In addition to interviewing the talent of Cars 3, we had the opportunity to interview the Cars 3 Director and Producer, Brian Fee & Kevin Reher. Thanks again to Disney*Pixar for having me a guest at the Cars 3 Red Carpet World Premiere.
I love talking members of the production team on a film because you get this whole backstory that you might not get when talking to the actors. It’s like getting insider information, and maybe some pseudo spoilers. But hey, the movies’ been out almost a week now, right?
The Realism of Cars 3
With Cars 3, the team had a new renderer, so the4y could really control the sense of realism, and they wanted it to be almost like hyper-realism – as if you could almost smell the air. The really played up things like fog and the depth of the atmosphere because they could.
Then there was the realism of the cars, because they’re TALKING CARS, but they still want them to look like they are four thousand pounds because people see cars every day.
We asked them if the animators every needed to dial it back a little when it came to the cars.
Kevin: The animators get a little jumpy. You know, they get a little- they only have eyes and mouths to animate, I mean in terms of getting an emotion across. And so sometimes they get a little bouncy on the suspension you go okay we’re not watching the sh– in this car bounce around.
Brian: Well yeah we did- Because we knew how this was going to look when it was all done, we did go back in at times, at times if things initially had been over animated, which was not uncommon, you know, the animators were just coming off of a show where they were doing fish, very expressive fish. Or emotions that are at their heart extremely cartoony characters. And with everybody I think coming onto this show, there’s kind of a there’s a learning curve to the tone of this movie.
Obviously Cars 3 has a lot of messages about relationships, and we talked about what they wanted viewers to get from those messages.
Brian shares with us his feelings about his relationship with his parents, and losing that safety met, but the realization that he is his daughters’ safety. Below is a really wonderful story he shared with us (totally worth the read)
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’s kind of- 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- you try to do an art lesson. 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 they don’t have very- you know, their patience is short, to say the least. And 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, you know, that’s just a person, 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 their- 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. And, you know, I don’t know after about twenty minutes, they’re gone. And 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, spent hours doing this, I didn’t get quite done but I got almost done.
And I showed them and ah ah 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 an afternoon, I didn’t think it would be an American Girl doll. There’s a lot of things I could do, I mean I don’t have a lot of personal time anymore.
I kind of walked away and thought 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.
And 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, sorry I can’t tell the story without getting teared up, she set them up and she was drawing their portrait and it was 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.
And 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, right, service, the thing that he thinks he’s most passionate about. And terrified of losing actually, actually terrified of losing the one thing that brings him the most joy. And 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.
Kevin: For me it was the Doc Hudson McQueen relationship and my dad died and I was the car kid, my brother was the sports kid. And he never got to see even Cars One, and so the whole McQueen Doc stuff just slays me.
Which leads us to talking about actors in the film that are no longer with us.
The tribute to Paul Newman and Tom Magliozzi
One of things I really loved about talking to Kevin and Brian was hearing about the thoughtfulness that went into incorporating both Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) and Rusty (Tom Magliozzi) and Dusty – there was so much care that went into going into the recordings and tapes. With Doc, they tried a sound alike, but there was no magic. Thanks to the Newman Foundation they were able to spend the time finding the right lines to tell the story. With Rusty, they were fortunate that the producer of Car Talk lived in Berkley and they were able to pull lines from the Click and Clack tapes. “Don’t Drive like my brother…”
Brian: You may think you’re losing something, but the best thing is still in front of you- have yet to come.
Casting Cars 3
We talked about how casting worked, and how they picked the actors. Since they already have a pretty good idea about character and they know who they are looking for, they begin casting right away.
Kevin: So when Natalie, 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.
And 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.
Sometimes you have to have a plan b or c because you don’t want having voices that are too similar and you want to make sure that the voice matches the character. The actors auditioned different ways. Lea DeLaria actually read some script pages at home with her iPhone.
After casting Cristela Alonzo as Cruz, and learning more about Cristela’s life growing up, Cruz’s backstory was rewritten. “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, we don’t…And she was trying to protect her..”
It takes a village to make a great movie.
When you have a team of over two hundred and fifty people, the story is going to change and evolve. You have to keep an open mind in every step of the process.
Brian: Whenever an actor says can I try something, the answer is always yes, it may not work, but or it may just be the best thing. And those surprises when stuff got better than I would have ever expected. So we try to look for those opportunities from everybody on the crew.
Easter eggs and other cool things.
Kevin also shared some fun Easter eggs to look out for, to name a few, the name of the school on the side of Miss Fritter is the “Belleville Unified School District” where Lea DeLaria went to school and Natalie Certain’s license plate is Kerry Washington’s birthdate and New York where she was born.
They visited two legendary race tracks in North Carolina while researching then film, Occoneechee and Wilkesboro.
It really quite special to get more of the backstory of Cars 3, and to sit down with Kevin and Brian. They shared so many great stories! I wish you were there with me!