Cars 3 Writers interview

In just a couple weeks, Disney will unleash Pixar Animation’s latest sequel Cars 3 in theaters. The film will undoubtedly be a box office behemoth thanks to the massive group of young fans who can’t get enough of the anthropomorphic vehicles who may or may not have caused some kind of human apocalypse.

We’ve already featured a few stories about Cars 3, including our reaction to seeing roughly half the movie, the introduction of the outstanding new character Cruz Ramirez, and an interview with the film’s first-time director, Brian Fee. Now we have an interview with the writing team behind this sequel.

To set the stage, here’s the official synopsis for Cars 3:

Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) 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 (voice of Cristela Alonzo), 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!

As part of Pixar’s Cars 3 press day back at the end of March, we had the chance to sit down with story supervisor Scott Morse (storyboard artist on Cars 2, WALL-E, Ratatouille and more), Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, The Rookie, Secretariat), Kiel Murray (Cars) and Bob Peterson (Up, Finding Nemo). Here’s what came from that interview.

The way Pixar movies are made, there are a lot of changes during the entire process. What are some of the biggest differences between what the movie was when it was early in development compared to what we’ll see in theaters? Director Brian Fee already told us that Cruz Ramirez used to be a male farmer…

[Entire writing team laughs]

Scott Morse: He’s at that point.

Bob Peterson: A farmer?! I’ve never heard of that.

Mike Rich: That’s the first I’ve heard of that.

Kiel Murray: That’s so funny. I remember that. Farmer is kind of a weird word, but he was in a farming family. The film was set in California. So it’s a lot different.

Mike: You know what might be easier, is the stuff that stuck. Because I wrote my first script and it went to storyboards in spring of 2015. We had Lightning McQueen with his dilemma that we talked about. We had him going on a journey. We had Cruz. But all of these characters, on a scale of 1 to 10, were just a 1 or a 2 compared to where they needed to be.

So was it always a Lightning McQueen comeback story where he has to find himself as the world changes around him?

Kiel: I think comeback came with [Mike].

Mike: Yeah, it did come with me. It was always McQueen searching for himself, because he’s confronted with that first moment where he’s going “Oh my gosh, I can’t do this forever. I don’t want to retire. I do want to come back. I want to stay competitive.” But he just didn’t know how to get to the answer of that question. Worse yet, he was making the mistake of just trying to do it just like the [younger racers]. “I’ll get fast again. I’ll do what they’re doing. And I’ll be fine.”

Scott: He’s looking outward and not inward for the answers.

Bob: Mike, you had a one sentence sort of summation which is interesting, in reference to comeuppance, which was “life worth living.”

Mike: Oh, yeah. It’s just kind of a theme of a life worth living is a life that’s constantly evolving. And if you stop or just try and look back, or worse yet, try to go back, then it’s not a recipe for happiness.

Bob: We’ve seen a lot of comeback stories, so we strive to make an emotional and unique one that you may not expect.

Cars 3

Were there any other movies you used as inspiration or focal points, whether it was for narrative purposes or visual grammar?

Scott: There were a ton. When I first came on, it was right after Brian had been identified as the director. We just sat down and talked about what kind of movie is it you want to make and the emotion behind that. We did start looking at a bunch of different films. Mike’s body of work was the first thing to speak to us: Finding Forrester, The Rookie, Secretariat. Not just the sport aspect, but what’s being said, the friendships, the motion behind it, the life-changing things that can happen to characters. Lucky enough, Mike was available and willing to come help us out. So his work was a big inspiration. A lot of different sports films. Everything from The Natural and The Color of Money, there’s a whole range of different kind of films.

Bob: A lot of docs, a lot of shorts.

Scott: A lot of documentaries. There’s a Mario Andretti short film that was made that’s a documentary about…

Bob: There was a great one, Racing Dreams, which profiled four [drivers] – how old were they?

Scott: They were different ages, but ranging from 14 to 17. Two boys, two girls.

Kiel: We watched that for the first Cars.

Scott: Did you?

Bob: Oh, wow.

Scott: That can’t be because…

Kiel: Well, I watched it.

Bob: We’re eating into his time!

[Everyone laughs]

***

On the next page, we discuss the presence of millennial race cars in Cars 3 and the influence that may have had behind the scenes, the layers of the new character Cruz Ramirez and the origins of Cars.

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