Monday, September 21, 2015
Cars premiered on May 26, 2006 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina and was theatrically released on June 9, 2006, to positive reviews. It was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. The film was released on DVD on November 7, 2006 and to Blu-ray Disc in late 2007. Related merchandise, including scale models of several of the cars, broke records for retail sales of merchandise based on a Disney·Pixar film, bringing an estimated $10 billion in 5 years since the film's release. The film was dedicated to Joe Ranft, who was killed in a car accident during the film's production.
A sequel, Cars 2, was released on June 24, 2011, and a spin-off, Planes, produced by DisneyToon Studios, was released on August 9, 2013. A series of short animated films entitled Cars Toons has been airing since 2008.
A rendered frame from the film.
For the cars themselves, Lasseter also visited the design studios of the Big Three Detroit automakers, particularly J Mays of Ford Motor Company. Lasseter learned how real cars were designed.
In 2006, John Lasseter spoke about how they worked hard to make the animation believable, saying: "It took many months of trial and error, and practicing test animation, to figure out how each car moves and how their world works. Our supervising animators, Doug Sweetland and Scott Clark, and the directing animators, Bobby Podesta and James Ford Murphy, did an amazing job working with the animation team to determine the unique movements for each character based on its age and the type of car it was. Some cars are like sports cars and they're much tighter in their suspension. Others are older '50s cars that are a lot looser and have more bounce to them. We wanted to get that authenticity in there but also to make sure each car had a unique personality. We also wanted each animator to be able to put some of themself in the character and give it their own spin. Every day in dailies, it was so much fun because we would see things that we had never seen in our lives. The world of cars came alive in a believable and unexpected way."
Unlike most anthropomorphic cars, the eyes of the cars in this film were placed on the windshield (which resembles the Tonka Talking Trucks, and the characters from Tex Avery's One Cab's Family short and Disney's own Susie the Little Blue Coupe), rather than within the headlights. According to production designer Bob Pauley, "From the very beginning of this project, John Lasseter had it in his mind to have the eyes be in the windshield. For one thing, it separates our characters from the more common approach where you have little cartoon eyes in the headlights. For another, he thought that having the eyes down near the mouth at the front end of the car feels more like a snake. With the eyes set in the windshield, the point of view is more human-like, and made it feel like the whole car could be involved in the animation of the character. This decision was heavily criticized by automotive blog Jalopnik.
In 2006, supervising animator on the film Scott Clark, spoke about the challenges of animating car characters, saying: "Getting a full range of performance and emotion from these characters and making them still seem like cars was a tough assignment, but that's what animation does best. You use your imagination, and you make the movements and gestures fit with the design. Our car characters may not have arms and legs, but we can lean the tires in or out to suggest hands opening up or closing in. We can use steering to point a certain direction. We also designed a special eyelid and an eyebrow for the windshield that lets us communicate an expressiveness that cars don't have." Doug Sweetland, who also served as supervising animator, also spoke about the challenges, saying: "It took a different kind of animator to really be able to interpret the Cars models, than it did to interpret something like The Incredibles models. With The Incredibles, the animator could get reference for the characters by shooting himself and watching the footage. But with Cars, it departs completely from any reference. Yes they're cars, but no car can do what our characters do. It's pure fantasy. It took a lot of trial and error to get them to look right."
John Lasseter co-wrote and directed the film.
Lasseter also explained that the film started with pencil and paper designs, saying: "Truth to materials. Starting with pencil-and-paper designs from production designer Bob Pauley, and continuing through the modeling, articulation, and shading of the characters, and finally into animation, the production team worked hard to have the car characters remain true to their origins." Character department manager Jay Ward also explained how they wanted the cars to look as realistic as possible, saying: "John didn't want the cars to seem clay-like or mushy. He insisted on truth to materials. This was a huge thing for him. He told us that steel needs to feel like steel. Glass should feel like glass. These cars need to feel heavy. They weigh three or four thousand pounds. When they move around, they need to have that feel. They shouldn't appear light or overly bouncy to the point where the audience might see them as rubber toys." According to directing animator James Ford Murphy, "Originally, the car models were built so they could basically do anything. John kept reminding us that these characters are made of metal and they weigh several thousand pounds. They can't stretch. He showed us examples of very loose animation to illustrate what not to do."
