After taking moviegoers magically into the realm of toys, bugs, monsters, fish, and superheroes, the masterful storytellers and technical wizards at Pixar Animation Studios (“The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.”) and Academy Award ® -winning director John Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2,” “A Bug’s Life”), hit the road with a fast-paced comedy adventure set inside the world of cars. A Pixar Animation Studios film presented by Walt Disney Pictures, “CARS” is a high octane delight for moviegoers of all ages, fueled with plenty of humor, action, heartfelt drama, and amazing new technical feats. Adding to the fun is a driving score and new songs by Oscar ® -winner Randy Newman, along with original musical performances by such top talents as Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, and John Mayer. The film coincides with the celebration of Pixar’s 20th anniversary, and the company’s recent acquisition by Disney.
Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed, discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. En route across the country to the big Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros, McQueen gets to know the town’s offbeat characters – including Doc Hudson (a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, voiced by screen legend Paul Newman), Sally Carrera (a snazzy 2002 Porsche voiced by Bonnie Hunt), and Mater (a rusty but trusty tow truck voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) – who help him realize that there are more important things than trophies, fame, and sponsorship.
The all-star vocal cast also includes free-wheeling performances by Tony Shalhoub, Michael Keaton, Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Katherine Helmond, and perennial Pixar “good luck charm,” John Ratzenberger. Michael Wallis, author of the critically acclaimed book, Route 66: The Mother Road , and the authority on that legendary American artery that connected north to south, and east to west, is heard in the film as the voice of the Sheriff of Radiator Springs.
Delivering more fun and authenticity to the cast for “CARS” are vocal performances from some of the all-time greatest names from the racing world, including the legendary Richard Petty, plus “drive-on” roles by Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Darrell Waltrip (who holds the record for five wins at the NASCAR Coca Cola 600), and Michael Schumacher, the ace German Formula 1 racing legend, who is widely considered to be the best Grand Prix racing driver of all-time. Veteran Olympic and sports commentator Bob Costas lends his seasoned voice to the character of Bob Cutlass, the colorful host at the film’s racing events. Tom and Ray Magliozzi (aka Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers), hosts of the popular NPR program, “Car Talk” (first broadcast in Boston in 1977 and picked up nationally ten years later), weigh in as the not-so-coveted sponsors Rusty and Dusty Rust-eze.
Commenting on the characters themselves, Bonnie Hunt (the voice of Sally) says, “When they write these movies at Pixar, they start with the heart of the character first. And once the heart is there, it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside. Even a car becomes a character and a personality. The heart and soul is what turns a steel car into a character and a person. It’s not only the script that makes these films special. John Lasseter and the artists at Pixar provide the imagination that is the gold mine of their storytelling process. Their imaginations go to the fantasies of the heart, and of life, and of our values. Anything that you can possibly visualize in your mind, they bring to life.”
The driving force behind “CARS” is John Lasseter, who returns to directing for the first time since “Toy Story 2” in 1999. During the past seven years, in addition to guiding “CARS” through the production process, Lasseter has executive produced and overseen all of Pixar’s creative endeavors (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo,” and “The Incredibles”), and supervised the building of a new state-of-the-art Studio in Emeryville, California. This latest film tapped into Lasseter’s personal love of cars and racing, as well as a variety of issues that were near and dear to him.
“CARS” was co-directed by Joe Ranft, who also served as story supervisor for the film, and voiced several incidental characters. One of the most gifted and respected story artists in modern day animation, and the congenial voice behind such favorite Pixar characters as Heimlich the ravenous caterpillar (“A Bug’s Life”), Wheezy the penguin (“Toy Story 2”), and Jacques the shrimp (“Finding Nemo”), Ranft passed away in August, 2005. He had collaborated with Lasseter on all three of his previous directing efforts, and had been a key creative force at Pixar for over a decade.
Serving as the film’s producer was Darla K. Anderson, a Pixar veteran whose previous producing credits include “A Bug’s Life” and “Monsters, Inc.” Combining her technical expertise with her tremendous respect and knowledge of the creative process, Anderson guided all aspects of the production and helped support Lasseter’s vision from the start. The film’s associate producer was Tom Porter, a technical pioneer in the world of computer animation who has been part of the Pixar inner circle since its inception. Eben Ostby, another original member of the Pixar team, was the supervising technical director.
The original story for “CARS” was conceived by John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, and Jorgen Klubien. The screenplay for the film was written by Dan Fogelman, Lasseter, Ranft, Kiel Murray and Phil Lorin, and Klubien.
Central to the plot and themes of “CARS” is the iconic Route 66, along which much of the story takes place. Lasseter and his team headed out on the historic highway on several occasions to research and observe the importance and impact of this cultural phenomenon.
Route 66 expert Wallis, who has been exploring the “Mother Road” for over 60 years and who served as guide/pathfinder for the research trips, explains, “Route 66 is a mirror held up to the nation. It reflects what’s going on in the nation at any given time. For most people, this highway is the most famous in the world, and it represents the great American road trip. It’s a chance to drive from Chicago, (the city of big shoulders) through the heartland, and the Southwest, past ribbons of neon, across the great Mojave, to the Pacific shore at Santa Monica. Route 66 is the road the Dust Bowlers took. During World War II, it was used as a military road by the G.I.s. It’s the road of Bobby Troup and Elvis. It’s the road our fathers, mothers, and grandparents traveled. Everybody at some point in their life in this country, whether they know it or not, has touched that road. It really does have iconic status. It gives motorists an experience that they’re not going to get in the great coastal cities. They have to go out in the middle of that juicy pie and taste it; not just nibble the crust…and really indeed life begins at the off ramp,” concludes Wallis, who co-authored the book, The Art of Cars with his wife, Suzanne Fitzgerald Wallis.
“CARS” represents one of Pixar’s most challenging and ambitious efforts to date. The Studio has successfully and convincingly brought moviegoers into the world of toys, bugs, monsters, fish, and superheroes, but creating a believable and true world inhabited solely by cars was a whole other matter.
Lasseter’s mandate to have the car characters look as real as possible posed some daunting new challenges for Pixar’s technical team. Having a film where the characters are metallic and heavily contoured meant coming up with resourceful ways to accurately show reflections. “CARS” is the first Pixar film to use “ray tracing,” a technique which allows the car stars to credibly reflect their environments.
The addition of reflections in practically every shot of the film added tremendous render time to the project. The average time to render a single frame of film for “CARS” was 17 hours. Even with a sophisticated network of 3000 computers, and state-of-the-art lightning fast processors that operate up to four times faster than they did on “The Incredibles,” it still took many days to render a single second of finished film.
Lasseter also insisted on “truth to materials,” and instructed the animation team not to stretch or squash the cars in ways that would be inconsistent with their heavy metal frames. The animators did a lot of “road testing” to get the characters to behave in a believable and entertaining way, and found ways to add subtle bends and gestures that were true to their construction. The animators also discovered how to use the tires almost as hands to help them with their performance.
LIGHTNING MCQUEEN – Poised to become the youngest car ever to win the Piston Cup Championship, this hotshot rookie race car has just two things on his mind – winning and the perks that come with it. But when he gets detoured in the forgotten town of Radiator Springs and has to shift for himself, he gets a crash course on what matters most in life. Owen Wilson (“Bottle Rocket,” “Shanghai Noon,” “Meet the Fockers,” “Wedding Crashers”) is up to speed as the voice of this cocky race car who learns that life is about the journey, not the destination.
DOC HUDSON – A seemingly quiet country doctor (mechanic) with a mysterious past, this 1951 Hudson Hornet is a cornerstone of Radiator Springs, and also serves as town judge. Respected and admired by the townsfolk, Doc is a car of few words, and is unimpressed by the town’s newest arrival – Lightning McQueen. The speed-obsessed hotshot race car dismisses Doc as just an old Grandpa car, but comes to discover that the old timer still has a few tricks under his hood. Acting legend, Oscar ® -winner, and Guinness Book World Record Holder (the oldest driver to win a professionally sanctioned race in 1995 in Daytona) Paul Newman gives a winning performance as the voice of this venerable vehicle.
SALLY CARRERA – This sporty 2002 Porsche 911 from California grew tired of life in the fast lane, and made a new start for herself in Radiator Springs. As the proprietor of the Cozy Cone Motel, and one of the town’s most optimistic boosters, she has high hopes that it will one day return to its former glory, and wind up “back on the map.” She takes an instant shine to Lightning McQueen, and helps to steer him in the right direction. Multi-talented actress/filmmaker Bonnie Hunt (“A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “Cheaper By the Dozen”) gives a premium performance as Sally, with just the right blend of charm, intelligence and wit.
MATER – This good ol’ boy tow truck may be a bit rusty on the outside, but he has the quickest towrope in Carburetor County and is always the first to lend a helping hand. Sweet and loyal to a fault, Mater befriends McQueen and sees his potential as his new best friend, despite his many flaws. The self-proclaimed “world’s best backwards driver,” Mater dreams of someday flying in a helicopter, but stays grounded with his day job running “Tow-Mater Towing and Salvage.” Comedy sensation Larry the Cable Guy gives a “tow-de-force” vocal performance that is both hilariously funny and touching.
FILLMORE – Radiator Springs’ resident hippie is a 1960 VW bus who brews his own organic fuel and preaches its many benefits. visitors can check it out for themselves in the tasting room behind his love-bead and tie dye covered geodesic dome. his conspiracy theories and unkempt yard don’t sit well with his neighbor, sarge, but despite their frequent disagreements, they can’t live without one another. comedy legend george carlin gives a far-out performance as the voice of this peace-loving bus.
SARGE – This patriotic 1942 WWII Willy’s Army jeep runs Radiator Springs’ army surplus store, Sarge’s Surplus Hut, and is often found manicuring the lawn in front of his Quonset hut into a precise flat-top. Although he likes to complain about his VW bus neighbor, he knows that life is more interesting with Fillmore around. Actor Paul Dooley (“Breaking Away,” “Desperate Housewives”) sounds off as this regimented vehicle whose bark is worse than his bite.
