After taking moviegoers magically into the realm of toys, bugs, monsters, fish, and superheroes, the masterful storytellers and technical wizards at Pixar Animation Studios (“The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.”), and Academy Award-winning director John Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2,” “A Bug’s Life”), hit the road with a fast-paced comedy adventure set inside the world of cars. A Pixar Animation Studios film presented by Walt Disney Pictures, “Cars” is a high octane delight for moviegoers of all ages, fueled with plenty of humor, action, heartfelt drama, and amazing new technical feats. Adding to the fun is a driving score and new song by OscarÂ®-winner Randy Newman, along with original musical performances by such top talents as Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, and John Mayer.
Lightning McQueen (voice of OWEN WILSON), a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed, discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. On route across the country to the big Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros, McQueen gets to know the town’s offbeat characters -including Sally (a snazzy 2002 Porsche voiced by BONNIE HUNT), Doc Hudson (a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, voiced by PAUL NEWMAN), and Mater (a rusty but trusty tow truck voiced by LARRY THE CABLE GUY) – who help him realize that there are more important things than trophies, fame and sponsorship.
The all-star vocal cast also includes free-wheeling performances by Tony Shalhoub, Michael Keaton, Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Katherine Helmond, and perennial Pixar “good luck charm,” John Ratzenberger. Michael Wallis, author of the critically acclaimed book, Route 66: The Mother Road, and the authority on that famous road, is heard in the film as the voice of the Sheriff of Radiator Springs.
Delivering more fun and authenticity to the vocal cast for “Cars” are performances by some of the all-time greatest names from the world of racing, including the legendary Richard Petty, plus “drive-on” roles by Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Darrell Waltrip, and Michael Shumacher, the ace German Formula 1 champ who is widely considered to be today’s best Grand Prix racing driver.
“Cars” was co-directed by Joe Ranft, who also served as head of story for the film and voiced several incidental characters. One of the most gifted and respected story artists in modern day animation, and the congenial voice behind such favorite Pixar characters as Heimlich the caterpillar (“A Bug’s Life”), Wheezy the penguin (“Toy Story 2”), and Jacques the shrimp (“Finding Nemo”), Ranft passed away in August, 2005. He had collaborated with Lasseter on all three of his previous feature directing efforts, and had been a key creative force at Pixar for over a decade.
Serving as the film’s producer was Darla K. Anderson, a Pixar veteran whose previous producing credits include “A Bug’s Life” and “Monsters, Inc.” Combining her technical expertise with her tremendous respect and knowledge of the creative process, Anderson guided all aspects of the production and helped support Lasseter’s vision from the start. The film’s associate producer was Tom Porter, a technical pioneer in the world of computer animation who has been part of the Pixar inner circle since its inception.
TUNING UP THE STORY
“Cars” was a very personal story for John Lasseter. As a boy growing up in Los Angeles, he loved to visit the Chevrolet dealer where his father was a parts department manager, and got a part-time job there as a stock boy as soon as he turned 16.
According to Lasseter: “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.”
During the summer of 2000, Lasseter’s wife, Nancy, persuaded him to take a much-needed vacation. The entire family packed up a motor home, and set out on a two-month trip with the goal of staying off the interstate highways, and dipping their toes in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Lasseter observed: “When I came back from the trip, I had reunited with my family and we were closer than ever. And I suddenly realized that I knew what the film needed to be about. I discovered that the journey in life is the reward. It’s great to achieve things, but when you do you want to have your family and friends around to help celebrate. Joe loved the idea and our story really took off from there. Our lead car, Lightning McQueen, is focused on being the fastest. He doesn’t care about anything except winning the championship. He was the perfect character to be forced to slow down, the way I had on my motor home trip. For the first time in my professional career I had slowed down, and it was amazing. The unique thing about Pixar films is that the stories come from our hearts. They come from things that are personal to us, and that move us. This gives special emotion and meaning to the films.”
