In the world of “Cars 3” Lightning McQueen and his fellow racers are assisted by their pit crew teams. These helpers can be the difference between winning and second place. The same can be said for real life racing. What happens when you take 6 crewmates, toss them into a loud, hot, hectic environment. Then throw in an 850hp racecar
hurtling towards them at 55mph? You get a NASCAR pit crew! These teams are trained to do in less than 15 seconds what us regular drivers take 15 minutes, on a good day! While on a Disney*PIXAR junket for “Cars 3” I had the amazing opportunity to experience a very lite version of what these teams do. Thanks to the folks at Performance Instruction and Training (PIT) we were able to suit up, grab the socket wrench, and go through just about the same motions as the real teams, without the gasoline and moving cars.
The visit to PIT starts of with a very informative presentation that covers the history of the NASCAR pit crews, the specific roles and responsibilities of each position, and what you can expect to experience later on. Everyone involved is either an active member of an active NASCAR pit crew, or was one. These guys really know what they’re talking about and they take it very seriously. We were part of a faily large group, so they broke us up into 6 different teams. Safety is of paramount importance, so we were setup with a suit, gloves, hearing, and eye protection. They led us out to pit row, where we were given live demonstrations of each position and the chance to practice a couple of times to get a feel for how the equipment feels. These are real NASCAR tires and wheels, real gas can (no gas), even the jack is authentic. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at the air-powered wrench and I was able to fill that spot for the team. Team 2, Lightnings Lugs, rear wheel changer… yeah that’s me.
Like I said, there were 6 different teams, so of course there had to be a little competition going. There are 3 cars set in position, so 3 teams at a time can run the drill. They lined us up in place and blew the whistle to start. Now on the first attempt all you want to do is be accurate and not make a big mistake. Slow and steady they said. Sure enough we all started moving into our positions and executing our assigned roles. It’s really a fast paced ballet with every move choreographed. Wrench on, lugs off, tire off to the right, new one handed in from the left, position on hub and power the lugs back on. Jump up, kneel down, lugs off, wait for jackman, tire off to the right, new tire in from the left, lugs on, back away. In about the time it took to read that, a professional pit crew can change 4 tires without gas. Our apprentice crew of first timers took a little under 2 minutes on our first attempt. All told not a bad time they said. We head back to the garage to review the video with our crew chief.
This really helps because we can see exactly where we can save steps and be more efficient. We were able to perform another 3 pit stops and in the process our time went down to just over a minute. We may not have been ready for Charlotte Motor Speedway but that was some serious improvement. Our team may not have won (congratulations Children of the Forest,) but we all had a fantastic time.
Lug nuts off
PIT is an active pit crew training school with graduates working for major teams, however they also use the pit experience as a way to teach team building, build improvement processes, and teach lean concepts to numerous businesses including the U.S. military. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in their program I would highly recommend it.
Now I had a better understanding of what happens on pit row, but what about on the track? Thanks to our Disney*PIXAR hosts and Charlotte Motor Speedway I was going to find out. Officially called the “NASCAR Racing Experience” you are able to ride as a passenger with a professional racing instructor in a real NASCAR race car. For 3 laps, at speeds of 175 mph or more, you get the chance to really feel what it’s like for the driver athletes who race for a living. I’m a driving enthusiast. My motorcycle is a performance model, my car is as well. I’ve been on closed tracks where you can “open it up” for a bit. Nothing, and I mean nothing compares to the feeling of that NASCAR dropping in to turn 1 at speed.
The engine is roaring and you hear the small pieces of track debris hitting the body, reminiscent of scenes in “Cars 3”. The driver gets into the groove and your body is just pushed to the right against the 5-point harness. Everything you’ve done before tells you that the car is going to spin out, but the driver, aerodynamics, and racing tires do their jobs and you simply run through until you exit onto the back straight. Charlotte is a tri-oval, so this dance happens 8 more times until before you know it you’re pulling in to pit row and the experience is over. A fistbump of thanks to my driver and then it was time to work my way back out of the car.
