Cars 3 is in theaters now and if you haven’t seen it yet, race to the theaters! I’ve already seen it three times and loved it more each time. I had the chance to interview Nathan Fillion, Larry the Cable Guy, Isiah Whitlock Jr and Lea DeLaria and also Owen Wilson, Kerry Washington, Armie Hammer and Cristela Alonzo! Now I’m excited to share with you our interview with Director Brian Fee & Producer Kevin Reher. If you haven’t seen Cars 3 yet, there are spoilers below!
With every new Pixar film, you’ll see such a difference in the animation. They are always learning new things and with Cars 3, you can clearly see the difference. Brian shared with us, “We have a new renderer, I don’t know if that means anything to you but we can do things that we couldn’t do on the first film. We can go wholeheartedly into a sense of realism, you know, we try not to say photo realism because I think photo realism, that would actually be kind of boring, we almost want like a hyper realism. We want to be able to control how you feel but we want you to feel like you can smell the air.
I remember sitting with the production designer and that was kind of like one of the main things I kept saying because he’d be like, how about this, how about this – I want to make sure you can smell the air. I mean we can’t smell anything, but make me think I can. So we went for a lot of atmosphere, you know, like you’ll see a lot of fog and things that are at a distance are so faded- just like the atmosphere between you and the thing that’s miles away, we just kind of dove into those things and we can now, because we can do these things.
Being a Cars film, more than maybe other Pixar movies, you kind of have to be careful with other movies, because they’re cartoon characters, and we have talking cars. I don’t know if you can get any more cartoon character than that but we want them to look real, we want the car to look like it’s four thousand pounds.“
Kevin chimed in, “When we went, we sent the two production designers on a really wintery week, in a convertible Camaro, because they insisted on a convertible. I’m like, hey you’re going to freeze your asses off all the way from Daytona up through the Carolina’s. Then we also went to two different – I don’t want to say abandoned tracks, but two tracks that are no longer operable, one which was legendary at the beginnings of stock car racing and then Wilkesboro, which was very influential. The caretaker, we got there and he said, I’ve mowed the track for you, there was so much grass!“
An Emotional Message
I love Pixar movies because of the emotional stories they tell and Cars 3 doesn’t disappoint in that way.
The director Brian shared, “Still, the most important part for me personally as a parent, my mother passed away, my father is getting older and I looked at McQueen’s and Doc’s relationship as a father and son relationship. You could see it as a mentor/mentee, however people plug into it in their own personal lives. And I have that moment- middle of my life, my mom’s passing away and you kind of feel that safety net that you’ve always had.
That moment where you get just a little scared that everything you’ve ever known is kind of dropping. And then but I have two daughters and I realized I’m their safety net, like they look up to me, I’m playing that role for them and it kind of erased the fear I had of losing my parents, not that I don’t want to see them go, but it gave me new strength that a sense of purpose in life. So to me, I look at McQueen’s on that same transition and that there’s something you may think you’re losing something, but the best thing is still in front of you- have yet to come.
I also tell the story- I went to art school and have an illustration degree and my daughter has been drawing these little sketches with her crayons and stuff like that, but you know, their patience is short, to say the least. They would look at professional illustrations in books and stuff and I didn’t want them- I wanted to demystify that. I wanted them to know, a person just did that, the only difference between those and their little doodles is that they took longer at it. They went to school and learned how to do it and they spent more time on it. So I set up one of their American Girl dolls and I was going to paint it, I’m going to paint this girl’s portrait and I want you to see all that goes into it and it takes a while, you’ve got to put some time in. I don’t know after about twenty minutes, they’re gone. I was going to stick it out, I’m going to stick it out, and I’m going to show them that a little perseverance and a little time so I spent hours on a Saturday doing this, I didn’t get quite done but I got almost done.
I showed them and they just went, yeah that’s cool. I had this moment where I just thought, oh if I was going to paint something on a Saturday afternoon, I didn’t think it would be an American Girl doll. I kind of walked away and that was a failure, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but a week later, I come in on my older daughter Lucia, I go in her room. She’s eleven now, so this would have been several years ago and she had these papers on the floor and they were her stuffed animals and she had set them up and she was drawing their portrait and in that moment, I felt like that might just have been one of the most important paintings I’d ever done. And well more important than anything I would have done for myself.
So that was the kind of thing I was trying to communicate, I wanted McQueen to feel that when he spends most of the film trying to do service to his own career, the thing that he thinks he’s most passionate about. Actually terrified of losing the one thing that brings him the most joy. Then I wanted him to see that there’s helping someone else do it is actually not only just as powerful but can be more powerful.”
