We had an opportunity to sit down with creators at Pixar who were involved with their newest lm, Cars 3. Jay Ward, the Cars Legacy Guardian at Pixar Studios, and Ray Evernham, currently a consultant for Hendrick Motorsports, were gracious enough to talk about how the past of racing, the future, and a little imagination helped the look and feel of Cars 3. Jay is literally the gatekeeper for the Cars franchise at Pixar and loves cars. Evernham was a key gure in getting the racing element just right. He has lived a life full of racing and everything that comes with being part of that world. He was the person responsible for 3 of Jeff Gordon’s 4 Winston Cup wins, and has a backlog of history with the greatest racers of all time. So how did these two work together on Cars 3?
So Jay, how did you get the ‘Legacy’ title at Pixar?
[JAY] Yeah, it’s a totally made up title. I worked on the rst Cars with John (John Lasseter). Cars became really big after the fact. Normally a lm comes out and things kind of taper off into the oblivion but for Cars it kind of started small and quiet and got bigger and and bigger year after year. We found ourselves working on theme park attractions and the toons and all these things going. John realized there wasn’t really anybody at Pixar who could watch over it the whole time from a creative standpoint. Make sure we did things right. Make sure that Disney checked with us before they just made whatever they wanted to do. So I became the sort of the gatekeeepr for everything Cars related. So John didn’t have to look at everything anymore, so he could go on and direct other things. And that’s how that all started. I wrote my own job description, it’s very rare but that’s how
that all happened.
Ray, is this your rst full-on gig as a consultant for Pixar on Cars 3?
[RAY] Absolutely, and again, honored when Jay said, ‘Hey can we call you once in a while?’ We had a blast sitting around telling stories at my shop and then visiting out at Pixar. So yeah, rst time really. It’s one of those things that if you look at your career, my racing career, it’s one of those bright spots. Because of the racing career I got to be part of this fun, movie life and see how they do it behind the scenes. It’s been incredible.
How is history, accuracy and Ray’s knowledge of course, utilized in this lm?
[RAY] That’s what’s really cool. I was kind of part of the research, being there and living through the history of the sport and knowing some of the people, they just got me to tell the stories of my experiences
[JAY] I would say one extra thing we asked Ray to do was to tell us about how driver’s trained. And kind of how a crew chief mentally talks a driver through when they’re in a slump. And part of that was we were poking at McQueen having a hard time and how much was mentally pushing through and how much was physically pushing through. Ray said it very well, ‘A crew chief is also a coach to a driver.’ And so Ray was very helpful for us to get into the head of what Smokey [McQueen’s crew chief in Cars 3] needed to say to McQueen, what [McQueen] needed to hear. How a driver pushes through when he’s having problems. He was really helpful for that.
[JAY] If we wouldn’t have met Ray along the way, I think we would’ve met some people, we would’ve done some fun things, but I think what’s interesting about this world is Ray can tell you, you meet one person that leads to another person and it just opens everything up. I think part of it was Ray became such a consultant for the lm that no matter when we did have a question, we could call him and he would say ‘yeah that’s legit’ or ‘no that’s not’ and that always helps. We always want to tell the story that’s entertaining, but we also want to have it rooted and grounded in something. You can easily make it all up but I think people can tell that. They expect it to have a little bit of truth in what you’re doing and we really try to do that, even in every Pixar lm.
Ray, you’ve seen a lot of footage from the lm, what’s your opinion on it?
[RAY] I’ve actually seen almost a completed version, a rough cut of the lm. I can tell you that I’ve been racing my whole life and as I sat there as the lm started and was drawn so deeply into it that I didn’t even remember or realize that I was watching talking car characters. The lm connected with me, drew me in emotionally because it was so realistic. There were no distractions where I was going. Everything they did was amazing to me, right down to the way that we x cracks in the pavement in North Carolina and how the cars move. And as I sat there and watched the lm it just drew me deeper and deeper. All those little things that I knew subconsciously correct, were no longer a distraction and it just drew me in emotionally to what they were trying to do and look for. Even if you’re not connected to NASCAR or racing as deeply as I am. You’re still gonna know that that tree, that wood, and that dirt looks realistic, and it has amazed me. Totally, totally amazed me how deep they go into detail to make those things accurate
With characters like Jackson Storm (played by Armie Hammer) how do you feel Cars 3 has looked into the future of the sport?
[RAY] Especially with Jackson Storm, would this be the NASCAR of the future? Honestly, they hit a lot of the direction we’re going on based on the conversations that we’ve had. One of the fun things that we did, we came a few years ago and sat with a bunch of the writers and the animators, as they were drawing, taking notes. They were drawing as we were talking, and I thought that was really neat. So hopefully, I inspired some of those things. Jackson Storm was really the development of the tools and the way cars are going in general and what a NASCAR racer would look like. And that kind of came from those guys.
[JAY] We wanted to make sure that at least it was holding water. We’re making something that we think is the future of the sport, but we just ask Ray, ‘Is this a possible future this sport can go in?’ and he’s like, ‘Yeah you guys are barking up the right tree.’ Jackson Storm, he’s a good looking car. He’s pretty cool.
[RAY] We’ll have to build a real one of them Jay. No, I mean a real one. That would be cool.
Did you get any ideas for Jackson Storm from current prototypes or actual vehicles?
[JAY] At the time we were just saying, what was the opposite of McQueen, John’s mandate was, ‘McQueen needs to look old fashioned.’ All of a sudden, McQueen looks outdated. How do you make a car look old fashioned? You bring in, like a ‘weapon on wheels’. Every line on Storm Jackson was angular and sharp and jagged and everything on McQueen was round. You’re telling a story just in that character design.
Jay now brings up a story that ties into this question. How they added characteristics of a person into the story and character of Storm after a chance encounter.
[JAY] We were at your shop [Ray’s] the day we met Chase Elliot (current NASCAR driver for Hendrick Motorsports). Bill Elliot (Chase’s father) was going to get inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and he stopped by to say hi to Ray and we meet this kid, this young driver who hadn’t picked up the spot from Jeff Gordon yet, and he was so focused and sharp and he was seventeen at the time. And we went, now that’s a Jackson Storm, that kid is the future of the sport. That wouldn’t of happened if we didn’t happen to be at Ray’s shop. That kid is in our lm now. That’s incredible.
Cars 3 is now in theaters.