Cars 3 Press Day: Here's What We Learned About the Disney•Pixar Film

Cars 3 First Look: What We Learned About the Disney•Pixar Film

We got a first look at Disney•Pixar film Cars 3

We got a chance to visit Pixar outside of San Francisco and the Sonoma Speedway to take a first look at the next Disney•Pixar film Cars 3 recently. We saw footage and chatted with director Brian Fee. We also got a look at the new Pixar short Lou. We’re letting you in on the secrets of the new film and short. We’ve also got a slew of new pictures, concept art and more, both in the story and in the gallery below.

RELATED: The New Cars 3 Trailer Races In!

Here is the official info for Cars 3: “Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez, with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!”

What We Saw

Remember that poster and teaser that showed Lightning McQueen crashing during a race? Well, that happens very early on in the film. McQueen is competing with much newer, younger cars with better technology and training techniques. After healing up a bit and getting a bunch of pep talks, McQueen calls on some old friends to help him. The Rust-eze guys have sold their business to help McQueen get up to speed and compete. The company has been taken over by a car named Sterling (Nathan Fillion). This very wealthy car would love to make some cash off McQueen, and if the new training techniques fail to produce results, to use his image to market products. To do this, he has young racing trainer Cruz (Cristela Alonzo) put McQueen through his paces on some crazy machinery, including the simulator you see in the image below. It doesn’t go so well. McQueen convinces Sterling to give him one more chance before he’s put out to pasture. He agrees to train with Cruz for the big race.

Cars 3 Press Day: Here's What We Learned About the Disney•Pixar Film

We don’t want to give away too many details and spoil things for you, but McQueen and Cruz have a big fallout, both of them realizing things about themselves after a disturbing attempt to get McQueen back out on the circuit without anyone noticing. They set out for a race on an old track, with McQueen disguised in a lot of mud. What it ends up being is a demolition derby, where the other vehicles were out for blood – or at least, oil. It’s going to be a long road back to the top of the boards for McQueen, but he might just pull it off!

New Characters

Disney•Pixar‘s Cars 3 will feature the return of Owen Wilson as the voice of Lightning McQueen, along with Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, Bonnie Hunt as Sally Carrera, and Cheech Marin as Ramone. We’re also getting a whole bunch of new characters.

Cruz is the new trainer who works for Sterling. She’s enthusiastic and young, though her experience is all on simulators. She’s really excited to be working with McQueen, but she thinks of him as old and in need of real modernization. Fee told us in an interview that Cruz started out as a male character, but as the story went through different iterations, the change occurred. He said, “We realized that it should just be a girl. It will make a much richer story. There is just so much more there. First of all, you don’t see it coming as much. The automotive world is male-dominated, right? We’re aware of that at Pixar. The animation industry is male-dominated. It’s changing. It’s changing every year and that’s wonderful. The tech industry is male-dominated. The tech industry has been trying to deal with that. Nobody wants that. So racing has been male-dominated, so to make her feel like an outsider, it just felt like the right thing to do.”

Sterling is the owner of the new training facility that McQueen is training in. He doesn’t really listen to anyone and for him, proof is in the prizes. If you can’t win them, he thinks you should give it up and rest on your very marketable laurels.

Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) is McQueen’s much younger rival and is completely dedicated to racing. He’s got newer specs, he’s all angles and he’s ready to take down McQueen and win the titles for himself. Check him out below in a piece of concept art for Cars 3.

Cars 3 Press Day: Here's What We Learned About the Disney•Pixar Film

Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria) is a very aggressive school bus who is the reigning champion of the demolition derby that McQueen and Cruz crash. She’s out to take down the newcomers, until she learns a secret about them. You can see Miss Fritter (with DeLaria’s trademark glasses) in the pic below. Fee said, “She was somebody where we actually pulled clips. We knew she had it. I watched her standup. We knew she had the spirit and the fire, but the clips we were finding — because we have to run everything through John [Lasseter] — John wants to know who you’re going to cast… we pulled clips and I realized that her [Orange Is the New Black] character Big Boo, was in her physicality… we knew though and we sent her a script. She recorded her own audition into her iPhone. She sent it back to us and that’s what we sent to John… she’s so physical. She’d have to stop and laugh in between her own takes. She was cracking herself up.”

Cars 3 Press Day: Here's What We Learned About the Disney•Pixar Film

There are a number of new characters in Cars 3 that are based on actual historical racers as well, that they call the Legends. You can see a few of them in the pic below.