You might be surprised that Doc Hudson plays a big presence in Cars 3 considering that Paul Newman passed away years ago. Kevin shared with us, “The Newman Foundation was very generous with us and we let them know that this wasn’t just a marketing trick, that this was really integral to the story, and we had all these recordings of open mic kind of thing that John had recording when he was doing Cars 1. So we had a transcript of all this and tried to fashion the story- what was the story- what would serve the story- what line could help us serve the story. It’s pretty emotional when you hear it- and then we used the old Doc line, you think I quit, they quit on me, which mirrored what had happened to McQueen.
We originally tried a sound-alike because you kind of want to write whatever you want to write, right? It just wasn’t working, it just was no magic and then we decided all right, we have to find the lines, cross our fingers that we’ve got the right lines to help us tell the story. So it was just spending a lot of time and finding when we can give Doc something to say.”
Casting Cars 3
When it came to casting Cars 3, Kevin shared, “We needed a really smart actress so when Kerry Washington opens her mouth as Natalie Certain, you have to get that she’s smart, accomplished, knows what she’s talking about and no bullshit. You have to get that because you don’t have the time or the screen time to do a backstory for her or how she got there and all kinds of things.
Armie Hammer, who is the nicest man in the world could channel his inner jerk, he’s so terrific at being sarcastic and everything else and yet if you talk to him in person besides being very handsome, he’s super charming and really nice and you just immediately got what that character was going to be based on a character description that we were given.
We come up with probably three actors that we like, you have to kind of be okay with Plan B or Plan C and then we go to John Lasseter who still approves all casting and we take a picture of the character, who he’s going to be talking to. So Jackson Storm talking to McQueen and we do kind of nonsensical theater. We have lines from the Lone Ranger or lines from Social Network talking to McQueen, talking to Owen and see how it’s going to play off so that you don’t end up with voices that are too similar.
Part of it is there is the aspect of you just want the quality of the voice to match the image, wouldn’t Jackson have a strong voice deeper than a kind of thin voice, we wanted him to be a powerful car, so there needed to be broadness to his vocal range.”
Talking about Lea DeLaria, Kevin said, “We were so excited about her and then we pulled the clips and we would listen to it from Orange Is the New Black and then put her on and it just wasn’t who Fritter needed to be. But when you think about taking her visual off and you just listen to the voice, which is another thing we do, we don’t listen- we don’t try to watch their facial acting, a lot of actors get a lot of it out of their being and their facial expressions.
We’re looking for the actors that do it with just their voice, or at least it jumps out. She’s really mild, her vocal performance in Orange Is the New Black is milder than you would think when you take her face and her presence out of it, so they weren’t going to work and we knew if we put this in front of John, he was going to say no. So we pulled up some of her stand-up.”
Brian said, “Her stand-up is great, so she did her own audition, because we didn’t want to let it go, we wanted her to be in the movie. So we sent her some script pages, she read the script pages at home in her iPhone and did her own audition and so that’s what we used.”
Talking about Cristela Alonzo who plays Cruz, Brian said, “Cruz might have been the hardest character. Because we wanted to get it right, spent a lot of time on her for casting too but Cristela had that voice, you know, it’s kind of like you line up a bunch of people in a room that are going to audition and they’re all wearing gray sweaters, Cristela was the one who’s voice was like the bright red sweater. We went to her stand-up act and we were already in love with her humor and her liveliness and she’s just got this infectious laugh and she just she starts talking and you want to hang out with her. There’s a part in her comedy act where she stops telling jokes and she gets really serious and she talks about her mother, very touching stuff for her. There’s such a soul in her voice when she stops telling jokes, and that’s when we knew she’s got to be the right one. Then we ended up rewriting the character because Cristela had a story about growing up wanting to be a comedian in a border town in Texas and her mother told her, we don’t do that, we clean houses. She was trying to protect her, but just the fact that she had to break through that barrier. After we cast her we went back and- because we’re always tweaking and evolving characters as much as we can and we rewrote Cruz’s backstory with that in mind.“
Above photos taken by MomStart.com.
Cars 3 in Theaters Now!
Cars 3 races into theaters THIS Friday, June 16th! You’ll want to bring the whole family because I know that kids – and adults – of all ages will love it.
Thank you so much to Disney and Pixar for bringing me to Anaheim for this fun event!