RAMONE – The proprietor of Ramone’s House of Body Art, this 1959 Impala low-rider is a true magician with paint and metal, but he hasn’t had anyone to customize in years. While waiting for a paying customer to come along, he re-paints himself daily and hopes that McQueen will consent to letting him add a few new flourishes. Comedian/actor Cheech Marin turns in a colorful performance as the voice of this feisty fellow.
FLO – Married to Ramone, and the owner of Flo’s V-8 Café, is this sassy, no-nonsense 1950s show car. Offering the “finest fuel in fifty states,” Flo’s is a popular gathering spot for the locals to sip some oil, share some gossip, and listen to a little motherly advice from Flo herself. It was love at first sight for Flo and Ramone, ever since they met when she was traveling across country as a glamorous Motorama girl. Jenifer Lewis goes with the “flo” as the voice of this spirited character.
LUIGI – Big-hearted, gregarious, and excitable, this 1959 Fiat 500 runs the local tire shop, Luigi’s Casa Della Tires, which is the “Home of the Leaning Tower of Tires.” With his forklift pal, Guido, by his side, Luigi is an avid race car fan (with a bias towards Ferraris) who is always eager to please. Business hasn’t been good in years, so you can always count on a bargain on a new set of wheels from this merry merchant. Tony Shalhoub (“Big Night,” “Monk”) puts the accent on comedy in this tireless performance.
SHERIFF – Route 66 expert/author Michael Wallis provides the voice of this 1949 Mercury Police Cruiser, sworn with upholding the peace in Radiator Springs. Always on the prowl for would-be speeders who might want to barrel through his town, Sheriff enjoys telling stories about his beloved Mother Road, and taking the occasional nap behind the town’s billboard.
THE KING (aka STRIP WEATHERS) – This 1970 Plymouth Superbird is a racing legend who has won more Piston Cups races than any other car in history. Despite his fame, he’s a down home guy, who knows it takes more than trophies to make a true champion. He believes in hard work, team playing, and making time for his wife, Mrs. The King. Set to retire at the end of the season and relinquish his coveted Dinoco sponsorship, the King is the envy of all the up-and-coming racers. Racing legend Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship winner, lends his voice to this classy champ. His wife, Lynda, provides a cameo voice as The King’s car-mate.
CHICK HICKS – This racing veteran is a ruthless competitor, who has bumped and cheated his way into more second place finishes than any other car. Forever living in the King’s shadow, he’s the consummate runner-up and will stop at nothing to win the Dinoco sponsorship. Convinced that “the Chick era” is about to begin, he isn’t about to let Lightning McQueen get between him and his dream of winning the Piston Cup. Versatile actor Michael Keaton (“Mr. Mom,” “Batman,” “Herbie: Fully Loaded”) gets down and dirty as the voice of this hard-driving road warrior.
MACK – No Pixar film is complete without a vocal performance by John Ratzenberger, and in “CARS,” the popular actor weighs in as the voice of a 1985 Mack Super-Liner who has a thorough knowledge of Federal regulations. As McQueen’s trusted driver, he is willing to push the limits of his own sanity and sleep requirements to accommodate his celebrity employer. McQueen’s luxurious bachelor pad is fully loaded with the best in fiber optics, TVs, a massage chair, and more.
“CARS” was a very personal story for John Lasseter. As a boy growing up in Whittier, California, he loved to visit the Chevrolet dealership where his father was a parts department manager, and got a part-time job there as a stock boy as soon as he turned 16.
According to Lasseter, “I have always loved cars. In one vein, I have Disney blood, and in the other, there’s motor oil. The notion of combining these two great passions in my life – cars and animation – was irresistible. When Joe (Ranft) and I first started talking about this film in 1998, we knew we wanted to do something with cars as characters. Around that same time, we watched a documentary called ‘Divided Highways,’ which dealt with the interstate highway and how it affected the small towns along the way. We were so moved by it and began thinking about what it must have been like in these small towns that got bypassed. That’s when we started really researching Route 66, but we still hadn’t quite figured out what the story for the film was going to be. I used to travel that highway with my family as a child when we visited our family in St. Louis.”
It was at this point that Lasseter’s wife, Nancy, persuaded him to take a much-needed vacation, during the summer of 2001. Lasseter recalls, “Nancy said to me that if I didn’t slow down and start paying attention to the family, the kids would be going off to college before I knew it and I would be missing a huge part of our family life. And she was right!”
The entire family packed up a motor home, and set out on a two-month trip with the goal of staying off the interstate highways, and dipping their toes in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. “Everybody thought we would be at each others throats the whole time,” adds Lasseter, “but it was the exact opposite. When I came back from the trip, I was closer to my family than ever and I reattached to what was important in life. And I suddenly realized that I knew what the film needed to be about. I discovered that the journey in life is the reward. It’s great to achieve things, but when you do you want to have your family and friends around to help celebrate. Joe loved the idea and our story really took off from there. Our lead car, Lightning McQueen, is focused on being the fastest. He doesn’t care about anything except winning the championship. He was the perfect character to be forced to slow down, the way I had on my motor home trip. For the first time in my professional career I had slowed down, and it was amazing. The unique thing about Pixar films is that the stories come from our hearts. They come from things that are personal to us, and that move us. This gives special emotion and meaning to the films.”
In 2001, Lasseter, Ranft, producer Darla Anderson, production designers Bob Pauley and Bill Cone, along with other key members of the production team flew to Oklahoma City and headed out from there in a caravan of four white Cadillacs on a nine-day trip along Route 66. Historian/author Michael Wallis led the expedition, and introduced them to the people and places that make that road so very special.
At each stop along the way, the team observed firsthand the “patina” of the towns, and tried to capture the richness of textures and colors. Painted advertisements on the sides of buildings, weathered and overlaid, were of particular interest. Careful studies were made of rock and cloud formations, and the variety of vegetation along the way.
Wallis notes, “Every road has a look based on where the road goes. It reflects the territory on both shoulders. The look of Route 66 is everything from the licorice colored soil of Illinois in the land of Lincoln, to the desert sands of the Mojave. It’s the all-American look.”
“On our research trip, we went to the cafes and mom-and-pop shops, and motels along the way. We talked to hitchhikers, cowboys, waitresses and mechanics. We met a lot of interesting characters along the way. If you’re a real road warrior and you know the old highway, you will be pleased, because the film is going to remind you of places and people you might know on the Mother Road.”
Out on the Texas Panhandle, just west of Amarillo, is an unusual site named Cadillac Ranch, where an eccentric Texan commissioned three artists collectively known as “Ant Farm” to create site-specific art work on his ranch. They buried a row of Cadillacs as a monument to the rise and fall of the tailfin, and Pixar has paid homage to that landmark in ‘CARS.’”
The blending of first-rate vocal performances with exceptional animation has been a Pixar hallmark since their debut film, “Toy Story,” eleven years ago. This tradition continues with “CARS” and brings a whole new level of sophistication and fun to the characters. For this film, more than 100 unique car characters were created.
Lasseter observes, “We really worked hard to make this world believable. 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.”
One of the biggest decisions affecting the design and animation of the car characters was the placement of the eyes.
Production designer Bob Pauley, who oversaw the design of the car characters, explains, “From the very beginning of this project, John 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 made the character feel 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.”
Among the biggest design inspirations for Lasseter and his team was the classic 1952 Disney short, “Susie the Little Blue Coupe.” One of the key animators on that film was the legendary Ollie Johnston, who at age 92 is the last surviving member of Walt Disney’s original team affectionately known as “the nine old men.” Lasseter maintains a special relationship (in addition to a love of trains) with Johnston, and he had numerous occasions to discuss the “CARS” approach with his friend and mentor.
Animating car characters had its share of challenges for the team. Supervising animator Scott Clark explains, “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, adds, “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.”
With his background in animation, and his love of the art form, Lasseter inspired his team to do some of their finest work.
Murphy observes, “John is the greatest collaborator of all time. And I think that’s what makes him so successful. He is tirelessly collaborative.”
Clark adds, “John is incredibly supportive of the animators. He understands the medium so well, and he knows the designs. He knows that if you can imagine something, you can animate it. And that’s what animation should be. It should be something you can’t do in live-action. He is an expert at creating a whole world that exists in and of itself. He gets excited about the littlest observations and he focuses in on things. He loves cars so much that he can make you excited about animating them. His way of directing is very encouraging. He really knows how to bring out the best in artists. He has a vision, he has ideas, but he also knows how to encourage us to do our very best work.”
LIGHTNING McQUEEN / OWEN WILSON : The character of Lightning McQueen is an original design that features the voice of Owen Wilson. Pauley notes, “We used a standard stock car as our starting point. John and I began thinking about our favorite cars and what made them so cool. We pared down all the ideas and did a bunch of drawings that we felt were good. From there, a clay sculpt was made just like they would do in Detroit, and our star modeler Andrew Schmidt took it from there. McQueen was a blast to do. It was also a major challenge to make a car that reads as a character and has a strong face on screen, yet doesn’t look derivative.”
Wilson observes, “John would walk me through the storyboards and sometimes show me some rough animation to get me up to speed. You get a good idea of what’s going on from the script, but a lot of times it involves going inside your head and using your imagination. It kind of felt like when you were a kid, and you would do funny animated voices. You’re dreaming the stuff up and creating a character. Working with the Pixar people was fun. I loved going up to their Studio because it was such a great place to hang out. It’s a creative fun atmosphere with people skateboarding around, and playing ping pong and foosball.
“My character is kind of obsessed with winning,” adds Wilson. “He isn’t a cheat or anything like that, but he doesn’t really care about much else beyond winning and the glory that comes with that. I think that’s how he measures himself. Over the course of the movie he gets stuck in this small town and begins to appreciate some of the values and things this small town has to offer. He also falls in love with this really hot car named Sally. He tries his usual game on her and it doesn’t work, so he has to come up with a new approach.”
Bobby Podesta, a directing animator on the film, notes, “Owen has a really great and unique voice, in the sound, in his delivery, and with the comic timing. From the moment he came on board, I suddenly felt that this character had a lot of interest to me. He starts off very cocky, but in this way that you still love him. And that’s hard to do. Owen pulls it off and gave us a great range.”
