Animators have often taken on animals, dinosaurs and even toys to give them a sprinkle of magic and bring them to life on the big screen.
Films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo have captured the imagination of children and adults alike, giving personality traits and gestures to characters to make us love them, hate them, feel pity for them, admire their bravery, and maybe even want to be just like them.
But one successful animation – now back for its third installment – tapped into the concept of inanimate objects for a film series that’s been a roaring success since it debuted in 2006. Lightning McQueen and his gang undoubtedly captured the hearts of millions of children around the world – many of whom quickly became obsessed with the shiny red hot shot who was quicker than quick – in Cars and now the crew is back in Cars 3.
This time, having been pushed out of the limelight by a new generation of race cars, the once famous Lightning McQueen is left doubting himself and his ability. With the help of a young technician, he sets out to prove his talent and regain his position as the best racer in the world.
Fans can no doubt expect the usual dose of humour, action and heart-felt drama – but just how do animators capture all these emotions from a piece of metal?
Behind the scenes at Pixar, the crew originally looked at sports films like The Rookie and Secretariat to explore the friendships and life-changing events that affected each character.
On one side, animators have the tough task of making sure their creations are capable of emotion. Using clay and computer models based off real cars, they were able to bring characters like Lightning, Sally and Mater to life by giving them features like lips, eyebrows and movement, while keeping true to the mechanics of cars.
“These renders are so great, they look like real-life cars, and we wanted them to feel like they were as heavy and as weighty as a car, but then they also have eyes on their windshield, and they need to emote,” Pixar animator Jude Brownbill explained in a recent interview.
“They have a mouth that needs to speak, so it’s a balance between those two things.”
But animation alone isn’t enough: the producers knew they had to focus on story lines to really get fans to feel for the cars and relate to their experiences.
“I think giving them stories that are most relatable is one of the most important things,” co-producer Andrea Warren said. “We’ve all probably been in some of those lonely moments, with your tray in the lunch hall, or whatever it is. You can immediately connect to that, and suddenly, you’re there with the character.
“You hope the film entertains people, and you hope people have fun and that they enjoy it, but we are putting these themes in it that you hope resonate for people. You hear all different kinds of stories, like children with autism who don’t talk, but they can talk about the Pixar characters. That’s mind-blowing. You just want to put something good out in the world, that’s sweet and enjoyable, but that it can find these other paths is truly amazing. It’s really incredibly moving.”
Cars 3 releases in the UAE on Thursday, 15th June.
Directed by: Brian Fee
Also starring: Owen Wilson, Armie Hammer, Cristela Alonzo, Larry the Cable Guy and Kerry Washington
Running time: 109 mins