The Experience is offered in many different levels and price points, from 3 lap ride alongs, to full 40 lap solo racing sessions. It’s probably a good thang that I don’t live anywhere near the Charlotte area, because I would be spending lots of time at the track. If you’re at all interested in racing, or would like to give someone a gift that they will forever remember, the NASCAR Racing Experience is unforgettable.
PIT Instruction and Training
156 Byers Creek Road
Mooresville, NC 28117 [email protected]
Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Pkwy. South
Concord, NC 28027
“Cars 3” is the coming of age story of Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson), the Piston Cup winning #95. Finding himself overtaken by the next generation of racers, led by Jackson Storm (voice of Armie Hammer,) McQueen first tries to challenge the newcomers head-on, however he finds that age and technology may have passed him by. After a devastating accident and with the help of trainer Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo) McQueen learns that he has more than one role to play at the racetrack. The story teaches the value of perseverance and trust in ones self. It provides an especially strong message to girls that they should never give up, and that they can do anything they set their minds to.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The story was both engaging and entertaining, with plenty of humor for adults and children alike. I particularly liked how the relationship between Lightning and Cruz developed into that of mentor/mentee instead of a romantic one. In typical Disney*PIXAR fashion the animation and effects are top notch. You really feel as though you’re watching real racing, with pieces of rubber, smoke, and all of the associated sounds. The world of Cars is immersive, with details everywhere on the cars, in the scenery, in the buildings. In those details you’ll find plenty of references to other PIXAR stories, past and future.
The bonus disk is jam-packed with features:
Blu-ray & Digital: Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool (Exclusive new mini-movie) – Enjoy blindsided testimonials from the Crazy 8’s, touting the transformative impact Miss Fritter’s Racing School has had in reshaping the direction of their lives Theatrical Short: “Lou” – When a toy-stealing bully ruins recess for a playground full of kids, only one thing stands in his way: the “Lost and Found” box. Let’s. Get. Crazy. – Get schooled in the world of demolition derby, the “rules” of figure 8 racing, and how Pixar puts the crazy in the Thunder Hollow Crazy 8 race. This piece is hosted by Lea DeLaria. Legendary – a close, historical look at the racing legends Wendell Scott and Louise Smith, whose tenacity and perseverance got them into the race even when they weren’t invited. Ready for the Race – Disney Channel’s Olivia Rodrigo and NASCAR Racer William Byron check out the Hendrick Motorsports campus to showcase how real-world race training influenced the filmmakers. World’s Fastest Billboard – Blink and you will miss all of the graphics and “car-ified” advertisements created by Pixar’s Art team to make the ”Cars 3” world as believable as possible. Cruz Ramirez: The Yellow Car That Could – Join Cristela Alonzo and the filmmakers on their journey to create a race-car trainer turned champion racer. Generations: The Story of “Cars 3” – For the story team, creating Lightning McQueen’s next chapter didn’t involve just a tune-up, but a complete overhaul. My First Car – A collection of illustrated first-car stories as narrated by members of the “Cars 3” cast and crew. “A Green Car on the Red Carpet with Kerry Washington,” “Old Blue,” and “Still in the Family.” 5 Deleted Scenes – Each deleted scene is set up with an introduction as to why it was removed from the film. Deleted scenes include “The Boogie Woogie,” “The Jars of Dirt,” “Lugnut,” “The Bolt,” and “More Than New Paint.” Cars To Die(cast) For – Take a look at the phenomenon of die-cast toy collecting and the more than 1,000 unique designs that exist in the Cars universe. Commentary – Brian Fee (Director), Kevin Reher (Producer), Andrea Warren (Co-Producer) and Jay Ward (Creative Director)
My personal favorite Cars D’oeuvres – A collection of humorous animations featuring the main characters in “Cars 3”
This movie is well worth adding to your collection.
“Cars 3” on Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD™ & Blu-ray™ on Nov. 7
As part 3 of our continuing coverage of the home video release of Disney Pixar’s CARS 3, we were granted time with Director BRIAN FEE and Producer KEVIN REHER. Together they shared insight on the changes and decisions made during the creation process and how ultimately it changed the direction of the film.
