See How A Scene From 'Cars 3' Evolves From Storyboard To The Final Cut

Last week brought a brand new trailer for Cars 3, along with our reaction after seeing roughly half the movie. Easily the most impressive and promising element of the movie is the new character Cruz Ramirez voiced by comedian Cristela Alonzo, who gives the franchise a much needed bigger heart. But beyond that, Pixar Animation delivers some truly stunning animation in bringing the world of Cars to life for a third round.

Below, we have a batch of images that reveals how a single frame from Cars 3 goes from being a storyboard illustrated by filmmakers to a fully rendered final shot from the film. Every single frame of any Pixar movie is an incredible achievement that is the result of years of work. Check out the Cars 3 scene evolution images below!

Cars 3 - Storyboard


This storyboard was created by story artists John Hoffman and Sean Hood as the earliest piece of developing an animated movie. In the case of Cars 3, there were 81,924 story panels like this that were created and delivered to the editorial department. The storyboards provide a rough sense of how the story will go, and how animation will bring it to life. But this isn't necessarily a definitive representation of how the movie will look when animation is complete.

Cars 3 - Concept Art

Concept Art

Based off the rough storyline created by storyboards, concept art is created by the production designer and art department. This is where the look and feel of the movie starts to take shape as color and details are added to the images proposed by the storyboard. Again, even at this point, because of how Pixar operates, just because we see images in concept art form doesn't mean they will end up in the final cut of the movie. The above piece was created by John Lee.

Cars 3 - Layout

Modeling, Shading and Layout

The concept art then acts as a guide for the basic shapes and forms of a given scene to be pieced together in a computer in a process called modeling. After that, painting and programming is done by technical artists during the process known as shading. This is where textures, colors, patterns and other elements are added to give the scene complexity. During this phase of production, a virtual camera is also placed in the scene in order to properly stage the characters in a position that creates the visuals desired by the director.

Cars 3 - Animation


After all the setpieces and characters are placed in layout, the animation department comes in to start animating the primary and secondary characters. This is where the characters actually start to show personality and the "acting" that the animation creates is put into place. In addition, in a sequence like this, there's an entirely separate crowds department that adds hundreds of other characters into the background.

Cars 3 - Final Image

Lighting and Final Image

Finally, the lighting department is responsible for integrating characters, sets, effects and more to create the final rendered image. This phase includes placing virtual light sources into the scene that not only illuminate the characters the set but create the right focal point for the audience to pay attention to. They go for what is called directed realism, not photorealism, where the shot looks natural and real within the context of the story and the scene, but may not necessarily appear exactly as the scene might if it were a live-action sequence. The single frame above has over 2 million pixels in it.


Keep in mind that at any given point during this process, Pixar's mentality of story being king might take over and a scene may have to be drastically reworked or scrapped entirely. That's what makes animation one of the most unique and painstaking ways to tell a story, and it's also why it takes so long for an animated movie of this quality to be completed.

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!

Cars 3 arrives in theaters on June 16 this summer.