Disclaimer: Disney, Pixar and ABC invited me to San Francisco on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for my coverage of events, which included presentations and answered the question, how PIXAR came up with Cars 3 story. As always, all opinions are my own.
From the time I was a little girl, I always had a soft spot for a great story. You’d find me devouring books at a rate that is only now surpassed by my 9-year old.
Story is king. It’s something I inherently knew from an early age and it’s what PIXAR has created its’ brand around.
While years ago I never could have imagined a time when I’d be sitting at the Sonoma Raceway (just outside San Francisco) with the revving of engines in the background, that’s exactly where I found myself this Spring. I had the incredible privilege of sitting down with the creative folks of PIXAR. While much was discussed, we all wanted to know one thing…how PIXAR came up with Cars 3 story!
Was There Another CARS Story?
Sequels can be tough, something acknowledged by every single person we talked to at PIXAR. But let’s face it, when you have an incredibly successful franchise (like Toy Story and Cars), the audience almost demands to know what happens next to their favorite characters.
Despite that fact, one thing is clear, PIXAR won’t go forward with a sequel unless there is a story to be told.
Was there another story to be told here?
This was the key question that needed an answer and one we talked about with PIXAR’s Kiel Murray (Writer), Bob Peterson (Writer), Mike Rich (Writer) & Scott Morse (Story Supervisor).
I had the opportunity to ask each of the writers about their biggest challenges. Why? We all have challenges and sometimes all anyone else can see is the finished product and successes. But, I believe it’s the process of facing challenges that helps define us and is the most interesting.
Think of Lightening McQueen. He’s the hero. The PIXAR team acknowledged it was incredibly challenging to tackle another film, as any story they came up with would be the third movie in a franchise.
Thinking of their main character, they remarked, “What kind of problems can you bring to a guy who has everything?”
A Guy Who Has Everything
Now you and I both know that no one has the perfect life. Money can’t buy you happiness. Success doesn’t keep away problems. Same goes for heroes like Lightening McQueen. Though he seemingly has everything (fame, status, friendships, the love of Sally), were there any challenges in his life?
What the writers needed was to come up with a dilemma. They found it by looking at real life.
Believe it or not, the writers spent time researching and talking to aging sports athletes like Jeff Gordon, one of the best NASCAR drivers of all time. Sports heroes reach a point when things are changing and they have to learn how to play smarter, to adapt.
THIS was a story worth telling. THIS was a story we all could relate to on some level (some of us more than others, ahem, as I can safely say in my 40s)!
The writers knew Cars 3 couldn’t be an “underdog” story, like many sports movies are (think Mike Richs’ previous Secretariat). Lightening wasn’t the underdog by any stretch of the imagination. He was on top of the world last we saw him. For this to be a workable story, Lightening needed to be in a vulnerable place.
Will It Crush You?
Enter Jackson Storm. Younger and faster, Jackson makes Lightening McQueen face the very real possibility that he could lose.
When you feel obsolete, do you let it crush you? Will you go on when someone is better than you?
When PIXAR showed early story scenarios to veteran car racer Jeff Gordon, he remarked, “this feels really familiar”.
PIXAR was on to something.
PIXAR went to the roots of NASCAR to find the heart of the story. If Lightening McQueen was at risk of losing to Jackson Storm, they wanted to show why Lightening loved racing so much. Why did it matter to him?
The team visited Charlotte and found ghost tracks. They spent time at Daytona which included the Daytona library, a wealth of information about real life characters who will make appearances in Cars 3!
Characters to Push McQueen
Lightening McQueen needed to embrace his aging (something I hope we can all learn to do), so PIXAR created characters to push him.
I immediately think of trainer Cruz Ramirez!
Cruz Ramirez is the one to tell Lightening exactly what he DOES NOT WANT to hear. You know what I’m talking about. She’s of the younger generation. Kind of like the Millennials today. But as with most of us, even Cruz Ramirez (for all her confidence in training), has an achilles heel – she’s never actually been on a track (only a simulator).
Another level of story just showed up. You see, Lightening McQueen has always had the confidence that Cruz was missing in herself. Ahhhh…this is where I’m going to leave it because well, I don’t want to spoil anything for you.
We did get an exclusive screening of the first 40 or so minutes of CARS 3! PIXAR has done it again and there is so much heart in this movie! I dare say that grownups might even just love this one more than the kids!
Let’s take a sneak peek at the newest trailer, just released:
CARS 3 opens in theatres everywhere on June 16th!
More PIXAR Trip Pots:
Follow along over the next few weeks as I bring you more from my trip to San Francisco and PIXAR for #Cars3Event! Here are some posts so far:
- Tour PIXAR Headquarters
- Sonoma Raceway Experience
- The Toy Box – PIXAR Visit
- Born in China Screening & Review
- Puppy Dog Pals – Exclusive Interview
- Pixar in a Box – FREE
- I’m Going to PIXAR for Cars 3 Event
If you like this post, you’ll love these that I’ve picked out just for you!