Brian Fee started with Pixar Animation Studios in 2003 as a story artist. During his time with Pixar he has has worked on the “Cars” films, “Ratatouille”, “Wall•E,” and “Monsters University.” With “Cars 3” Fee makes his directorial debut.
Kevin Reher joined Pixar Animation Studios in 1993. He began as a finance and production representative for Walt Disney Pictures on “Toy Story” and co-producer of “A Bug’s Life.” In 1999 he formally became a part of Pixar as the development producer, overseeing the “incubation period” of feature and short film projects, starting with 2003’s release of “Finding Nemo.” Reher also oversees Pixar’s casting process, beginning with “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” and continuing with “Cars 2,” “Brave,” “Monsters University,” and the studio’s 2015 releases “Inside Out,” which won the Oscar® for best animated feature film, and “The Good Dinosaur.”
One of the first things that becomes apparent when viewing this film is that it’s not just a rehashing of the existing story. In “Cars 3” we’re introduced to Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo), a younger female assigned to help train Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) take on the new generation of faster racers. As the story progresses we learn that Cruz is not only a trainer, but also quite capable in her own way. She just needs to learn that for herself. This storyline was not always a part of the script. During our Q&A we learned that the decisions to make Cruz a “she” was not only driven by story, but by what the production team observed in their real lives as parents and coworkers.
Question: How do you feel about Cruz and Cristela, and that character, and what she brought to the movie?
KR: We absolutely love her, she’s so fun to work with too. She did all of her recording on set, flying back and forth.
BF: You know Cruz didn’t start off as a female character. Early on in the process of this film it was a male one. While we’re trying to constantly evolve and enrich the story, and we just keep redoing it, we eventually realized that we’re missing an opportunity here. I have two girls at home, and here we have a very heavily male dominated movie, and it’s a male dominated sport. I wanted something for my daughters, something for them to look up to, for then to identify with. I would see them afraid to do something. If they thought they were going be bad at it, they just wouldn’t even try it. That’s human nature, but it still breaks your heart as a parent. Because, well, everyone’s bad at everything at first. Everything that happens at home, it gets put in our back pockets, and we come to work the next day, we start talking about story. That kind of stuff, it comes up. So we started just paying attention to all this, and we thought Cruz needs to be a girl character, on every level. First thing we did we made her a female. We do these rough screenings, it’s all storyboards, and it’s all just us doing the voices and stuff just to try out the story while we work on it. We decided let’s not rewrite the part, let’s just make it a female. That didn’t work.
Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo)
KR: Having a female character speaking former lines by a male character was like, uhhh…
BF: Well it wasn’t a strong character…
KR: Yes. If you look at the deleted scenes, you also can see her journey as an actress and how she found the character, because some of it’s a little cringeworthy.
BF: The original Cruz as a male character was working at the time. He was very… soft. You almost have this…
KR: …Syncophantic assistant…
BF: Yes, and he was funny because he wasn’t confident. He didn’t have any bite to him, and that was somehow entertaining as a male character. As soon as we gave it a female voice it was just all kinds of wrong. So we started to write the character with more bite. That’s why we have the scene where McQueen starts blaming her. He’s just frustrated, and kind of lashes out at her… and she just, like, bites him back. That’s the reason we wrote the scene that way, it’s because we thought “What would Cruz really do?” It’s a learning journey. She was easily the hardest character to crack, and she was also quite frankly the most important character in the film.
Many of the characters in “Cars 3” were voiced by real-life racers like Junior Johnson, Ray Evernham, Kyle Petty, Shannon Spake, Danny Suarez, and others. They may be perfectly comfortable behind the wheel, but placing them in front of a microphone could be a different story. We asked the team about what it was like working with these professionals.
Q: You’ve worked with great voice actors on many of your films. How was it working with some of these actors, taking them out of their comfort zones?
KR: Blood, sweat, and tomatoes! (laughing) It was masterful, but when you have non-actors it can be tough.
BF: When you have an actor, well trained and experienced…
KR: Kerry Washington (voice of Natalie Certain) comes in and just knocks it out of the park. You’re done early.
Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington)
BF: But you still have to put them in the right mindset. They have to feel it so that what comes out of them feels true. They’re not concerned about how silly they look. With a non-actor they’re aware of standing in front of a microphone, everyone’s watching. They’re not comfortable making funny noises. In that moment the job is to make them become comfortable, which usually means me making a fool of myself. For example working with Kyle. There’s a really heartfelt moment where he has to basically say goodbye to McQueen. It’s really an acting moment. I already knew that that’s going be a challenge, it’s going to be hard. It’s one thing to just say some things really loud as a joke, and it’s another thing to really connect on an emotional quiet level. One of the things we did was after he had the line down, I took his pages away so he was no longer reading words, to get out of that reading cycle. Then I would stand really close to hime and say “No, don’t say it to the microphone, say it to me.” I would get uncomfortably close to force him to just say it to me. He would lower his voice, and we would just do it alot. He got more comfortable, and we recorded him several times. He got really good by the end, he adapted and he learned.
Part of what makes the “Cars 3” franchise work it the incredible amount of detail that is integrated into the films. The backdrops, racetracks, and scenery all seem to interact on a real level. Much of this is due to the amount of research that goes into producing the work. We asked Brian and Kevin if they did any specific research in preparing for this film:
KR: It was great. We started on Route 99, then Charlotte, Daytona…
BF: We hung around racetracks.
KR: Lot’s of racetracks. Abandoned tracks. We went to Wilkesborough in North Carolina, Occoneechee, and that’s how we ended up hearing about the legends of racing. All the legends came out of all that research.
BF: Then we spent equal amount of time talking with drivers, like Junior Johnson and people that were there when it was getting started, and hearing their stories. You’d take all that stuff, and you have kinda put it in your back pocket. Then it comes up later, and it’s like “We got to have a character named Smokey that’s in some way fashioned after Smokey Yunick.” Then you’re able to attribute certain things to that character based on the real person that give it a richness.
Smokey Yunick (Photo by ISC Images Archives via Getty Images)
KR: “Smokey’s Garage, best dang garage in town.” It’s actually Smokey Eunic’s Garage was the best damn garage in town, but it’s a Disney movie, so we couldn’t. After we talked to Junior Johnson and mentioned that we had visited Occoneechee he said that he had ended up in the river there a couple of times. So we ended up with a character named River. Then there’s the story of Wendell Scott, who was the only African American stock car racer. If you watch the DVD extras there’s a terrific featurette on the legends, and his story was amazing.
Finally, we asked if they were happy with the final product, and if the next one would be even better.
KR: Yes, very happy with it.
BF: Yes happy with it. As far as the next one, I hope I can learn from the experience and do better. That’s what we live for, doing better.
CARS 3 now in HD and 4K Ultra HD
Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray on November 7th
Every sport has its iconic venue – Yankee Stadium, Churchill Downs, Madison Square Garden, to name a few. Racing is no different. On a recent Disney PIXAR press junket for CARS 3 we were treated to exclusive access to one such location. For the sport of racing, Charlotte Motor Speedway is the “Mecca of Motorsports.” Sitting on over 2000 acres of prime North Carolina land, just 13 miles from downtown Charlotte, this destination contains tracks that support many different levels of racing competition.(more…)
As part of our continued coverage of the upcoming release of Disney PIXAR’s CARS 3 on home video in Digital HD and 4K Ultra HD on October 24, and Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on November 7, we’ve been granted insider access to some of the people responsible for bringing this work to life.
JAY WARD the Creative Director of CARS 3 started with PIXAR Animation Studios in 1998 as a production assistant working in the art department on the 2001 feature film “Monsters, Inc.” Shortly thereafter in 2001 he was promoted to coordinator and began early development work on he 2006 film “Cars.” Jay already had real knowledge of the automotive world, which gave him the ability to fill various production roles, including character team manager and automotive consultant to the director and co-director. After Cars he went on to manage the art department for “Ratatouille” and “Brave.” Jay’s automotive expertise led him to become a major contributor on the Disney-Pixar feature “Cars 2,” and he was also a consultant on the creation and production of “Cars Land” at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. He continues as a contributor to everything in the “Cars” franchise.
