When I visited Pixar this past March, I went deep in the fantastic animation Cars 3. I was able to “taste”’ every aspect and details of the creation of an animation: storyboard, research, music, colors, formats, characters, types of cars…. It was endless and a unique experience! Aside from watch around 45 minutes of Cars 3 footage, I had the opportunity to watch the new short called Lou. Cars 3, directed by Brian Fee, making his directorial debut after doing storyboards for both prior Cars movies.
This time around Lighting McQueen, voiced once by Owen Wilson, was pushed out of racing by a young car called Jackson Storm, voiced by Armie Hammer. To get back into the track, Lighting McQueen will use some help of trainer Cruz Ramirez, voiced by Latin actress Cristela Alonzo. In fact, Cars 3 retakes the narrative line of the cars races just like the first film, Cars, debuted in 2006.
“In Cars 3, we wanted to bring back Lightning McQueen and the warmth and depth that resonated with so many people in the first film,” said creative director of Cars franchise, Jay Ward. Lightning McQueen returns as the big star he is. Now he is a veteran who is forced to accept being trained by a new generation racing instructor, Cruz Ramirez who will lead him to face his new reality and to make him aware the changes of the race standards. Cristela is a Mexican-American comedian from South Texas, who became the star of ABC’s TV series with her name on it, apparently filled Pixar’s ear with her happy voice and depth laughs and invited her to voice the unconventional Cruz Ramirez.
One of the producer of Cars 3, Kevin Reher, stated “we were inspired by Cristela’s story”. “Comedy is an intimidating industry for a newcomer and Cristela found her place against all odds. Cruz’s passion for racing is very reflective of Cristela’s experience,” Kevin explained during the long lead press day.
Per Jay Ward, Creative Director, he said at the Sonoma Raceway during the press day that “we were looking for an energetic, entertaining, warm voice, and not someone to be romantically relate to Lightning McQueen”.
Through the dilemma faced by Lightning McQueen, Cars 3 pays tribute to those who have returned to racing, the second most popular sports in the USA, behind the NFL. “We are talking about people who to succeed in this sport, had to work harder than the others competitors,” says Jay, mentioning Wendell Scott, the first African-American to compete in NASCAR and the first to win the Grand National Series, overcoming the racism, or Louise Smith, who is known to be ‘the first lady of racing’. “The man wanted, with all his heart, to compete, otherwise he would be gone,” Jay said about Wendell’s persistence, who was not allowed to participate in NASCAR racing at first.
Ray Evernham, who voices his own character in Cars 3, a racing crew chief, who in life worked alongside Mario Andretti and was a crucial part in Jeff Gordon’s triumphs, was proud of what the animation presents. “I saw an early version of the movie, and all the work that Pixar dedicated to tell a precise story. Not once I did stop to think, I’m watching an animated movie with cars that speak, it was about people with whom I connected immediately since the movie began. It made me feel very proud to be part of that sport, for the values and messages it conveys; it is very clear, a positive message that I want my children to see.”