Directing animator James Ford Murphy adds, “To get some insights into McQueen, we studied famous cocky characters who are also charming. We looked at guys like Joe Namath, Muhammed Ali, and even Kid Rock. All these guys are super cocky but you still like them. Owen was really able to get that across where he says something cocky, but he says it in such a charming way that you almost don’t hear what he’s saying. John also told us to think of this character as being like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan in their rookie years. A character who is exceptionally talented and has seemingly come out of nowhere.”
DOC HUDSON / PAUL NEWMAN : For the role of Doc Hudson, Lasseter and company had the good fortune of enlisting the talents of screen legend and race car enthusiast Paul Newman.
Lasseter observes, “I’m so proud of this character and thrilled that Paul Newman agreed to provide the voice. Not only is he one of our greatest actors of all time, but his association with racing made him the perfect choice for this role. We were thrilled when he agreed to voice Doc. Paul was great to work with and was really excited to be providing the voice for a car character.”
“When I first got the call asking if I’d be interested in doing an animated feature for Pixar about race cars in which I played a 1951 Hudson Hornet, I told them I found the combination irresistible,” says Newman. “I hadn’t seen a script or anything, I just knew it was Pixar, it was Lasseter, and it was about racing. Those are the three ingredients that I was familiar with.
“The vocal aspect of Doc’s character came very quickly,” adds the actor. “He was southern, he was old, he was tired, and he was smart. Doing a voice for an animated film is so different from making a live-action film. You bring nothing physical to the role. You don’t bring your appearance or your physical mannerisms; you don’t bring anything except your voice. That’s the only instrument that you have. Working with John was a pleasure and I think we complemented each other. I took a lot of the stuff he said, and tried to give it to him exactly as he wanted, and then I tried to augment and exaggerate it.
“I’m really delighted with the way the film turned out, and I think it will exceed anything that Pixar or Disney has done,” concludes Newman. “The race sequences are very exciting, and the personalities of the characters really show through and are so well represented by the types of cars they are. The scenes in the stadium, the skies, and everything in the background are so incredibly detailed.”
According to Scott Clark, “Paul is such a great actor. Every line you get from him has character. You can hear the wisdom and experience and richness in his voice.”
SALLY CARRERA / BONNIE HUNT : The character of Sally was based on the design for the 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera. Bonnie Hunt gives a high performance delivery in her third assignment for Pixar.
Lasseter says, “I always thought that Bonnie would be a fantastic female lead in one of our films, and that she has what it takes to be the perfect voice actor for an animated film. She’s a great actor, and she has a wonderful voice quality that jumps off the screen. She also brings to her role the ability to ad lib. She makes the part her own, and makes it sound natural. I always encourage the actors to find that something that is unique to them, and Bonnie would come up with things that you couldn’t script. She has the ability to make you weep. Her performance has so much emotion and heart, in addition to all the humor.”
Hunt observes, “Sally was a big hot shot attorney living life in the fast lane in California. You know, Blackberry, instant messaging everybody, very very busy. And she took a drive on Route 66. Her car broke down and she stayed in this small town and found what was really meaningful in her life. I knew that she was somebody who used to be tough, and tried to keep up the pace of her life. She slowed down when she got to Radiator Springs and it made her a little softer, so I thought her voice would be a little softer
“I think it would be really great if parents took their kids in a Winnebago down Route 66 to experience meeting so many different and wonderful characters in real life,” adds Hunt.
MATER / LARRY THE CABLE GUY : One of the film’s standout characters is a backwards-driving tow truck named Mater. The character quickly grew to become a favorite with the filmmakers, and the inspired choice of Larry the Cable Guy as the vocal counterpart helped to really set things in motion.
“Mater was definitely a popular character with the animators, and I think in a way he became the centerpiece of the movie,” says Sweetland. “Animators loved to work on the character because he was so physical and provided a lot of juicy bits for them to sink their teeth into. The model provided a little more freedom because it had a separate cab and bed to the truck. And then you have the tow cable that you can incorporate as a tail, or even twirl like a helicopter. Mater does all sorts of stuff with it. Larry the Cable Guy gave us a lot to work with. He’s so funny and yet his performance has so much heart. To me, it’s one of those incredibly perfect voices like Sterling Holloway with Winnie the Pooh.”
According to Larry the Cable Guy, “I love all of Pixar’s movies and stuff. I was sittin’ in the house one day and I got a phone call. And they said, ‘Hey, wanna be in one a those Pixar/Disney movies?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah. I’d love to.’ When I got the fax saying it was a done deal, I said, ‘No way. Ya gotta be kiddin’ me.’ I thought it was going to be some little teeny tiny part. But, man, it ended up bein’ one of the big characters in the film. It was pretty cool. I hadn’t been that excited since I found a vision of the Virgin Mary in some potato salad at a picnic.
“John and I are real good buddies,” he adds. “We’re both into anything that has to do with a track and cars. He makes ya real comfortable. He told me, ‘Mater is your character. I want you to make it yours and do the lines however you wanna do it.’ When I’d say a line and he’d start laughin’ I knew I was doin’ pretty good.
“Mater is a little bit like me actually,” says Larry. “He’s grown up in a small town his whole life, and I’m from a town of 1200. And what he thinks is fun and exciting, somebody in the city would go, that’s stupid. Why would you do somethin’ like that?’ But in his world, it’s the most exciting thing he’s ever done. He’s the world’s best backward driver. If you ever wanted a friend, you’d want Mater. He’s McQueen’s buddy to the end, and he’d do anything for that guy. There’s not a mean bone in his body.”
Lasseter adds, “Mater is the definition of true friendship, and Joe and I loved this beat-up rusty tow truck that was always there for his friends. Larry the Cable guy is one of the absolute funniest guys you’ll ever meet, and he’s a terrific actor too. We had so much fun working with him. When you first look at Mater with his buck teeth, rusty body and missing hood, you think this is a moving wreck. By the end of the film, you just fall in love with him. It’s the classic thing about not judging a book by its cover, and he comes to represent so much of the growth of the main character, Lightning McQueen.”
MACK / JOHN RATZENBERGER : John Ratzenberger eagerly accepted his latest assignment for Pixar. Having provided voices for all six of their previous films, he has been dubbed “Pixar’s good luck charm.”
“I’m the lucky one,” says Ratzenberger. “Pixar has created the standard that everyone has to live up to. They’re creating history with each one of their films and I feel lucky to be a part of it. ‘CARS’ really took my breath away. At first, you’re struck by the detail. As you watch the film, you forget you’re watching an animated feature about cars. It really tugs at your heart strings.
“My character is rugged, strong, broad-shouldered, yet sensitive,” adds Ratzenberger. “He’s not going to get you there fast, and it’s not going to be flashy. But you’re going to arrive where you intend to go – eventually. He’s very reliable and loyal. He’s got a work ethic and he wants to make sure the job gets done the right way. I love working for Pixar because of the enthusiasm they bring. You want to play with them and be in their sandbox. John inspires you with his passion and direction.”
John Lasseter had some very specific words for the designers, modelers, and animators who were responsible for creating the film’s car stars: “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.
Characters department manager Jay Ward explains, “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.”
With the limitations of movement imposed by the metal frames, the animators had to be inventive and resourceful to create the wide range of movement and expression required for the story.
Directing animator Bobby Podesta observes, “The really cool thing about cars is that they could be a lot of different things. They can move like a car when they’re driving around. But we could make them appear almost animal-like at times, and have them gesture or do something that humans can do, while staying true to car materials. For example, there’s a scene where Mater creeps across a tractor field, and he’s suddenly like a lion in Africa sneaking up on his prey. You find yourself relating to the car in a different way.”
From the thrilling opening nighttime race, to the dusty, faded facades of Radiator Springs’ Main Street, and revving up to a climax with the action-packed daytime race in California, Pixar’s production designers and artistic team went into overdrive to capture the diverse moods and settings of “CARS” in a stylish way.
A great believer in research and first-hand experience, Lasseter took his key creative team on a road trip along Route 66 in 2001 to help them prepare for their assignment. Nine people, nine days, four white Cadillacs. For good measure, Route 66 expert Michael Wallis led the expedition and provided a running narrative via walky-talkies along the way.
Production designer Bob Pauley, a Detroit native and lifetime car enthusiast, who oversaw the design of the car characters and the two racetrack environments, recalls, “Michael told us at the very start of the trip, ‘you don’t know what’s going to happen out there. All sorts of new things and experiences are going to happen, and you just have to roll with it and enjoy it, and be open to it.’ And it was true. Typically, we’d go into a town, and we’d hear all these wonderful stories from the locals. We’d soak it all in while getting a haircut at the barbershop, or enjoying a sno-cone, or taking the challenge to eat a 72-ounce steak at the Big Texan. We even took soil samples. It was unbelievable – purple, red, orange, ochre. So many wonderful colors!
“One of the most meaningful moments for all of us occurred at a stop somewhere in Arizona,” continues Pauley. “We were on the side of a road close to the big highway. It was a beautiful road that wound perfectly around the environment. It turns and goes right through this gorgeous butte. As we were sitting there, a truck pulled up with an older Native American and his grandchild. He asked us ‘How do you like our land?’ We told him how beautiful it was, and he told us that he was out here when they blasted the cutaway for the big highway through his ancestor’s sacred land. It was a powerful moment being there on a road that works so well with the environment, and seeing the interstate that slices through it without any care or respect at all. It was amazing to hear these great stories first-hand from a person whose family had been there for generations.”
Associate producer Tom Porter recalls, “When John and his team came back from their Route 66 trip, there was a lot of talk about wanting to capture the patina of the Southwest. They wanted everything in the film to be shaded so that it had the authenticity of that old 40s, 50s, 60s stuff that was faded and weathered after fifty years. John wanted the full complexity of a Southwestern town looking authentic, and then a similar set of challenges in the racing world.”
Bill Cone, the production designer who was responsible for creating the look of the film’s environments and building a five-mile stretch of road that leads in and out of the town of Radiator Springs, recalls, “I think of the style for this film as cartoon realism. You have talking cars, so you’ve already taken a step away from reality in that regard. The forms are a little whimsical. You’ll see these car shapes on the cliffs, and the clouds are stylized. I reached the conclusion that humans in a human universe would see their own forms in nature, which they often do. They name things like Indian Head Rock. So, in a car universe, they would have car-based metaphors for forms. Suddenly, you could see these cliffs that looked very much like the hoods of cars, or an ornament. Great American artists like Maynard Dixon also had a big influence on us with their landscapes of the Southwest and the clouds that they painted.”