In 2001, Lasseter, Ranft, producer Darla Anderson, production designers Bob Pauley and Bill Cone, along with other key members of the production team flew to Oklahoma City and headed out from there in a caravan of four white cadillacs on a nine-day trip along Route 66. Historian/author Michael Wallis led the expedition, and introduced them to the people and places that make that road so very special.
At each stop along the way, the team observed firsthand the “patina” of the towns, and tried to capture the richness of textures and colors. Painted advertisements on the sides of buildings, weathered and overlaid, were of particular interest. Careful studies were made of rock and cloud formations, and the variety of vegetation along the way.
THE CAR STARS/VOICE TALENTS:
– Poised to become the youngest car ever to win the Piston Cup Championship, this hotshot rookie racecar has just two things on his mind – winning and the perks that come with it. But when he gets detoured in the forgotten town of Radiator Springs and has to shift for himself, he gets a crash course on what matters most in life. Owen Wilson (“Bottle Rocket,” “Shanghai Noon,” “Meet the Fockers,” “Wedding Crashers”) is up to speed as the voice of this cocky racecar with a carburetor of gold.
A seemingly quiet country doctor (mechanic) with a mysterious past, this 1951 Hudson Hornet is a cornerstone of Radiator Springs, and also serves as town judge. Respected and admired by the townsfolk, Doc is a car of few words, and is unimpressed by the town’s newest arrival – Lightning McQueen. The speed-obsessed hotshot racecar dismisses Doc as just an old Grandpa car, but comes to discover that the old timer still has a few tricks under his hood. Acting legend, OscarÂ®-winner, and Guinness Book World Record Holder (the oldest driver to win a professionally sanctioned race in 1995 in Daytona) Paul Newman gives a winning performance as the voice of this charismatic car.
This sporty 2002 Porsche 911 from California grew tired of life in the fast lane, and made a new start for herself in Radiator Springs. As the proprietor of the Cozy Cone Motel, and one of the town’s most optimistic boosters, she has high hopes that it will one day return to its former glory, and wind up “back on the map.” She takes an instant shine to Lightning McQueen, and helps to steer him in the right direction. Multi-talented actress/filmmaker Bonnie Hunt (“A Bug’s Life,” “Cheaper By the Dozen”) gives a premium performance as Sally, with just the right blend of charm, intelligence and wit.
This good ol’ boy tow truck with a big heart may a bit rusty on the outside, but he has the quickest towrope in Carburetor County and is always the first to lend a helping hand. Sweet and loyal to a fault, Mater befriends McQueen and sees his potential as his new best friend, despite his many flaws. The self-proclaimed “world’s best backwards driver,” Mater gets his kicks “tractor tipping” when he’s not running “Tow-Mater Towing and Salvage.” Comedy sensation Larry the Cable Guy gives a “tow-de-force” vocal performance that is both hilariously funny and touching.
FILLMORE – Radiator Springs’ resident hippie is a 1960 VW bus who brews his own organic fuel and preaches its many benefits. Visitors can check it out for themselves in the tasting room behind his love-bead and tie dye covered geodesic dome. His conspiracy theories and unkempt yard don’t sit well with his neighbor, Sarge, but despite their frequent disagreements, they can’t live without one another. Comedy legend George Carlin gives a far-out performance as the voice of this peace-loving bus.
SARGE – This patriotic 1942 WWII Willy’s Army jeep runs Radiator Springs’ army surplus store, Sarge’s Surplus Hut, and is often found manicuring the lawn in front of his Quonsot hut into a precise flat-top. Although he likes to complain about his VW bus neighbor, he knows that life is more interesting with Fillmore around. Actor Paul Dooley (“Breaking Away,” “Desperate Housewives”) sounds off as this regimented vehicle whose bark is worse than his bite.
RAMONE – The proprietor of Ramone’s House of Body Art, this 1959 Impala low-rider is a true magician with paint and metal, but he hasn’t had anyone to paint in years. While waiting for a paying customer to come along, he re-paints himself daily and hopes that McQueen will consent to letting him add a few new flourishes. Comedian/actor Cheech Marin turns in a colorful performance as the voice of this feisty fellow.
