Disney: Behind the Animation Scenes of Cars 3 #Cars3Event

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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

Behind the Animation Scenes of Pixar Cars 3

 In between riding in a race car and learning about the history of racing at the Cars 3 press junket, we heard from some of the creative genius’ behind Cars 3. We had the privilege of learning from Jude Brownbill (Directing Animator), Jay Shuster (Production Designer), Michael Comet (Characters Supervisor), Bobby Podesta (Supervising Animator), Michael Fong (Supervising Technical Director) and Jon Reisch (Effects Supervisor). I’m always in awe of hearing how a Pixar movie comes together, especially after hearing the passion and creativity radiate off of everyone involved. The following contains spoilers of Cars 3. 

Production Designer Jay Shuster

Production Designer Jay Shuster /Photo by Deborah Coleman

At Pixar, it all starts with a blank sheet of paper. Shuster stated that when creating the new generation of Cars 3, that they did 100’s of sketches before taking their designs to an actual automotive designer to solidify the direction that they were moving in. They strive for realism, but character and story comes first at Pixar. Shuster said, “We have to pay attention to the eye and mouth relationship. You can’t angle that windshield back too aggressively because then the eyes are going to look like he’s looking up at the sky the whole time and that looks weird”. 


Two new significant characters are introduced in Cars 3: Jackson Storm and Cruz Ramirez, the new generation of racing. Animators gave Storm a more angular and sharp look, opposed to Lightening McQueen’s round and flowing character. Storm is also lower to the ground and McQueen is upright. For Cruz, they wanted her to be as American muscle as possible, but also have a European sports coupe esthetic. Shuster said, “People assume that our designs start in the computer but just like in the automotive world, we do clay sculpts. We can’t cheat in clay”. Once they are satisfied with the clay rendition of these new characters, they start building them in the computer.

Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch/Photo by Deborah Coleman

Supervising Animator Bobby Pedesta

Supervising Animator Bobby Podesta /Photo by Deborah Coleman

If I took away anything from the press junket, it’s that story is KING. Referring to Luxo and Finding Dory, Podesta stated, “It’s not just a story about a lamp, but it’s a story about being a parent. And it’s not a story about being a fish, it’s a story about overcoming your obstacles”. In the animation world, he said that starts with creating a world that is visually tangible and emotionally relatable. For Cars 3, part of the emotional reliability came from taking Lightening McQueen out of his element and putting him inside of a demolition derby. To create this world, the animators researched and watched a lot of derby footage. They then experiment and brainstorm how their characters could fit into this world with very rough animation tests. From there, it gets more and more refined until the finish product is created.  

CARS 3In between those rough animation tests, the effects department is hard at work perfecting the water, fire, smoke, sand, debris and anything that the characters interact with in the movie. During the demolition derby scenes, the effects department was in charge of the mud – one the biggest challenges. Reisch stated, “[Mud} is one of those substances that’s not really a liquid, it’s not really a solid, it’s somewhere in between most of the time and that’s just really difficult for us to replicate in the computer”. After tons of research and and collaboration with other departments, like the set shaders and lighting department, they were able to create a believable mud. Having previewed a majority of Cars 3, I can tell you the mud scenes were my favorite and they definitely got it right! I’ll never look at mud the same again. 

Directing Animator Jude Brownbill 2
Directing Animator Jude Brownbill /Photo by Deborah Coleman
To add to the tangible realism, Pixar pays attention to the little details – like how light coming from a skylight bounces off the ground or how the lights on a racetrack would reflect on the cars. They even gave their cars a base coat before applying a gloss coat, just like a real car, which only adds to the detailed realism. Something I found interesting, is that despite these amazing computer generated effects that Pixar is capable of, that story still comes first. Fong stated, “If the acting or storytelling is ever obscure because that one explosion is too big and you can’t make out his facial expressions…then we’re going to purposely diminish that effect”. Sometimes they break physics to tell the story. 
Behind the Animation Scenes of Disney Pixar Cars 3

Cars 3 races into theaters on June 16th, mark those calendars!

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Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Welcome to See Vanessa Craft! I’m Vanessa, an MSSW and mom of two in Arizona, and I’m happy you’re here to get inspired with me. It’s my mission in life to spread creativity through crafts, recipes, travel and more in order to live a life well lived.