Sophie Vincelette, sets supervisor for the film, was responsible for creating the film’s mountain range that pays homage to the famous Cadillacs planted in the ground along Route 66. Other mountains are shaped like wheelwells, and bumpers.
In every aspect, “CARS” represents a new level of attention to detail for Pixar. With its crumbly bits of concrete, accumulated dust, and layers of faded advertisements painted on brick walls, Radiator Springs feels like a real place audiences could visit.
According to Vincelette, “Our challenge was to give the buildings in town the appearance of having a sense of history. We worked closely with the shading and modeling teams to give them a weathered look, and to make sure that things were not always straight. There are weeds growing out of cracks in the cement on the sidewalk.”
Adding to the authenticity of the desert location, modelers in the Sets department were able to dot the landscape with thousands of pieces of vegetation, including cactus, sagebrush (in brown, green, yellow and tan varieties), and grass. Rocks of varying formations also added interest to the scenery.
To ensure authenticity in their car designs, the production design team conducted research at auto shows, spent time in Detroit with auto designers and manufacturers, went to car races, and made extensive studies of car materials.
“Research is a big thing for John,” says Pauley. “It’s also the most fun part of the job because we got to go to car shows and races, and other neat stuff. One of the things we did was to visit Manuel’s Body Shop right near the Studio. He gave us a lot of detail and helped us understand how they apply layers and coats of paint on a car.”
Characters shading supervisor Thomas Jordan explains, “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,” he continues. “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.”
Shading art director Tia Krater adds, “While we were at Manuel’s one day we found this old beat-up chrome bumper and we asked if we could have it. He started to clean it up, and we said ‘No! No! Don’t clean it!’ It was exactly what we were looking for. We loved how dirty it was and the patina. It had a little bit of everything we were looking for – pitting, scratches, milky blurriness, rust, and blistering. All in one bumper! One of our technical guys, who ended up shading Mater, took it out in the sun, and spent a lot of time staring at it and taking lots of pictures to analyze the textures and surfaces.”
A film that celebrates our universal love affair with cars, and the joys of taking the road less traveled, called for the world’s best road trip soundtrack, and Lasseter enlisted his longtime collaborator Randy Newman (a 2002 Oscar®-winner for his song, “If I Didn’t Have You” from “Monsters, Inc.”) and a host of top recording artists to add to the fun and excitement. Taking Pixar in whole new musical direction, the songs integrate with Newman’s score (and great new song performed by James Taylor), and showcase a variety of styles and performances. The combination of Newman’s musical genius with the contributions of these other great artists makes for a rousing musical experience and represents a first for Pixar.
Lasseter got a friend and a longtime collaborator in Randy Newman when he began working with the acclaimed composer/songwriter back on the original “Toy Story.” The two have been making beautiful music ever since with their subsequent collaborations on “A Bug’s Life” and “Toy Story 2.” Newman received Oscar ® nominations for his scores for “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life,” plus nominations for the songs, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (“Toy Story”) and “When She Loved Me” (from “Toy Story 2,” sung in the film by Sarah McLachlan).
“Every Randy Newman score is unlike the one before it,” observes Lasseter. “He can write the most heartfelt emotional songs, and he can write some of most humorous songs you’ve ever heard. He’s incredibly funny and smart. Randy’s score for ‘CARS’ reflects the two distinct worlds – the modern world where it’s all about being fast; and Radiator Springs, where the one commodity they have is time. Everything is slower there, and Randy uses a combination of bluegrass, jazz, and pure Americana to capture that. The racing world has a heavy dose of rock ‘n’ roll. His score for this film is one of the absolute best he’s ever done.”
Darla Anderson adds, “Working with Randy feels like working with family. He is family. He and John have such a mutual trust. John talks to Randy, tells him what he’s looking for, and he leaves Randy alone. He always comes back with music that blows us away. Randy’s music for the parts of the movie that take place in Radiator Springs has almost a kind of Copeland-like quality to it. He worked with a 110-piece orchestra to get this amazing score. And then he did a lot of side sessions that had a bluegrass quality with mandolin, guitar and a harmonica.”
Among the four new songs written for the film is a Randy Newman composition called “Our Town.” Sung by Grammy ® winning recording legend James Taylor, the lyrics powerfully tell the tale of a once thriving town that no one seems to need anymore and of a place where “Main Street isn’t Main Street anymore.”
Grammy ® Award-winning superstar Sheryl Crow captures the excitement of the film’s opening race with “Real Gone,” a new song that she wrote with producer John Shanks. Lyrically and emotionally, it reflects the thrill of the competition and the crowd’s anticipation.
Country music favorite Brad Paisley contributes two new songs to the film --“Find Yourself” and “Behind the Clouds.” The latter was co-written with his long-time producer and collaborator, Frank Rogers (who also produced both tracks).
In addition to the songs written expressly for the film, there are also new recordings of two favorites. Popular country recording group Rascal Flatts provides a new version of the Tom Cochran song, “Life is a Highway.” Multiple Grammy ® Award-winning singer/guitarist John Mayer offers some new kicks with his lively and distinctive rendition of the classic 1946 Bobby Troup standard, “Route 66.” The film’s impressive soundtrack also includes recordings by Hank Williams, Chuck Berry (“Route 66”), and The Chords (“Sh-Boom”).
“CARS” is dedicated to the storytelling legacy of the late Joe Ranft, and the end credits for the film feature a fitting tribute to his enormous talent and contributions.
A storyman extraordinaire who lent his genius for story and character to some of the most memorable animated features of the past twenty-five years, Ranft was one of the greatest collaborators of all time in the ultimate form of collaborative filmmaking. From his days at Disney, where he helped to shape the stories for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “The Lion King,” and “James and the Giant Peach,” to his decade of achievements at Pixar, where he was head of story on “Toy Story” (for which he shared an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Screenplay), “A Bug’s Life,” and “Toy Story 2,” he established a reputation for being tops in his field. As story supervisor (and co-director) on “CARS,” he brought heart, soul, and humor to the film, and left a personal imprint on the character of Mater. Tragically, Ranft passed away in August, 2005 after completing his work on the film.
“Joe was the best story guy I’ve ever known,” observes Lasseter. “He worked with me on every project I ever made. The thing I loved about his humor was that it wasn’t just funny lines. It was character-based. He could make me laugh at a moment’s notice by becoming a character. Whether he was doing an impersonation of Marlon Brando, a cheeky English boy, or a hilarious country character with outrageous buck teeth, he was able to make me laugh until I’d have tears in my eyes. During his Disney days, he took an improv comedy class at the Groundlings, where he learned one of the first rules of comedy is ‘never say no.’ This had a big impact on the way we worked together and on the way the story room operated. When you start something, you never stop the creative flow of where it’s going. You just keep saying ‘yes.’ No matter what the idea, let it flow and see where it takes you. And it was amazing. For me, creating a story is like making your way through one of those giant mazes in ‘The Shining.’ Joe and I basically would get to the entrance of the maze and put our hands on the wall and start walking. You go down every wrong path, but eventually you get out. We would never say ‘no,’ and we would explore every path. And we would find nuggets, and characters, and discover interesting things all along the way.
“Joe was the heart of our films,” adds Lasseter. “He had the biggest heart of any person I’ve ever known. He had faith in everybody and everything. He was the biggest cheerleader around here. Every story guy would go to him, and he would always give them time. He was everyone’s mentor.”
“More than any other character that we’ve created at Pixar, I’m probably proudest of Mater,” continues Lasseter. “And part of that is because the character is pure Joe. On every film that we worked on, Joe would always zero in on something that really struck his fancy and it would always make it into the final film. With ‘Toy Story,’ it was the green army men who moved like they were the Green Berets. In ‘A Bug’s Life,’ it was the scene where the circus bugs found out that the ant colony thought they were warriors by way of a children’s elementary school play. For ‘CARS,’ it was Mater driving backwards. He had this concept that Mater’s character was there to teach Lightning McQueen that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. When McQueen first meets this rusty tow truck, he can’t stand him. But then he discovers that Mater is pure friendship, and driving backwards is what tow trucks do best. Mater is like your faithful dog who is there to greet you when you come home no matter what kind of a day you’ve had. Joe was that kind of friend and he will always be an important part of my life.”
Ranft also had a huge impact on his “CARS” story team. Steve Purcell, one of the film’s story artists recalls, “One of the things that Joe was really excited about as he was winding down on ‘CARS’ was creating a story community where the story artists were more tuned in to each other and better connected. He would show screenings of Pixar’s old story reels to remind us of the process that we went through to get to the finished story. His motto was ‘You have to trust the process.’ If you stalled on a story point, you’ve got to work your way through it.”
Dan Scanlon, another story artist on “CARS,” adds, “Joe’s told us not just to refer back to a completed film like ‘Toy Story.’ Instead, look back at the first reel of the film that was boarded. It was terrible. He encouraged us to analyze how problems were fixed, and how the process can work to make something good from something terrible. It can be very intimidating for a new story person at Pixar when you look at all the great things that have been done. Joe would show us how bad the early versions of some of the hit films were and explain what they did to fix it. He was a very humble guy who encouraged all of us to stay humble and inspired us all with his gift for storytelling.”
Over the past 20 years, Pixar Animation Studios has pushed the limits of computer-animation to exciting new heights, and continued to harness the medium to showcase their stories and characters in exciting new ways. From their earliest Oscar ® -winning and nominated short films to the industry’s first full-length CG feature, “Toy Story,” Pixar has never been content to rest on their laurels. Each film has challenged them in new ways whether it was the blades of grass and crowd scenes in “A Bug’s Life,” the caricatured-but-realistic humans in “Toy Story 2,” the hairy characters and simulated clothing of “Monsters, Inc.,” the vibrant underwater world of “Finding Nemo,” or the action-packed environments and human characters in “The Incredibles.” Their latest undertaking, “CARS,” posed some of the greatest challenges to date.