RAY EVERNHAM (voice of Ray Reverham) grew up in New Jersey, and remembers playing with small cars in his driveway at an early age. Unlike other boys who wanted to be firemen or astronauts, Ray always knew that he wanted to be a driver or involved with cars. He started racing and working on cars at the age of 15, and spent the next 20 years as a driver, competing with the likes of Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Darrell Waltrip, and Bill Elliott. In 1992 he became the crew chief for Hendrick Racing team #24, Jeff Gordon. In 7 years as chief he led the team to three NASCAR Cup championships and 47 Cup victories, including two at the Daytona 500 and the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After the 1999 season, Ray retired from the crew chief position and moved on to the even greater challenge of team ownership. Leading Dodge’s return to NASCAR racing, Evernham was able to develop a car, engine and parts distribution program for Dodge’s entire NASCAR presence. With Bill Elliott driving, Evernham’s team won Dodge the 2001 Daytona 500 pole position in their first Sprint Cup series start in almost 20 years. Since 2007 when he sold his ownership of Evernham Motorsports, Ray has been active as a broadcast TV racing analyst with SPEED, ESPN, and NBCSN. He co-owns, co-produces, and hosts his own TV series with Rick Hendrick, “Americarna” on Velocity. in 2014 he joined Hendrick Motorsports as a consultant member of the executive management team. In 2015 he was nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Question: Can you tell us about how Cars 3 got started?
Jay Ward: We knew after Cars 2 we wanted to tell another story and we also knew we wanted to get back to sort of more the roots of Cars 1, a McQueen story. We also knew what people love about Pixar films is they love that emotional journey of a character and the transformation of a character. So that was the impetus. That was the beginning and then we thought, “Okay if we’re telling the story about McQueen he’s already a hero, he’s already great at what he does. What do we tell?” So we started with a comeback story. Kind of more like a Rocky 3. He gets knocked down by the young guy and does he get back up? That would have been great movie, easy story to tell, but what we found along the way, what was more exciting was telling a story about mentorship, and telling a story about paying it forward, and telling a story about telling somebody who had limited themselves in life. That, “No you are good enough. You can do this.” So that was how it started.
Q: You guys had lot of pressure, right, to make sure that the sequel lives up to the first one and the second one? It’s almost kind of the trilogy of Cars. Kind of like a race car driver comes full circle. So how much pressure were you having to make sure that this is isn’t a dud?
JW: Well it’s hard because PIXAR Films are held to a different standard, you know. There are studios that make animated part 2,3,4,5 and people are like, “Yeah it was alright.” but we can’t get away with that. People hold– for good or for bad, they hold us to a really high standard. So there’s a lot of pressure on our movies. It has to have a great story #1. Any film can look beautiful, but not any film can tell a great story. You have to feel a sense of wanting to connect with that character. Luckily we had people who had this love of Cars and this connection with Cars. It did add a lot of pressure of telling a story that was special, and that’s why our films take so long. I mean yes, technically they’re challenging, but it really is about getting that story right. No way around it.
Ray Evernham and Jay Ward
Q: Was it harder with that emotional roller coaster that Pixar always puts you on to maintain that Pixar level, but also get everything right for Cars and NASCAR and everything?
JW: It’s the challenge of any of our films. John Lasseter’s big word is authenticity. Whatever world it is, it’s gotta’ be authentic. Like for Nemo people had to go Scuba Diving. They had to go under water. They had to see what it looks like to look up from underneath the water. It’s different right? For Wall-E they studied so much stuff about space and all– I mean just every film you go to exhaustive research. Including for this film, because Cars is a known world. People know it. We all drive Cars and we’re familiar with them. We can’t get away with just making stuff up. More than that, John’s a gear head. So that’s where I come in. John’s like, “I want all the details right.” My job is to get all those things right. So that the car guys go, “Hey they got that right. That sounds correct, that’s looking right.” Yet the person who doesn’t know anything about cars is like, “I love this movie. That character was so cute.” It’s got to work for both, yeah.
Question to Ray Evernham: Did you have input? Like was there anything that you wanted to see that you kind of said, “Can you make this happen for my character, work within the movie?”
