve other effects. We were able to use this approach to create accurate shadows, like when there are multiple light sources and you want to get a feathering of shadows at the edges. Or occlusion, which is the absence of ambient light between two surfaces, like a crease in a shirt. A fourth use is irradiance. An example of this would be if you had a piece of red paper and held it up to a white wall, the light would be colored by the paper and cast a red glow on the wall." Character supervisor Tim Milliron explained that the film uses a ground–locking system that kept the cars firmly planted on the road, saying: "The ground-locking system is one of the things I’m most proud of on this film. In the past, characters have never known about their environment in any way. A simulation pass was required if you wanted to make something like that happen. On Cars, this system is built into the models themselves, and as you move the car around, the vehicle sticks to the ground. It was one of those things that we do at Pixar where we knew going in that it had to be done, but we had no idea how to do it."
Technical director Lisa Forsell explained that to enhance the richness and beauty of the desert landscapes surrounding Radiator Springs, the filmmakers created a department responsible for matte paintings and sky flats, saying: "Digital matte paintings are a way to get a lot of visual complexity without necessarily having to build complex geometry, and write complex shaders. We spent a lot time working on the clouds and their different formations. They tend to be on several layers and they move relative to each other. The clouds do in fact have some character and personality. The notion was that just as people see themselves in the clouds, cars see various car-shaped clouds. It’s subtle, but there are definitely some that are shaped like a sedan. And if you look closely, you’ll see some that look like tire treads. The fact that so much attention is put on the skies speaks to the visual level of the film. Is there a story point? Not really. There is no pixel on the screen that does not have an extraordinary level of scrutiny and care applied to it. There is nothing that is just throw-away."