Cars 3 is at the Detroit Auto Show

Cars 3 will be released on June 16, 2017. To promote the film, Disney•Pixar has a presence at this year’s North American International Auto Show. I was able to attend their Press Conference on Sunday and then meet with two of the filmmakers on Monday at their display on the floor of the Auto Show.

Cars 3 at the Auto Show

Cars 3 Press Conference

Cars 3 was the first press conference at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer at Pixar and creator of Cars kicked off the presentation. In his talk, he revealed that Pixar came to the 2001 NAIAS to start research for Cars. This is part of why Pixar wanted to return to NAIAS with Cars 3

My Facebook Live video below includes a video about the research, Cars, Cars 2, and Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park.

Cars 3 Production Designer Jay Shuster and Creative Director Jay Ward continued the press conference. In Cars 3, Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer) is the new racer burning up the circuit leaving Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) in his dust. Lightning McQueen turns to trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) to help him remain competitive. 

About the Characters

At the press conference, they introduced each of the three main characters. 

Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer)

Jackson Storm is fast, sleek and ready to race. A frontrunner in the next generation of racers, Storm’s quiet confidence and cocky demeanor are off-putting—but his unmatched speed threatens to redefine the sport. Trained on high-tech simulators that are programmed to perfect technique and maximize velocity, Jackson Storm is literally built to be unbeatable—and he knows it.

CARS 3 – ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

In designing Jackson Storm, they wanted to distinguish him from Lighting McQueen. His profile is more angular than Lighting McQueen’s rounded profile. He also has a darker palate. In keeping with his name, his iconic symbol is a modification on the hurricane symbol. The filmmakers received help from Ford with the design.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson)

Lightning McQueen is world champion—a modern-day racing legend who’s riding high with five Piston-Cup wins under his hood. Suddenly, he finds himself faced with a new generation of racers who threaten not only his dominance in the sport—but the confidence that got him there. Determined to get back to the pole position, the #95 must decide if his love for racing is enough to fuel the comeback of his life.

CARS 3 – ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Lightning McQueen’s body style has reverted to his body style from Cars. However, he has received a new modern paint job.

Cruz Ramirez (Christela 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?

CARS 3 – ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Cruz Ramirez combines the design of an American Muscle Car and a European Sports Car. This results in a style that is between Lightning McQueen and Jackson Storm, symbolic of her role in training Lighting McQueen is some new racing techniques. 

While Jackson Storm and Cruz Ramirez play large roles in the film, many of the Radiator Springs characters also appear in Cars 3

Introducing Lightning McQueen

Lightning McQueen will be appearing at the Auto Show. Just with any car introduced at a major press conference, he had his big reveal moment captured here:

Visit the Cars 3 display at the North American International Auto Show throughout the entire show to see Lightning McQueen up close.

Latest Trailer

The video above ends right before the exclusive Auto Show clip as requested by the studio. The new TV commercial that aired last night during the College Football National Championship features some of the same footage that we saw.

Conversation with the Filmmakers

Disney Pixar invited me to visit the Cars 3 stand to talk with Jay Shuster, Production Designer, and Jay Ward, Creative Director. I was thrilled as they have two very impressive resumes in addition to their work on all 3 Cars films.

About the Filmmakers

Jay Shuster is a metro Detroit native who lived in Birmingham. The Cars franchise is a natural fit for him since his father worked as a car designer. He grew up with automobile sketches, blueprints, and models in his room. He got his start in the film industry at Lucasfilm working on Star Wars Episodes 1 & 2 (Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones) designing vehicles and environments before moving to Pixar. At Pixar, he also utilized his background in cars to his design of the character Wall-E.

Cars 3 - Jay Shuster Production Designer - Photo Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

Photo Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

Jay Ward is the Creative Director for the Cars franchise. He began his Pixar Career with Monsters, Inc. before moving to Cars. With extensive experience in automobiles, he was a character team manager and automotive consultant to the directors. In addition to working on all 3 Cars films, he was also a key consultant on the development of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.

Jay Ward is photographed on October 16, 2013 at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Pixar vs Disney Animation

When Pixar first started, it was easy to visually distinguish between their CGI animation and the hand-drawn films from Disney Animation. As hand-drawn animation has been replaced with computer animation across the board, the visual distinction is less obvious. Pixar and Disney Animation Studios still remain separate entities. Of course with John Lasseter now in charge of both studios, there is some overlap.

Fairy Tales are a major source of inspiration for Disney Animation Studios. Pixar films are rooted in a “What If” story tradition.

John Lasseter’s philosophy is that “Story is Key.” It is important that viewers form an emotional connection with the characters and the story. It costs the same amount of money and time to make a good or bad story, so lets make good stories.

About Cars 3 

Cars 3 is more like the first Cars film with strong characters. In this film, more racers were developed as background characters. This includes some female racers. It was important to the filmmakers to develop strong female characters like Cruz who are more than just a love interest.

The soundtrack will resemble the Cars soundtrack. The goal is to make it a soundtrack that is a ready-built roadtrip playlist.

During our conversation, Jay Shuster commented that it is fun to get to design cars without worrying about federal standards. The designs were characters first and cars second. While they had to make sure the cars could operate, they had freedom to not meet every regulation.

Cars Land at Disney California Adventure

I discussed the development of Cars Land a bit with Jay Ward who served as a consultant. He said that John Lasseter heavily pushed the philosophy that “Quality is Always Best”. Even when they were over budget, he pushed them to get the details right.

We were there in 2014 and it was a truly immersive experience. If you have never visited Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, I highly recommend it. 

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