FLO – Married to Ramone, and the owner of Flo’s V-8 Caf?©, is this sassy, no-nonsense 1950s show car. Offering the “finest fuel in fifty states,” Flo’s is a popular gathering spot for the locals to sip some oil, share some gossip, and listen to a little motherly advice from Flo herself. It was love at first sight for Flo and Ramone, ever since they met when she was traveling across country as a glamorous Motorama girl. Jenifer Lewis goes with the “flo” as the voice of this spirited character.
LUIGI – Big-hearted, gregarious, and excitable, this 1959 Fiat 500 runs the local tire shop, Luigi’s Casa Della Tires, which is the “Home of the Leaning Tower of Tires.” With his forklift pal, Guido, by his side, Luigi is an avid racecar fan (with a bias towards Ferrari’s) who is always eager to please. Business hasn’t been good in years, so you can always count on a bargain on a new set of wheels from this merry merchant. Tony Shalhoub (“Big Night,” “Monk”) puts the accent on comedy in this tireless performance.
SHERIFF – Route 66 expert/author Michael Wallis provides the voice of this 1949 Mercury Police Cruiser, sworn with upholding the peace in Radiator Springs. Always on the prowl for would-be speeders who might want to barrel through his town, Sheriff enjoys telling stories about his beloved Mother Road, and taking the occasional nap behind the town’s billboard.
THE KING (aka STRIP WEATHERS) – This 1970 Plymouth Superbird is a racing legend who has won more Piston Cups races than any other car in history. Despite his fame, he’s a down home guy, who knows it takes more than trophies to make a true champion. He believes in hard work, team playing, and making time for his wife, the Queen. Set to retire at the end of the season and relinquish his coveted Dinoco sponsorship, the King is the envy of all the up-and-coming racers. Racing legend Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR winner, lends his voice to this classy champ. His wife, Linda, provides a cameo voice as the Queen.
CHICK HICKS – This racing veteran is a ruthless competitor, who has bumped and cheated his way into more second place finishes than any other car. Forever living in the King’s shadow, he’s the consummate runner-up and will stop at nothing to win the Dinoco sponsorship. Convinced that “the Chick era” is about to begin, he isn’t about to let Lightning McQueen get between him and his dream of winning the Piston Cup. Versatile actor Michael Keaton (“Mr. Mom,” “Batman,” “Herbie: Fully Loaded”) gets down and dirty as the voice of this hard-driving road warrior.
MACK – No Pixar film is complete without a vocal performance by John Ratzenberger, and in “Cars,” the popular actor weighs in as the voice of a 1985 Mack Super-Liner who has a thorough knowledge of Federal regulations. As McQueen’s trusted driver, he is willing to push the limits of his own sanity and sleep requirements to accomodate his celebrity employee. McQueen’s luxurious bachelor pad is fully loaded with the best in fiber optics, TVs, a massage chair, and more.
DESIGNING AND ANIMATING THE LATEST MODELS
Lasseter’s mandate to have the car characters look as real as possible posed some daunting new challenges for Pixar’s technical team. Having a film where the characters are metallic and heavily contoured meant coming up with resourceful ways to accurately show reflections. “Cars” is the first Pixar film to use “ray tracing,” a technique which allows the car stars to credibly reflect their environments.
The addition of reflections in practically every shot of the film added tremendous render time to the project. The average time to render a single frame of film for “Cars” was 17 hours. Even with a sophisticated network of 3000 computers, and state-of-the-art lightning fast processors that operate up to four times faster than they did on “The Incredibles, it still took many days to render a single second of finished film.
Lasseter also insisted on “truth to materials,” and instructed the animation team not to stretch or squash the cars in a way that would be inconsistent with their heavy metal frames. The animators did a lot of “road testing” to get the characters to behave in a believable and entertaining way, and found ways to add subtle bends and gestures that were true to their construction. The animators also discovered how to use the tires almost as hands to help them with their performance.
