Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Disney, I attended the Cars 3 Event and received and all expenses paid trip in exchange for coverage.

Do you know what goes into making an animated movie? I would never think of it as being simple or easy, there is a lot of work involved but up until recently I just didn’t understand how much work, it’s a lot more than people sitting on computers, drawing shapes and images.  Behind each animation there is a character that needs to feel real, the animations, the effects, everything has so much thought put into it and that’s why movies like Cars 3 have the amazing effects and stories behind them.

(Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

During our trip to Sonoma we had an exclusive interview with Jay Schuster (Production Designer), Michael Comet (Characters Supervisor), and Jude Brownbill (Directing Animator), here are some of the many great things we learned!

Design Process

Starting with a blank sheet of paper is how it begins, then the walls are plastered with imagery and hundreds of sketches. In the art department they are drawing as many ideas as possible and getting them up on the wall  so Brian McFee can react and give them feedback on what he likes and what he thinks they should do next.  Designs don’t just start from a computer, just like in the automotive world they do clay sculpts, seek opinions from experts like Ray Evernham and they immediately start taking photos of the sculpts and drawing over them.

Before the sculpts and drawings are even thought out, each car has to have a character, are they angry? Are they happy? How will their lips move? Do they have a rounded look like Lightning McQueen? Will the other cars compared to them look outdated? So much thought goes into the start of the design process.

McQueen is round and flowing so therefore Storm had to be angular and sharp.
Storm’s design achieves all that we set out to do in giving McQueen a rival that completely defines the next generation and we exploited shape, paint and graphics to yield a character that needs very few words to express his intentions.
It’s a constant process of tearing down and building up to perfect these designs.
– Jay Schuster

Character department

After the Cars are digitally sculpted, they have to paint it and shade it, they have to set it up to be articulated for animation, and that’s basically setting up puppet like controls so it can be animated by the animation department.

With Cars 3 the very first thing we did was bring over all of our old models for the Cars 3 film. So in this case we already had Lightening McQueen. This is his model. You can see it’s just a sculptural type of model. Its gray, its flat just like primer paint. It’s just like clay. There is no real shading on it and there’s no real rigging on it. It can’t be moved, it can’t be posed. We did this with all of our Radiator Spring characters. – Michael Comet

The materials used to create the models are all rendered, they’re all examples like on a wheel so they can have control over shininess, reflectivity, and they have to shade everything not just the body. Shading can really change the look of a character.  With Cars 3 the technology for how they create these images has really progressed and it’s so accurate, for example they have to animate cars that are off screen just because you can see the car in the reflection of say McQueen or one of the other cars on the track.

Here’s McQueen driving down the hill in Thunder hollow and if you notice his wheels are spinning and obviously turning as he drives. That’s  all done and calculated automatically by the computer and we call that the driving system. In addition we have special tools the automatically bulge the tires and the animators can control how much tire bulge. – Michael Comet

Cruz Ramirez

Cruz Ramirez is Lightning McQueens high tech trainer and she was a very different design challenge altogether. They paid very close attention to what the story department was cooking up as a character’s actions and mannerisms can spark design direction for everyone in the art department. They wanted Cruz to be as American muscle as possible, based in that world, but informed also by a European sports coupe esthetic. She was a unique design challenge. She’s not a racecar but she’s a strong female character who has to meet the NexGen  racecars at their level.

Check out these new Cars 3 Printables!

Click here to download some new Cars 3 printables and a cool Memory Game!

CARS 3 Trailer!

Don’t forget, CARS 3 arrives in theaters everywhere on June 16th!!!

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