Ray Evernham: I didn’t have that kind of input. What we did was just sit and talk a lot. We talked a lot, and the Pixar team asked a lot of questions, and I told a lot of actual stories of how things worked. It was amazing to see them take that and be able to adapt it into the characters. They would send me something and say, “But what do you think about this?” Especially with Jackson Storm. After being in NASCAR and racing so long I saw the tendencies of Cars were going right. They’re getting lower, they’re getting wider, they’re getting sharper. The aerodynamics are coming from the bottom and the tires are getting wider, and the profile’s changing. We just talked about all those things and, and they made notes, after notes, after notes and, and just kept bringing it to life.
JW: Oh he did. I mean honestly. We knew Jackson Storm was supposed to look like the future of NASCAR. The idea was to make Lightning McQueen look old, which is hard to do ‘cause he looks good. He looks cool, but he had to feel like yesterday’s news all of a sudden. Like when Jackson Storm shows up it’s like, “Whoa he’s totally– this guy’s from the future.” Right? And that’s kind of like what we’re thinking about with Jeff Gordon as a Racer who Ray was the Crew Chief for. There’s one a day a young kid shows up that’s just better than you, you know. What is that like? That was in the design. So when we show designs for Ray we said, “Ray what does a NASCAR look like 20 years from now if you can make it up?” And he’s like, “You guys are on to something good.” So he did help.
Q: How hard is it to find a balance in the Pixar movies that will draw in children, but the parents want to watch it too?
JW: John’s always said that we don’t make children’s films. We make films that work for children and adults. If you start out by saying, “We’re going to make a great children’s film,” then that’s all you’ve made. If you make a great film, a really good film, it’s going to work for all ages. If you think back before we had a film rating system, if you go back to the 40’s or 50’s every film had to work for all ages. You couldn’t put stuff in them that you could put in them now. You can watch The Wizard of Oz as an adult or as a kid and you enjoy it. That’s what I think we strive for with PIXAR. Is to tell great stories that work for all ages and you want to watch it more than once because you’re going to see something you didn’t see the first time. I have young kids, and my kids like watching movies the over and over again. So even if I’m not watching, if I’m driving them and I hearing them, I’m still laughing and still remembering things and that’s pretty special. You don’t get that with all films. There are some kids films that we watched and even my kids will watch it once and then they’re good. They liked it, they walked out, “Hey that was fun.” They’re not going to buy that on Blu-Ray or DVD. They don’t want to see it again because there were some alright some gags and it’s done, but a great story they want to see again and again.
Q: What was it like seeing some of the stories and part of your history up on the screen?
RE: It’s been a fire hose of emotions in some ways because it’s at the end of my career, and having a young child you know I got kind of a blended family right? There’s 24 years difference between my children, and my son is on the autism spectrum at 26 years old. I have a 2 year old and it just seems to be lucky enough to have been involved. This project has brought them closer together, and I understand that a little bit more. Sometimes when I watch the movies with them I learn as much myself about my career. So in some ways when I look at Lightning, you know that’s Jeff Gordon. I’ve watched him through his career. But then through this movie you know some of the lessons that Lightning had to learn about the emotion, and the relationships, and that people were more important than winning the races and the trophies. Because when that’s gone you just had stuff, without the relationship with people it didn’t mean anything. So I actually found out more about my life and my career and, and I think that, that working on this movie has helped me appreciate my adoption into the Hall Of Fame more than had I not.
JW: When we started research and we went to a NASCAR race you realize how visceral it is. You see that these cars are so loud and so powerful and so impactful that you can’t help but sort of be moved by it, even if you’re not a racing fan. I also think the other thing people sort of assume is “Oh NASCAR, a bunch of good ‘ol boys going around in a circle.” It is so difficult, and it is so technical, and it is so strategic. Everything about it is strategy that you realize it’s multi-layer. Again, you can’t judge a book by its cover. And that’s what CARS 3 tells and that’s what I think the world of NASCAR is too. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
CARS 3 in HD and 4K Ultra HD on October 24
Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on November 7th