Under the supervision of associate producer Tom Porter, supervising technical director Eben Ostby, and Pixar’s resident group of technical wizards, “CARS” got off to a fast start and scored some impressive achievements along the way.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the “CARS” technical team was creating the metallic and painted surfaces of the car characters, and the reflections that those surfaces generate. An algorithmic rendering technique known as “ray tracing” was used for the first time at Pixar to give the filmmakers the look and effect that they wanted.
Ostby explains, “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.”
Ray tracing has been around for many years, but it was up to Pixar’s rendering team to introduce it into nearly every shot in “CARS.” Rendering lead Jessica McMackin was responsible for rendering the film’s final images, while rendering optimization lead Tony Apodaca had to figure out how to minimize the rendering time.
McMackin notes, “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.”
“Our computers are now a thousand times faster than they were on ‘Toy Story,’” adds Apodaca, “but even though they’re faster, our appetites have gotten bigger and we challenge ourselves more. Because of ray tracing and all the reflections, the average time to render a single frame of film on ‘CARS’ was seventeen hours. Some frames took as much as a week. On this film, we’ve made larger and more beautiful images with more subtle lighting and ray tracing.”
Among the film’s other major accomplishments is a ground - locking system that kept the car firmly planted on the road, unless the story called for some exception to this rule. Characters supervisor Tim Milliron, who managed the group in charge of modeling, rigging and shading the characters, wrote the code for this program.
“The ground-locking system is one of the things I’m most proud of on this film,” says Milliron. “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.”
Another major accomplishment for the Characters team was to come up with a universal rig that would work for practically every character. This means the same animation controls (or avars) could be applied to each of the nearly 100 unique car characters without creating new articulation components. The same basic chassis was also fitted to the geometry of each individual car, but the suspension was customized for each vehicle.
“We topped out at around 1200 avars that the animators would touch,” explains Milliron. “Some characters, like Mater with his tow rig, obviously had more. More than ever, the avars were designed to work together. For example, there are four big avars for the mouth. There’s an avar that moves the mouth to the left, and to the right, something that moves the corner of the mouth up and down, a jaw up-down avar, and an avar that moves the corner of the mouth in and out.”
Milliron’s group was also responsible for the crowds of cars that inhabit the stands at the film’s opening and ending race sequences. With 120,000 cars in the stands, and an additional 2000 in the infield, this easily qualifies as the biggest crowd scenes ever done at Pixar (far surpassing the milling ants in “A Bug’s Life”). Complicating the situation, all of the vehicles in this crowd have some animation on them.
To help capture the thrills and excitement of the film’s racing scenes, Jeremy Lasky, the director of photography responsible for camera and layo ut , and his team visited many car races, and had extensive talks with the camera experts who photographed such events. Veteran Fox Sports director Artie Kemper, a pioneer in televising car races, proved to be a great source of information.
According to Lasky, “Artie gave us really great notes about where he would typically place his cameras on the track. He also talked about shots that he wished he could get. We were able to do a lot of things that were impossible for him to do. We could put a camera under the car, place one on the middle of the track, set up a crane shot that comes down and have the cars race right over the top of the cameras. Artie told us that he wished he had those toys. The camera placement in ‘CARS’ allowed us to put the audiences right in the middle of the excitement. We put them into a world they were familiar with, and then we hit them with shots that they’ve never seen. The film has these spectacular moments where the cars are ripping two millimeters past the camera lens, which is impossible in live-action, and we set it up for them to believe it’s possible.”
Even in the more calm and serene setting of Radiator Springs, some impressive achievements were accomplished.
One of the film’s most stellar and complex moments occurs at the end of Act II, where the neon lights are turned on again, as the town is revitalized and a parade of cars cruise down Main Street. With its bright, bold, brilliant lights coming from numerous sources and accompanying reflections, this sequence proved to be enormously complicated but one of the film’s most rewarding and luminous moments.
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 . Technical director Lisa Forsell and her team worked their magic in this area.
“Digital matte paintings are a way to get a lot of visual complexity without necessarily having to build complex geometry, and write complex shaders,” says Forsell. “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,” she adds. “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.”
Steve May, the effec ts supervisor for “CARS” brought that same level of scrutiny to nearly ½of the film’s 2000 shots. Among the numerous effects created for the film were dust clouds trailing behind cars, tire tracks, skid marks, water, smoke, and drool (from Mater’s front end).
JOHN LASSETER (Director) made movie history in 1995 as director of the first feature-length computer-animated film, “Toy Story,” for which he received a special achievement Academy Award ® . He has gone on to further acclaim as director of “A Bug’s Life” (1998) and Golden Globe-winning “Toy Story 2” (1999), and executive producer of “Monsters, Inc.” “Finding Nemo,” and “The Incredibles.” Among his most recent milestones, Lasseter was honored by the exhibition community at this year’s ShoWest convention with their first-ever “Pioneer of Animation” Award, and received the prestigious “Georges Melies Award for Artistic Excellence.” in February from the Visual Effects Society.
An award-winning director and animator, Lasseter continues to serve as executive vice president of creative for Pixar. He has written and directed a number of short films and television commercials at Pixar, including “Luxo Jr.” (a 1996 Oscar ® nominee), “Red’s Dream” (1987), “Tin Toy,” which won the 1989 Academy Award ® for Best Animated Short Film, and “Knick Knack” (1989). Among his other big-screen credits, Lasseter also designed and animated the Stained Glass Knight in the 1985 Steven Spielberg production “Young Sherlock Holmes.”
Lasseter was born in Hollywood and grew up in Whittier, California. His mother was an art teacher, and as early as his freshman year in high school he fell in love with cartoons and the art of animation. While still in high school, he wrote to Walt Disney Studios about his passion and he began studying art and learning how to draw human and animal figures. At that time, Disney was setting up an animation program at CalArts, an innovative center studying art, design and photography, and Lasseter became the second student to be accepted into their start-up program. He spent four years at CalArts and both of the animated films he made during that time, “Lady and the Lamp” and “Nitemare,” won Student Academy Awards ® .
During his summer breaks, Lasseter apprenticed at Disney, which led to a full-time position at the studio’s feature animation department upon his graduation in 1979. During his five-year stint at Disney, he contributed to such films as “The Fox and the Hound” and “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” Inspired by Disney’s ambitious and innovative film “Tron” (1982), which used computer animation to create its special effects, Lasseter teamed with fellow animator Glen Keane to create their own experiment. A thirty-second test, based on a well-known children’s book, showed how traditional hand-drawn animation could be successfully combined with computerized camera movements and environments.
In 1983, at the invitation of Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull, Lasseter visited the computer graphics unit of Lucasfilm and was instantly intrigued. Seeing the enormous potential that computer graphics technology had for transforming the craft of animation, he left Disney in 1984 and came to Lucasfilm for what was to be only a one-month stay. One month turned into six and Lasseter soon became an integral and catalytic force of what ultimately became Pixar. Lasseter came up with the idea of bringing believable characterizations to a pair of desk lamps, and so the award-winning short “Luxo Jr.” was born.
Lasseter and his wife Nancy live in Northern California with their five sons.
DARLA K. ANDERSON (Producer) once again brings her knowledge and experience in computer animation to her latest producing assignment for Pixar. She had previously produced the 1998 Disney/Pixar release “A Bug’s Life” and the 2001 blockbuster, “Monsters, Inc.” Anderson began her association with Pixar in 1992, when she came on board as executive producer for the commercial and short film divisions. Her professional background includes a diverse and successful career in live-action and animation production.
Born and raised in Glendale, California, Anderson studied environmental design at San Diego State University. After graduation, she moved to Phoenix to concentrate on painting and other artistic pursuits. In the mid 1980s, she returned to the San Diego area and launched her industry career, working in a variety of positions for local film and television productions. Her credits include episodic television as well as commercials and industrial films. In 1987, she joined Angel Studios, a small but progressive production company located in Carlsbad, as executive producer of their commercial division. It was here that she was introduced to the world of 3-D computer graphics and instantly gravitated towards it. Following a three-year stint with Angel, she moved to San Francisco with the express intention of getting a job with Pixar. Her persistence paid off and, within a year, she was hired as an executive producer.
RANDY NEWMAN (Composer, Song & Score) marks his fourth collaboration with Pixar on this film, and reteams with director John Lasseter to create a score worthy of this entertaining and ambitious road trip.
Newman was born on November 28, 1943 into a famously musical family
– his uncles Alfred, Lionel and Emil were all well-respected film composers and conductors. Even Randy’s father Irving Newman – a prominent physician – wrote a song for Bing Crosby. Perhaps then it’s no surprise that at seventeen Randy Newman was already a professional songwriter in his own right, knocking out tunes for a Los Angeles publishing house. In 1968 he made his debut with the orchestral recording, Randy Newman , and before long Newman’s extraordinary and eclectic compositions were being recorded by an unusually wide range of artists, from Pat Boone to Ray Charles, Peggy Lee to Wilson Pickett.
Critics rightly raved about Newman’s 1970 sophomore effort 12 Songs , and increasingly the public started to take notice with albums like 1970’s Live (like Songbook , an opportunity to hear Newman playing alone), and even more so with 1972’s classic Sail Away and 1974’s brilliant and controversial Good Old Boys . With the 1977 Top Ten Little Criminals , Newman experienced a huge left-field smash in the unlikely form of “Short People.” 1979’s Born Again was a decidedly barbed piece of work which pictured Newman on the cover in Kiss-styled make-up with a dollar sign on his face. How fitting for a dark piece of work that features “It’s Money That I Love,” a memorable comment on runaway capitalism that’s now reprised on The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol.
1 . Critics were struck by his musical depth and the literary quality and edge of his character-oriented lyrics.
In the Eighties, Newman was dividing his time between film composing and recording his own albums. In 1981, Newman released his exquisite score for Milos Forman’s adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime” – earning him his first two of sixteen Oscar ® nominations for Best Score and Best Song. 1983 saw the release of Trouble In Paradise , while the next year saw the release of Newman’s Grammy-winning, Oscar ® -nominated score for “The Natural.” Following some more film work, Newman finally got around to recording another studio album. 1988’s Land of Dreams was another breakthrough work marked by some of Newman’s most personal and powerful work yet.
