On Route 66: Disney and Pixar’s Cars 15 Years Later
In the summer of 2006, Disney would distribute Pixar’s seventh animated film, Cars.
This movie would tell a simple story of a hot rod racecar that would get lost on his destination, but learn an important lesson on the way. But the story behind the story is also an incredible journey.
One of the things that has been noted about most Pixar films is that they are personal to the person directing the film. In this case, it all starts with none other than Pixar co-founder, John Lasseter.
When Pixar was planning their first three full-length films, one of the ideas they had was about a world where cars are characters. But the first idea was completely different from what it would eventually become.
The early version was about an electric yellow car that felt out of place in the world that uses fossil fuel. Unfortunately, this would be shelved after production on Toy Story 2 started. But a Pixar, ideas don’t die completely.
The Real Journey
After, directing the studio’s first three movies, Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2, and after winning recognition for those films, John Lasseter would soon find new inspiration for his next big idea.
He soon realized that he wasn’t spending enough time with his wife and five sons because he was too busy making history. So, he took his family on a special summer trip.
What this did was bring the family closer than they were before. But what this did for John, was teach him an important life lesson. In life, the destination is not what’s important, it’s the journey and what it can reward a person.
The more John thought about it, the more he realized he had to make a movie that taught that lesson. And he would have the perfect dynamic.
John knew that the central character has to be a racecar. In his head, all a racecar cares about is living life in the fast lane and winning. But the character, Lightning McQueen, has to learn to slow down and enjoy life, especially the simple things.
Creating the Designs
When it came to designing the characters, the creative team wanted to put appeal but still be accurate to the world of cars themselves. For that, they went to J. May of Ford Motor Company to study cars.
While it was decided early on to put the eyes on the front window instead of the head lights, the artists wanted to add different kinds of movement to the cars based on their age. For example, the newer cars have a more lighter movement while the older ones have a looser movement.
Cars was released on June 9th, 2006 to positive reviews and would become the second most successful animated film of the year.
At the award season, the film would make history. Cars would become the first film to win the Golden Globe for Best Animated Film the year it was introduced.
The film would also win Pixar’s fifth Annie Award for Best Animated Film.
It would also be the basis for a successful franchise that would include merchandise and even a land at Disney California Adventure that opened in 2012.
And thus the story of Lightning McQueen and the community he began to care for won’t grow stale after 15 years.