Louise ‘Barnstormer’ Nash (Margo Martindale) is based on Louise Smith, who tied for the second woman to race in NASCAR at the top level. She was known as “the first lady of racing.” Louise raced from 1949 to 1956. She won 38 races. Fee told us about her casting. “I love Margo Martindale. Love her. I always have. I already knew she was going to have the job, but you do due diligence, because one of the things we find in animation is that we may personally love a certain actor. They may be great. And then when we listen to their voice, matched up to a certain drawing… they could be a wonderful actor, but how much of it is in their voice and how much of it is in their physicality? That wasn’t the case with Margo. She was always the choice.

River Scott (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) is based on Wendell Scott, he first African-American driver in NASCAR, and the first African-American to win a race in the Grand National Series. Fee said, “He was always the choice. He brought a lot to the role. I was always a fan of his, too. He brought more to it than I was even expecting. He’s such a colorful fella and he just puts so much into it. He would just look at me at the end of recordings and just, he’d tell a story. He’s look at me [and laugh]. I would have to work not to ruin takes with my laughing. He wrung everything he could out of it.”

Junior ‘Midnight’ Moon is voiced by former NASCAR driver of the 1950s and 1960s, Junior Johnson. He won 50 NASCAR races in his career. Back in 2007, Johnson teamed up with Piedmont Distillers to introduce “Midnight Moon Moonshine,” which his character name is a reference to.

We even see some racing history when Mack (John Ratzenberger) wears a Jocko Flock Party Supplies disguise while taking McQueen and Cruz to the demolition derby. Jocko Flocko was a monkey that racer Tim Flock used to bring out on his racing circuits. He’d even race in the cars!

Cars 3 Press Day: Here's What We Learned About the Disney•Pixar Film

Directing Challenges

Fee is a first time director and he explained what the challenges were in making Cars 3. “There was lots of stuff I didn’t know,” he said. “I don’t know how to direct animators. I came from story. I don’t know how to work with any of the departments downstream from production. I had to learn it all. The hardest thing was story. That’s the part I come from, that’s the heart of everything. Cracking the story and finding the best way. It’s all about communication. I have this emotion and I want to share it with you. I have to give you an experience to do that, and just what is the best way to tell that story? How’s it going to work. It’s a lot of experimenting. The good news about those departments I don’t know about is that they’re full of experts. My job is not to do their job for them. Just like I wouldn’t want to give an actor a line read. If I gave an actor a line read, they’re going to stop acting and they’re just going to mimic me. It will be just as good as my acting, which we don’t want,” he laughed. “It’s the same with the other departments. I don’t want to specifically tell them what to do, because they’re better at it than me. So I just need to inspire them about what the shot needs, what the lighting needs, what the acting needs. I just need to make sure it’s helping us tell our story and let them do their thing.”

Easter Eggs

Fee told us that there were a number of Easter eggs in Cars 3 that we should be looking out for. He said, “There is a ‘Coco’ Easter egg. There’s always the next movie. We actually spent some time planning that one. Some of them are surprises that other departments start to do. Of course we’ve got frisbees on the roofs and just the other day, we were looking at a scene that’s in the woods and it’s at night time. I don’t even know sometimes. The departments continue to flesh out sets and stuff starts to show up at random in the background. I said, ‘What’s that back in the woods?’ ‘Oh, that’s a moonshine still.’ No one will probably ever see it because it’s so dark, but it’s there. That’s crazy!”

One of the things we learned at the press day is that NASCAR has its roots in running moonshine. The drivers of the cars that would transport the moonshine would have to outrun the cops and they’d get reputations for their speed. They’d race each other and people started to show up. Someone had the idea to charge for it, and modern racing was born.

Cars 3 Press Day: Here's What We Learned About the Disney•Pixar Film


Lou is a short directed by Dave Mullins and tells the story of a kid on a playground who steals things from the other kids. A box of lost items that is sentient (Lou, and the name is explained in the short) finds a very clever way to not only get back the items, but make the kid realize that what he’s doing is wrong. The creators went through months and months (with film interruptions) of creating the actual character, which you can get a glimpse of in the shot above. We don’t want to give away too much, but this one is definitely going to pull on your heartstrings by the end. It takes on why kids bully each other, though Mullins wanted to make it clear that the main character isn’t as much a bully as he is someone who really wants attention. Watch for the change in the color palate from cool to warm as the boy remembers why toys are important to each of us.

Cars 3 is directed by Brian Fee (storyboard artist for Cars and Cars 2) and produced by Kevin Reher (A Bug’s Life, La Luna short). The film will race into theaters on June 16, 2017. Lou is directed by Dave Mullins and produced by Dana Murray.

The first Cars, directed by John Lasseter, earned $461.9 million worldwide in 2006, and Cars 2 topped that with $559.8 million globally in 2011.

Are you guys excited for Cars 3 and for the upcoming short Lou? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @ComingSoonnet!


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