Character shading supervisor on the film Thomas Jordan explained that chrome and car paint were the main challenges on the film, saying: "Chrome and car paint were our two main challenges on this film. We started out by learning as much as we could. At the local body shop, we watched them paint a car, and we saw the way they mixed the paint and applied the various coats. We tried to dissect what goes into the real paint and recreated it in the computer. We figured out that we needed a base paint, which is where the color comes from, and the clearcoat, which provides the reflection. We were then able to add in things like metallic flake to give it a glittery sparkle, a pearlescent quality the might change color depending on the angle, and even a layer of pin-striping for characters like Ramone." Supervising technical director on the film Eben Ostby explained that the biggest challenge for the technical team was creating the metallic and painted surfaces of the car characters, and the reflections that those surfaces generate, saying: "Given that the stars of our film are made of metal, John had a real desire to see realistic reflections, and more beautiful lighting than we’ve seen in any of our previous films. In the past, we’ve mostly used environment maps and other matte-based technology to cheat reflections, but for Cars we added a ray-tracing capability to our existing Renderman program to raise the bar for Pixar."
Rendering lead Jessica McMackin spoke about the use of ray tracing on the film, saying: "In addition to creating accurate reflections, we used ray tracing to achieve other effects. We were able to use this approach to create accurate shadows, like when there are multiple light sources and you want to get a feathering of shadows at the edges. Or occlusion, which is the absence of ambient light between two surfaces, like a crease in a shirt. A fourth use is irradiance. An example of this would be if you had a piece of red paper and held it up to a white wall, the light would be colored by the paper and cast a red glow on the wall." Character supervisor Tim Milliron explained that the film uses a ground–locking system that kept the cars firmly planted on the road, saying: "The ground-locking system is one of the things I’m most proud of on this film. In the past, characters have never known about their environment in any way. A simulation pass was required if you wanted to make something like that happen. On Cars, this system is built into the models themselves, and as you move the car around, the vehicle sticks to the ground. It was one of those things that we do at Pixar where we knew going in that it had to be done, but we had no idea how to do it."
Technical director Lisa Forsell explained that to enhance the richness and beauty of the desert landscapes surrounding Radiator Springs, the filmmakers created a department responsible for matte paintings and sky flats, saying: "Digital matte paintings are a way to get a lot of visual complexity without necessarily having to build complex geometry, and write complex shaders. We spent a lot time working on the clouds and their different formations. They tend to be on several layers and they move relative to each other. The clouds do in fact have some character and personality. The notion was that just as people see themselves in the clouds, cars see various car-shaped clouds. It’s subtle, but there are definitely some that are shaped like a sedan. And if you look closely, you’ll see some that look like tire treads. The fact that so much attention is put on the skies speaks to the visual level of the film. Is there a story point? Not really. There is no pixel on the screen that does not have an extraordinary level of scrutiny and care applied to it. There is nothing that is just throw-away."
Computers used in the development of the film were four times faster than those used in The Incredibles and 1,000 times faster than those used in Toy Story. To build the cars, the animators used computer platforms similar to those used in the design of real-world automobiles.
In its opening weekend, Cars earned $60,119,509 in 3,985 theaters in the United States, ranking number one at the box office. In the United States, the film held onto the number one spot for two weeks before being surpassed by Click and then by Superman Returns the following weekend. It went on to gross $461,983,149 worldwide (ranking number six in 2006 films) and $244,082,982 in the United States (the third highest-grossing film of 2006 in the country, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Night at the Museum). It was the second highest grossing film released by Walt Disney Pictures, behind Dead Man's Chest and was the highest-grossing animated film of 2006 in the United States, but lost to Ice Age: The Meltdown with $655,388,158 in worldwide totals .