In the Nineties, Newman enjoyed massive success with his film work, as well as winning a 1990 Emmy ® for his music in the pilot of Cop Rock . Amusingly and surprisingly to many longtime fans, the cutting social critic and sometime brilliant curmudgeon somehow found himself becoming a beloved children’s entertainer thanks to his outstanding music for films like 1995’s “Toy Story,” 1996’s “James and the Giant Peach,” 1997’s “Cats Don’t Dance,” 1998’s “A Bug’s Life” and 1999’s “Toy Story 2.” Newman won three more Grammys for his work on “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc.” Still, Newman also managed to play to the adult audience as well with his darkly hilarious take on Faust – the 1995 recording of which included performances by Don Henley, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Towards the end of the decade, Newman put out an impressive four-CD compilation, 1998’s Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman and a strong new album for DreamWorks, 1999’s Bad Love , Newman’s first collaboration with Mitchell Froom. In 2002, Newman finally won his first Oscar ® for “If I Didn’t Have You” from “Monsters Inc.”
If it’s not Newman’s style to look forward with optimism, it’s also not his personal preference to look back, whether in anger or in any other emotion. Yet somehow he still does so brilliantly on The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 1 (2003), his illuminating first effort for the Nonesuch label. The eighteen-song set finds Newman singing and playing piano on powerful new solo versions of his early classics and his more recent gems, as well as a few examples of the Oscar ® -winning composer’s film music. The album is an intimate and powerful reminder of the enduring work that has established Newman as a songwriter’s songwriter – one of the most musically and lyrically ambitious singer-songwriters ever to be at play in the fields of popular music.
OWEN WILSON (Lightning McQueen) gives a fine-tuned comedic performance as the voice of a hotshot rookie race car that learns to get his kicks on Route 66.
Wilson has made his mark in Hollywood as both an actor and writer for feature films. Last year, the actor had audiences in hysterics with his antics in the mega-hit comedy, “Wedding Crashers,” which became the sixth biggest film of the year. Among his most popular roles, he has twice played the character of Roy O’Bannon, the most laconic gunman in the old West in the hit Touchstone Pictures/Spyglass Entertainment features “Shanghai Noon” and “Shanghai Knights.”
Wilson has had long-running creative collaborations with both his brother Luke and writer/director Wes Anderson. He co-wrote and starred in Anderson’s first film, “Bottle Rocket,” as well as co-writing and co-executive producing his second feature “Rushmore.” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” which he also co-wrote and starred in, earned him and Anderson nominations for an Academy Award ® for Best Original Screenplay.
Wilson’s additional acting credits include “The Cable Guy,” “Armageddon,” “Permanent Midnight,” “Breakfast of Champions,” “Meet the Parents,” “Zoolander,” “Behind Enemy Lines,” “I Spy,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” and “Meet the Fockers.” His upcoming films include the comedy “You, Me and Dupree.”
PAUL NEWMAN (Doc Hudson) lends his legendary voice to this solid citizen of Radiator Springs who never races to conclusions and ends up inspiring McQueen.
Newman, who has two Oscars ® , has been one of the American cinema’s most important and most prolific actors for over half a century. He is a philanthropist, a humanitarian, a race car driver and the founder of a multi-million dollar food empire, Newman’s Own. In addition to giving the profits to charity, he also ran Frank Sinatra out of the spaghetti sauce business. On the downside, the spaghetti sauce is out-grossing his films.
The films, which number more than fifty on his resume, have incidentally made him a screen legend. In 1987, he won an Academy Award ® for Best Actor for his performance as pool shark “Fast” Eddie Felson in Martin Scorsese’s “The Color of Money.” It marked a reprisal of the role he had played 25 years earlier in “The Hustler,” which had brought him his second of eight Best Actor Oscar ® nominations. He received his first Oscar ® nomination in 1959 for his work opposite Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and has also been nominated for his performances in “Hud,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “Absence of Malice,” “The Verdict,” “Nobody’s Fool,” and “The Road to Perdition.”
Newman has also been recognized for his work behind the camera, earning an Academy Award ® nomination for Best Picture and Golden Globe ® award for Best Director for “Rachel, Rachel,” which he produced and directed and which starred his wife, Joanne Woodward. In addition Newman was awarded an Honorary Oscar ® in 1986 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to film, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 1984. In 1992, he and Joanne Woodward received the Kennedy Center Honors.
Newman began his career on the stage, making his Broadway debut in the 1953 production of William Inge’s “Picnic.” The following year he made his first appearance on the big screen in “The Silver Chalice,” but it was his portrayal of boxer Rocky Graziano in 1956’s “Somebody Up There Likes Me” that catapulted him to stardom. Over the next decade, the actor starred in two dozen films, including “The Long, Hot Summer,” for which he was named Best Actor at the Cannes film festival, “The Left Handed Gun,” “Exodus,” and “Sweet Bird of Youth.”
In 1969 Newman teamed with Robert Redford in George Roy Hill’s smash hit Western “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which became an instant classic. Four years later, Newman, Redford, and Hill reunited in the Academy Award ® -winning Best Picture “The Sting.”
Newman’s iconic status has never waned over the years. His long list of film credits also includes “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,” “The Towering Inferno,” “The Drowning Pool,” “Slap Shot,” “Fort Apache the Bronx,” “Fat Man and Little Boy,” “Blaze,” “The Hudsucker Proxy,” and “Message in a Bottle.”
Additionally, Newman directed, produced and starred in “Harry and Son,” produced and directed “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,” and directed “The Glass Menagerie” and the telefilm “The Shadow Box,” the latter earning him an Emmy ® nomination. Newman received an Emmy ® award, Golden Globe ® and Screen Actors Guild award for his performance in the miniseries “Empire Falls,” for which he also served as executive producer. He recently received a Tony nomination for his performance in the Broadway production of “Our Town.”
Apart from his film work, Newman has a well-known passion for automobile racing. He is also a dedicated philanthropist, whose Newman’s Own line of food products – all the proceeds of which go to charity – has generated more than $200 million in donations. He is also devoted to the Scott Newman Center, named for his son, and the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang Camp, which provides a fun-filled environment for seriously ill children. In 1994, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Newman with the coveted Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Professional credits aside, Newman is married to the best actress on the planet, was number 19 on Nixon’s enemies list, and is generally considered by professionals to be the worst fisherman on the East Coast.
BONNIE HUNT (Sally Carrera) adds humor and heart to the voice of a sensible sports car who has taken the road less traveled and cozied up to a rewarding life in Radiator Springs as the proprietor of the Cozy Cone Motel.
Hunt is a multi-talented artist who has conquered the worlds of film, television, and theatre as a performer, writer, and director.
Growing up in one of Chicago’s blue-collar neighborhoods, Hunt worked as a nurse’s aid in high school, and later became a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She simultaneously pursued an acting career, performing at the renowned Second City. After making the move to feature films, Hunt became familiar to audiences for her hilarious and unforgettable cameos. She made her feature film debut in Barry Levinson’s “Rain Man” as the toothpick-dropping waitress and was the comically dedicated White House tour guide in “Dave” (“We’re walking, we’re walking…”).
In 1996, Hunt portrayed Renée Zellweger’s quick-witted sister in Cameron Crowe’s smash “Jerry Maguire.” Other film credits from the first half of the 1990s include “Jumanji” with Robin Williams; Norman Jewison’s “Only You,” where she played Marisa Tomei’s best friend; and the role of Charles Grodin’s beleaguered wife in Universal’s family hits “Beethoven” and “Beethoven’s 2 nd .”
In addition to her many onscreen successes, Hunt directed and acted in the feature “Return to Me” in 1999, which she co-wrote with longtime creative collaborator Don Lake. Starring David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, and David Alan Grier, the sweet romantic comedy was shot almost entirely in the filmmaker’s home of Chicago.
In the last half of the 1990s Hunt co-starred in “The Green Mile” with Tom Hanks, and played alongside Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas in “Random Hearts.” She also lent her voice to two Disney/Pixar features, playing Rosie the Spider in “A Bug’s Life” and Flint, the haggard Scare Simulation engineer in “Monsters, Inc.”
On television, Hunt was known early in her career as a regular on two series, “Grand” and “Davis Rules.” In 1993 she became widely recognized as the first woman to write, produce, and star in her own series, “The Building.” The ensemble comedy, which she also executive produced, featured Hunt and her Second City colleagues playing young adults living in a Chicago apartment building. She then wrote, produced and starred in the critically-acclaimed “Bonnie” for CBS. Her frequent and hilarious appearances on talk shows earned her Entertainment Weekly ’s appellation as “the hands-down best [talk show] guest in America.”
In 2002 Hunt appeared in the Miramax feature “Stolen Summer,” which gained further publicity thanks to the HBO “Project Greenlight” series chronicling the production of the film. She appeared as Kate Baker in “Cheaper By the Dozen” in 2003, and reprised the role opposite Steve Martin in the sequel “Cheaper By the Dozen 2” in 2005. In addition to roles in “Loggerheads” and the upcoming “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With,” Hunt spent the years 2002 through 2004 directing, writing and starring in the hit ABC series “Life with Bonnie,” which garnered her two Golden Globe ® nominations for Lead Actress in a Comedy and an Emmy ® nomination.
LARRY THE CABLE GUY (Mater) gits the job done with plenty of laughter and pathos in providing the voice for this tractor-tipping tow truck who never backs away from a friend.
With his cries of “Git-R-Done!” and “Lord, I apologize,” Larry is selling out theatres and arenas across the United States. Larry released his CD “The Right to Bare Arms” (Jack Records/Warner Bros. Records) in March 2005, and it debuted simultaneously at number one on both the SoundScan Comedy chart and the Country chart, marking the first time in SoundScan history that a comedy album topped the Country chart. Certified Gold by the RIAA with 500,000 units sold, “The Right to Bare Arms” was also a Grammy nominee, and earned Larry Billboard ’s 2005 awards for Comedy Artist of the Year and Comedy Album of the Year.