John Lasseter got a friend and a longtime collaborator in Randy Newman when he began working with the acclaimed composer/songwriter back on the original “Toy Story.” The two have been making beautiful music ever since with their subsequent collaborations on “A Bug’s Life” and “Toy Story 2.” Newman received OscarÂ® nominations for his scores for “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life,” plus nominations for the songs, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (“Toy Story”) and “When She Loved Me” (from “Toy Story 2,” sung in the film by Sarah McLachlan). For the film’s soundtrack, Lasseter also sought contributions from a variety of today’s top recording artists to create the world’s best road-trip CD.
“Every Randy Newman score is unlike the one before it,” observes Lasseter. “He can write the most heartfelt emotional songs, and he can write some of most humorous songs you’ve ever heard. He’s incredibly funny and smart. Randy’s score for ‘Cars’ reflects the two distinct worlds – the modern world where it’s all about being fast; and Radiator Springs, where the one commodity they have is time. Everything is slower there, and Randy uses a combination of bluegrass, jazz, and pure Americana to capture that. The racing world has a heavy dose of rock ‘n’ roll. His score for this film is one of the absolute best he’s ever done.”
Among the four new songs written for the film is a Randy Newman composition called “Our Town.” Sung by GrammyÂ® winning recording legend James Taylor, the lyrics powerfully tell the tale of a once thriving town that no one seems to need anymore and of a place where ‘Main Street isn’t Main Street anymore.’
GrammyÂ® Award-winning superstar Sheryl Crow captures the excitement of the film’s opening race with “Real Gone,” a new song that she wrote with producer John Shanks. Lyrically and emotionally, it reflects the thrill of the competition and the crowd’s anticipation.
Country music favorite Brad Paisley contributes two songs to the film — “Find Yourself” and “Behind the Clouds.” The latter was co-written with his long-time producer and collaborator, Frank Rogers (who also produced both tracks).
In addition to the new songs, there are original recordings of two favorites. Popular country recording group Rascal Flatts provides a new version of the Tom Cochran song, “Life is a Highway.” Multiple GrammyÂ® Award-winning singer/guitarist John Mayer offers some new kicks with his lively and distinctive rendition of the classic 1946 Bobby Troup standard, “Route 66.” The film’s impressive soundtrack also includes recordings by Hank Williams, Chuck Berry (“Route 66”), and The Chords (“Sh-Boom”).
JOHN LASSETER (Director/Writer) marks his fourth feature film directing credit with “Cars,” having previously helmed such landmark computer-animated Pixar films as “Toy Story” (1995), “A Bug’s Life” (1998), and “Toy Story 2” (1999). He is a two-time Academy AwardÂ® winner, and a founding member of Pixar Animation Studios, where he continues to serve as executive vice president, creative. Additionally, he executive produced “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” and “The Incredibles.” Under his supervision, Pixar’s animated feature and short films have received a multitude of critical accolades and film industry honors. Lasseter received a Special Achievement OscarÂ® in 1995 for his inspired leadership of the “Toy Story” team. His work on “Toy Story” also resulted in an Academy AwardÂ®-nomination for “Best Original Screenplay,” the first time an animated feature had been recognized in that category.
Among his most recent achievements, Lasseter was honored in 2004 by the Art Directors Guild with its prestigious “Outstanding Contribution to Cinematic Imagery” award, and received an honorary degree from the American Film Institute that same year. In February, 2006, he received special recognition from the Visual Effects Society, when he received the coveted Georges Melies Award for Pioneering and Artistic Excellence.
DARLA K. ANDERSON (Producer) made her feature film producing debut on the 1998 Pixar blockbuster “A Bug’s Life” and went on to produce Pixar’s 2001 monster hit, “Monsters, Inc.” as well. She began her association with Pixar in 1992, when she came on board as executive producer for the commercial and short film divisions. Prior to that, she served a three-year stint with Angel Studios in Carlsbad, California, where she executive produced commercials and was first introduced to computer and 3-D animation. A graduate of San Diego State with a degree in environmental design, Anderson began her career as a producer in Southern California.