‘Cars 3’: Lead Designers On Creating New Friends & Rivals

Cars 3

Credit: Disney (pictured, left to right, Cars 3 character supervisor Michael Comet, directing animator Jude Brownbill, and production designer Jay Shuster)

Before the characters of Cars 3 reached the computers where the movie is made, they need to be certain of their look and purpose. That’s the purview of directing animator Jude Brownbill, production designer Jay Shuster, and characters supervisor Michael Comet.

When it comes to designing the characters of the Cars franchise, Shuster said it was a matter of nailing the physical aspects of the vehicles while remembering they are characters first. For example, no matter the car design can interfere with the eye-mouth relationships on-screen.

One of the biggest design challenges of Cars 3, according to Shuster, was designing McQueen’s new nemesis, Jackson Storm, a young, sleek, and sharp racer voiced by Armie Hammer. I couldn’t help but notice how much of a classical evil counterpart, in the grand tradition of the Jokers, the Lokis, the Reverse-Flashes, villains meant to deliberately mirror the heroes. As director Brian Fee said at the press conference, though Storm is an antagonist, he is not necessarily evil, but more an entitled jerk. Every part of Storm’s design is meant to reflect that personality and refract McQueen’s.


Cars 3

Credit: Disney

Comet, one of two character supervisors on the film, takes Shuster’s concept art, brings it into the computer, and provides the final model to animation. But before all that, where does Pixar start? Research. The design team visited the Black Hawk Auto Museum and the San Francisco Auto Show to get up-close-and-personal with the basis for the characters they were responsible for creating.

“Our process is kind of an assembly line,” Comet said. “We have to make our own car. First, we digitally sculpt them. Then digitally paint them. And finally get them animation ready.”

Finally, the process Brownbill, who finally gives the characters life and personality. She focuses on movement and further incorporating the defining elements of each character, not just how they look but how they move. They have the most latitude on new characters and for Storm, for example, focusing on his angularity allowed Brownbill to hone in on his “precision.” In another instance, she zeroed in on what his eyes are saying versus what his mouth is saying. Cruz, by contrast, shares Storm’s next-gen sleekness but lacks his sharpness, offering a more powerful contrast to him and connection to McQueen.

“We asked ourselves at the beginning of Cars 3: what have we already learned about animation and what kind of challenges are we going to face going forward?” Brownbill said.

At Pixar, even three movies into a franchise, they never stop innovating.

Cars 3 races into theaters June 16. Check out the first trailer here!

Make sure to check out additional Car 3 coverage from the press conference:

The Walt Disney Animation Library, Ranked From Worst To Best

Disney Disney had made an unconventional “franchise” out of remaking its animated classics as live-action blockbusters. Combined with their Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars stables, it has ensured the company’s continued domination in the film sphere. Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book were at the forefront of that charge the last few years. Now, with Beauty and the Beast hitting theaters (our review here), now is a great time to look back at Disney’s amazing animated catalog and how they stack up against each other.

Disney has had a lot of animated films released theatrically or direct-to-video, sometimes in collaboration with other studios. This list specifically focuses on those from the Walt Disney Animation department, so sorry Brave Little Toaster fans, of which I’m one. No Pixar flicks either, but fans of that studio are in luck, as we ranked their films last summer. You can check that list out below.

I haven’t seen Saludos Amigos, Make Music Mine, Song of the South, Melody Time, Fun and Fancy Free, & The Three Caballeros, hence their exclusionNaturally, we’ll most likely disagree about the specific ordering. Let’s think of it as a conversation starter. I’d love to hear what you guys think in the comments!

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Sam Flynn

Sam Flynn

Sam is a writer and journalist whose passion for pop culture burns with the fire of a thousand suns and at least three LED lamps.