Larry’s performance in “CARS” comes on the heels of his first live-action feature film role in “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector,” where Larry plays a restaurant health inspector who investigates a rash of food poisonings, goes undercover, and outs the villains at the Citywide Chef Challenge. In addition, Larry is now a bestselling author, whose book “Git-R-Done” was released last October 25 th and debuted at number 26 on the New York Times bestseller list.
Larry starred in “Blue Collar TV,” a sketch comedy series for the WB Network which premiered in July 2004. 5.4 million people watched the show, whose ensemble included Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall from “Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie,” the film based on the highly successful concert tour.
“Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie” premiered on Comedy Central in November 2003 and at that time was the highest-rated movie in the channel’s history. The DVD has sold more that four million units. The sequel, “Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again,” premiered on Comedy Central in February 2005, and has since sold 3.6 million copies on DVD. In March 2006 the Blue Collar boys reunited to shoot “Blue Collar Comedy Tour: One for the Road” in Washington
D.C. at the Warner Theater, which airs on Comedy Central June 4, 2006.
Larry’s first album release, “Lord, I Apologize,” reached gold status and was number one on the Billboard Comedy chart for fifteen weeks running. Larry’s DVD special “Git-R-Done” has sold more than a million copies and has been certified multi-platinum. The special aired on Comedy Central and gave the network their second-biggest Sunday night ratings in the channel’s history.
CHEECH MARIN (Ramone) gives a colorful performance as the voice of this 1959 Impala low-rider who likes to paint the town with his impressive body art. This marks the actor’s third voice-over contribution to an animated feature from Disney, having previously voiced the frenetic Chihuahua Tito in the 1988 release “Oliver & Company” and the hot-headed hyena Banzai left dangling at the bottom of the food chain in “The Lion King.”
Born in South Central Los Angeles and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Cheech studied English at Cal State Northridge before leaving for Vancouver,
B.C. to avoid the draft. In British Columbia he met Tommy Chong, and the two formed a comic partnership so successful that they eventually moved to Los Angeles and began making the club circuit. Their success resulted in an incredibly successful string of albums, films, and concert tours. Their first album Cheech & Chong went gold; their second, Big Bambu , was voted 1972’s number one comedy album; and their third, Los Cochinos , won them a Grammy.
In 1978, Cheech and Chong made their film debut in “Up in Smoke,” which became the top-grossing comedy of the year with receipts exceeding $100 million. The team went on to make the films “Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie” and “Cheech and Chong’s Corsican Brothers” before they parted ways in 1985. Cheech went on to write, direct, and star in “Born in East L.A.” in 1987, which won three awards at the Havana Film Festival and established him as a talented filmmaker and sharp-witted social commentator.
His other film credits include “Desperado,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Tin Cup,” “Paulie,” “Luminarias,” the Robert Rodriguez trilogy “Spy Kids,” “Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams” and “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” “Christmas with the Kranks,” and “Underclassmen.”
For TV, Cheech has appeared in the 1994 telefilm “The Cisco Kid,” has starred in “Nash Bridges,” and has had recurring roles on “Judging Amy” and “The Golden Palace.”
In fall 2005, Cheech directed the Broadway production of “Latinologues,” a collection of comedic and poignant monologues revealing the Latino experience in America. In the art world, the touring exhibit “Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge” is formed at its core by Cheech’s personal art collection, one of the largest Chicano collections in the world. Cheech has stepped out in the world of children’s albums as well, recording a bilingual kids’ CD “My Name Is Cheech, The School Bus Driver” with its attendant followup CD “My Name Is Cheech, The School Bus Driver Coast to Coast.”
TONY SHALHOUB (Luigi) lays down some entertaining tracks as the friendly and excitable proprietor of Radiator Springs’ Casa Della Tires, where Ferraris always get preferential treatment.
A triple threat as an actor/director/producer, Shalhoub is best known as the obsessive compulsive detective hero of “Monk,” now in its fourth season on USA Network. In fact the Emmy ® , Golden Globe ® , and SAG Award-winner has a long and varied career establishing him as one of the most versatile character actors working today.
Shalhoub’s television credits include the telefilm remakes of “Gypsy” and “That Championship Season,” directed by Paul Sorvino. He was a series regular on the sitcoms “Stark Raving Mad” and the long-running hit series “Wings.”
His numerous feature film roles include “Galaxy Quest,” “The Siege,” “A Civil Action,” “Searching for Bobby Fischer,” “The Imposters,” “Primary Colors,” “Gattaca,” “Big Night,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Quick Change,” “Longtime Companion,” “Thir13en Ghosts” and “Life or Something Like It.” For director Robert Rodriguez he has appeared in “Spy Kids,” “Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams” and “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.” For the Coen Brothers he has played beleaguered film producer Ben Geisler (“GYE-zler!”) in “Barton Fink” and attorney Freddy Riedenschneider in “The Man Who Wasn’t There.”
He also portrayed small-time alien crook Jack Jeebs in “Men in Black” and “Men in Black II” for director Barry Sonnenfeld.
Most recently on the big screen Shalhoub appeared in the Hollywood satire “The Last Shot” with Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin, as well as “Against the Ropes” and “The Great New Wonderful.” He made his debut as a director in 2002 with the indie feature “Made-Up,” in which he co-starred with his wife Brooke Adams and Gary Sinise.
An accomplished stage actor, Shalhoub’s New York theatre work includes “Waiting for Godot,” “Conversations with My Father,” “The Heidi Chronicles,” “The Odd Couple,” and the New York Shakespeare Festival productions of “Henry IV Part I” and “Richard III.”
JENIFER LEWIS (Flo) goes with the “flo” as the voice of this sassy former show car who dispenses oil, gossip, and advice to customers at her V-8 Café, and has a warm spot in her carburetor for her Ramone.
Lewis currently stars as the no-nonsense receptionist Lana Hawkins who keeps order amidst the chaos in the clinic, in Sony Pictures Television’s long-running hit drama series, “Strong Medicine,” now in its sixth season on Lifetime.
Her screen credits include the role of Tina Turner’s mother, Zelma Bullock, in the biopic, “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” This critically acclaimed role earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Her captivating presence and sharp-tongued humor was also on display in Penny Marshall’s romantic comedy, “The Preacher’s Wife,” for which she received another Image Award nomination. Other film credits include “Castaway” with Tom Hanks,” “Antwone Fisher” directed by Denzel Washington, “Corrina, Corrina,” “The Mighty,” “Renaissance Man,” “Sister Act 1 & 2,” “Dead Presidents,” “Blast From the Past,” “The Brothers,” “Mystery Men,” and “Poetic Justice.”
Her television credits include the role of the controversial lesbian Judge Rosetta Reide in the CBS series, “Courthouse.” Additionally, she has starred in “The Temptations,” “Friends,” “Touched by an Angel,” “The Cosby Show,” and “Murphy Brown.” She has the added distinction of being Johnny Carson’s final guest along with her friend Bette Midler on his last taping of “The Tonight Show.”
In the theatre, Lewis’ one-woman show, “The Diva is Dismissed,” had a three-year run in Los Angeles and premiered at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre as part of the prestigious New York Shakespeare Festival. Her performance earned her two NAACP Theatre Awards in the categories of Best Actress and Best Playwright. Her Broadway credits include “Eubie,” “Comin’ Uptown,” “Dreamgirls,” and the City Center Encores! Presentation of Neil Simon’s musical, “Promises, Promises.”
PAUL DOOLEY (Sarge) gives a commanding performance as the voice of this military-minded jeep who runs the town’s army surplus store, and engages in a battle of wits with his laid-back VW bus neighbor.
Dooley is a versatile character actor whose extensive resume would give him two degrees of separation from virtually the entire entertainment industry. He played a chief of police to Al Pacino in “Insomnia,” Julia Roberts’ father in “Runaway Bride” and Burt Reynolds attorney in “Paternity.”
He is best remembered for his comic portrayal of the long suffering dad in the critically acclaimed “Breaking Away.” Another cult film has him as the understanding father to Molly Ringwald in “Sixteen Candles”.
The actor has spent the last few years as a regular in director Christopher Guest’s comedic stable, playing a UFO abductee in “Waiting For Guffman,” the patriarch of The New Main Street Singers in “A Mighty Wind,” and will be seen in the upcoming “For Your Consideration.” Prior to that he was a regular with director Robert Altman and had featured roles in “A Wedding,” “A Perfect Couple,” “Health” and “Popeye,” in which he portrayed the hamburger loving Wimpy. (A role, Dooley adds, he played with relish.)
His more than forty feature films also include “Kiss Me Goodbye,” “Flashback,” “Happy Texas,” “Strange Brew,” “Shakes The Clown” and “My Boyfriend’s Back.”
On the small screen Dooley has appeared on “Dharma And Greg,” “Mad About You,” “The Golden Girls,” “Coach,” “Ellen,” “thirtysomething” and “The Wonder Years.” Recurring roles on TV include “Desperate Housewives,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “E.R.,” “The Practice,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” Dream On,” “Alf” and ”My So-Called Life.”
A dedicated cartoonist who had his own strip in his local West Virginia paper as a young man, he joined the Navy and then discovered acting while at college. A veteran of Second City and the New York stage, Dooley was in the original American production of “The Three Penny Opera” and the original Broadway show “The Odd Couple.” Also a writer, he was co-creator of the award-winning TV series “The Electric Company.”
Paul lives in Los Angeles with one of his favorite writers, Winnie Holzman (also his wife.) She is the creator of the highly acclaimed television series “My So-Called Life” and co-author of the hit Broadway musical “Wicked.”
MICHAEL WALLIS (The Sheriff) is a true “road warrior” and is considered by most to be the authority on Route 66. He knows every nook and cranny of the old highway from Chicago to Los Angeles. His newly expanded 75 th anniversary edition of the critically-acclaimed Route 66: The Mother Road was published in Spring 2001 and, like its predecessor with the same title from 1990, it became an instant hit. In reference to the book, the New York Times said “Like others before him, from John Steinbeck to Charles Kuralt, Michael went on the road in search of America. The result is…a colorful rejoicing to a most romantic byway.”
