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John Lasseter Returns to the Director's Chair for Cars

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John Lasseter Returns to the Director's Chair for Cars

John Ratzenberger and John Lasseter at work on Cars.

© Disney/Pixar
Page 2

John Lasseter had to make sure the racing scenes and all other car-related content was authentic in Cars. “I personally have seen every movie about cars and racing and I love the subject. Even other subjects that I love, when you watch a movie that the filmmakers don’t do their homework, and it’s a subject that you like… Like one statement of, ‘Oh, that’s wrong,’ then all of a sudden the entire movie has lost its credibility. I didn’t want that to happen with our film, so we got the details right.

[Paul Newman] became actually one of my most valued sort of racing consultants. Every recording session we had with him, we would talk with him about racing. He would talk and the passion that he talked about racing and the sport was so inspiring that it really helped evolve the character of Doc. That scene where he’s finally talking about what happened to him, that really came out of these conversations that we had. He helped with that scene so much, and all the terminology. In fact, if you see in the credits, I gave him a ‘racing consulting’ credit because his working with me was so valuable to me.”

Owen Wilson as the Hotshot Rookie, Lightning McQueen: Each actor brought something special and unique to their character in Cars, including Owen Wilson who provides the voice of the film’s central character. “Owen Wilson was phenomenal to work with,” said Lasseter. “This character, the lead character, had to be kind of…you know, he’s a young rookie who is extremely talented and successful and the success has gone to his head in the wrong way. So, in some sense, I wanted to have an actor that can still make that really appealing, and that’s what Owen Wilson did so well. We always get actors to adlib and he’s so very smart and very talented. He’s a very talented screenwriter as well. He knows story structure and is clever that way, and so I encouraged him to adlib and stuff.

Early on, just when we settled onto the name ‘Lightning McQueen’, I thought, ‘Well, every boy is born into this world with his own set of sound effects.’ Right? Cars have a very different sound than a motorcycle, bombs, machine guns, flying like Superman, and all those sounds, and lightning and thunder, right? I had the tape rolling and so I said, ‘So, Owen, what was your sound for thunder growing up?’ He started going, ‘Kachow! Kachow! K-k-k-chow!’ I was sitting in the room laughing so hard, and he gave me this whole series of these funny [sounds] but totally him. I would have never thought of that! And so then we came up with the idea to start using that, like maybe the character would say it. We kept adding it to the story reels.

We had the idea that maybe he’d have a lucky sticker and then we thought that if it was Mylar, it could reflect light. And then, of course, he thinks he’s cool picking up chicks by reflecting light into their eyes, right? So out of that came this idea and then we told Owen about it the next time, ‘Just imagine it like sort of a lightning tattoo that you’re always striking the pose.’ And it just came out of that and became this catch phrase. And also my research into the whole NASCAR world, how everything is trademarked, right? All this merchandise is sold with a trademark. I thought that ‘Kachow!’ would be a great phrase for this character and it just grew out of this adlib he did.”

Lasseter says that although the name could be taken as a nod to car lover Steve McQueen, he actually named the character after his late friend, supervising animator Glenn McQueen. “My supervising animator that I worked with since Toy Story was named Glenn McQueen and he was a big car guy. He was so excited about this movie and starting to work on it, and he died of cancer early in this thing. I kind of named the character, knowing that with Steve McQueen and racing and all that stuff, it’s really named after Glenn McQueen, my supervising animator.”

Page 3: Behind the Scenes at Pixar

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