Wallis is a historian and biographer of the American West. His bibliography includes the books The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and th e Creation of the American West, a non-fiction account of the history of the legendary 101 Ranch; Oklahoma Crossroads ; Beyond the Hills: The Journey of Waite Phillips ; En Divina Luz: The Penitente Moradas of New Mexico ; Mankiller: A Chief and Her People ; Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation ; Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd ; and Oil Man: The Story of Frank Phillips and the Birth of Phillips Petroleum .
Wallis is a three-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize, and has also been nominated for a National Book Award. His work has been published in hundreds of national and international magazines and newspapers, including Time , Life , People , Smithsonian , Texas Monthly and The New York Times . In 1999 he was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Oklahoma Professional Writers Hall of Fame in 1996.
Since 1983 he and his wife, Suzanne Fitzgerald Wallis, have made their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They also maintain a hideout in New Mexico.
GEORGE CARLIN (Fillmore) is a gas providing the laid-back voice for this hip brewmeister who believes in peace, love, and organic fuel.
The comedian has garnered three Emmy nominations and six Cable Ace awards for his thirteen HBO specials, and thus far eight of those specials have been released in two separate DVD packages. Carlin picked up two additional Emmy nominations in the early ’90s, playing Mr. Conductor in 45 episodes of the critically acclaimed PBS children’s show “Shining Time Station.”
In 1997, Carlin ventured into a new field as Hyperion published his first book, Braindroppings , a collection of original routines, one-liners, commentaries and essays. In hardcover and paperback, the book spent a total of 40 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has sold 850,000 copies. The “book-on-tape” version, read by Carlin himself, won the 2001 Grammy in the Spoken Comedy category, the latest of his three Grammys.
A second book, Napalm & Silly Putty , written in the same style as the first, was published in April 2001, reaching the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list in its second week. The combined hardcover and paperback editions have sold over 500,000 copies.
A third book, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? , published by Hyperion, came out in October 2004. It went to number two on the New York Times bestseller list, and was banned by Wal-Mart. When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? has been nominated for two Quill Awards and the paperback which came out in 2005 has done equally as well on the sales chart. The book echoes the format of his first two books and includes many of his trademark observations on the American language, one of his notable comedy strengths.
While all this goes on, Carlin still manages to perform 90 concerts each year around the country, selling nearly a quarter of a million tickets.
This past November 5 th saw the premiere of the comedian’s 13 th HBO special, “George Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing.” A DVD and CD of the show will follow, bringing his total discography to 25 titles, including compilations and books on tape.
In March 2004, Carlin appeared in Kevin Smith’s feature “Jersey Girl,” where he essayed what was easily his most substantial film role yet as Ben Affleck’s father. The film was Carlin’s eleventh feature credit. In addition, Carlin has lent his comic timing and vocal talents to such recent animated projects as “Tarzan II” and “Happy N’ever After.”
KATHERINE HELMOND (Lizzie) is best known for her role as Jessica Tate in ABC’s controversial sitcom “Soap,” for which she won a Golden Globe Award in 1981. In 2004, the actress was nominated for her 6 th Emmy, this time for her performance in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and she also starred in the 2004 ABC Christmas show “Mr. St. Nick” along with Kelsey Grammer, Charles Durning and Brian Bedford.
Helmond was a recurring character on the series “Everybody Loves Raymond,” playing the mother of Ray’s wife, Deborah. Before that, she co-starred in the ABC hit “Coach” with Craig T. Nelson for three years, following eight hit seasons in “Who’s the Boss?” with Tony Danza. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role as the luscious Mona four times and won the award in 1988. In 1986, Helmond was given the London TV Times Award for the actress who had brought the most joy to the viewing audience.
In 1983, she added another dimension to her work with her acceptance into the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women – a prestigious program for women who have achieved prior success in other areas of the entertainment industry. Upon completion of her project for the AFI, she immediately turned to professional directing via “Benson,” the ABC series starring Robert Guillaume. By 1984, she had directed four episodes of this successful show. In addition, she later directed episodes of “Who’s The Boss?” In 1987, the Arts and Entertainment cable channel aired the one hour drama “Bankrupt,” which Helmond had directed for the AFI. The program focused on a couple’s emotional bankruptcy, and was written by David Christian, Helmond’s husband.
Recently, the actress co-starred in a production of “Ms. Scrooge” for USA cable, co-starring as Marley with Cicely Tyson as Ms. Scrooge. Helmond has amassed an impressive list of TV credits, including early guest-starring appearances on many of the top-rated series as well as Steve Allen’s Emmy-winning “Meeting of the Minds” (in which she played Emily Dickinson.) She has also had major roles in a diverse cross-section of television films, including “World War III,” “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “Wanted: The Sundance Woman,” “The Legend of Lizzie Borden,” and the mini-series “Pearl” and “Diary of a Mad Hitchhiker.”
Returning to her stage roots, Katherine had her name in lights on Broadway in 1993 starring opposite Hal Gould in “Mixed Emotions.” Most recently, she starred in a Chicago revival of “Mornings at Seven,” and in New York in productions of “The Vagina Monologues” and “The Oldest Profession,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Paula Vogel.
Additionally, throughout her career, Helmond has found herself involved with feature films. Three of Hollywood’s top directors selected her for significant roles: Alfred Hitchcock (“Family Plot,”) Robert Wise (“Hindenburg”), and John Hancock (“Baby Blue Marine.”) In 1980, she starred in “Time Bandits” for Terry Gilliam. Next, she went on to receive praise for her role in his highly acclaimed film “Brazil,” winner of the 1985 Los Angeles Film Critic Award for Best film. She re-teamed with Gilliam for the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
Her multiple dramatic honors include a 1973 Tony award nomination for Eugene O’Neill’s “Great God Brown” on Broadway and a Clarence Derwent Award, a New York Drama Critic’s Award and a 1971 Obie Nomination for her portrayal of the tragi-comic figure Bananas in John Guare’s “House of Blue Leaves.” Among her many accolades, she has been honored by Women in Show Business, Women in Film (The Topaz award) and by DePaul University (for Excellence in the Arts.)
Helmond and husband David Christian currently maintain an apartment in New York and a home in the Hollywood Hills. The couple formed TaurCan Productions in order to develop and produce films and other projects that interest them.
JOHN RATZENBERGER (Mack) returns to the Pixar fold for the seventh time and delivers the goods by voicing a reliable road-tested transport truck responsible for getting Lighting McQueen to the big race on time.
Ratzenberger is an accomplished screenwriter, director, producer and multi-Emmy ® nominated actor. Along with well-earned credentials as an entrepreneur and humanitarian, John Ratzenberger is known to international audiences as know-it-all postman Cliff Claven on “Cheers” and as part of the Oscar ® -winning Pixar animation team.
A decade after the finale of the long-running NBC sitcom, the iconic performer is again a regular on television as creator and star of “John Ratzenberger’s Made in America,” in it’s fourth season on the Travel Channel. Visiting factories across the nation, John spotlights the companies and people who invent and build the best products in the U.S. From Campbell’s, Gatorade and Monopoly to Harley Davidson, Craftsman Tools and John Deere farm equipment, each episode honors those people who “take pride in their workmanship and are the backbone of our economy,” he says.
A former carpenter, archery instructor, carnival performer and oyster boat crewman, John Ratzenberger certainly knows how to use his own hands, as well as his other diverse assets. The son of a truck driver father and factory worker mother, he was raised in the seaside community of Black Rock, near Bridgeport, Connecticut, getting his first taste of the stage in grade school. An English literature major at Sacred Heart University, he trod the boards in drama club and after graduation starred in one-man shows while directing others.
In 1971 he received a tax refund check for $263, at the time the exact one-way airfare to London. John spent a decade as co-founder of the improvisational duo Sal’s Meat Market, earning acclaim across Europe and a grant from the British Arts Council. While in Europe, John appeared in over 22 motion pictures, including “A Bridge Too Far,” “Superman,” “Gandhi” and “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” starred in the Granada TV series “Small World,” and cut his teeth as a producer and writer for the BBC, Granada TV and several prestigious theater companies.
In 1982 John took a writing assignment for CBS in Los Angeles. As serendipity would have it, on the day he was scheduled to return to London, he auditioned for a role on “Cheers.” Even more remarkable, the character of the postman did not even exist, but after John auditioned for another role, he threw a suggestion to the writers. “I explained that every neighborhood bar has a resident know-it-all, and then demonstrated my version of him.” John’s improvisational skills brought Cliff Claven to life, and the “Cheers” team immediately rewrote the pilot to include him. During eleven seasons on “Cheers” John continued to improvise many of his own lines, helping bring freshness and enduring popularity to a show that would earn 28 Emmys ® . With “Cheers” now in syndication nationwide, Cliff Claven remains one of television’s most beloved characters.
Animation has been a natural home to his versatile vocal talents, and John is the only actor to participate in every Pixar film. Beginning with the charming and witty Hamm the piggy bank in “Toy Story” (reprised in “Toy Story 2”), then came P.T. Flea in “A Bug’s Life,” Yeti the snow monster in “Monsters, Inc.,” a school of Moonfish in “Finding Nemo,” and proto-villain The Underminer in “The lncredibles.” His other animation roles include those in the Academy Award ® -winning feature “Spirited Away” and the long-running TBS series “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” and “The New Adventures of Captain Planet.”
Appearing as himself on “The Drew Carey Show” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Live in Aspen,” among other programs, he has spent two decades bringing his gifts as a character actor to such episodic series as “8 Simple Rules,” “That ‘70s Show,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Murphy Brown,” “The Love Boat,” “Magnum, P.I.” and “Hill Street Blues.” John has also reprised Cliff Claven in “Frasier,” “The Simpsons,” “Blossom,” “Wings,” “St. Elsewhere” and eight NBC specials. Among his numerous TV movies are starring roles in “The Pennsylvania Miners Story” for ABC, “A Fare To Remember,” “Remember WENN,” PBS Masterpiece Theater’s “The Good Soldier” and the BBC’s “Song of a Sourdough” and “The Detectives.”
Unsatisfied with only being in front of the camera, John heads his own Los Angeles-based production company, Fiddlers Bay Productions, and has directed more than 50 TV episodes including “Cheers” and “Evening Shade.” He has also directed a Super Bowl promo and a myriad of commercials, writing and starring in two, which earned the coveted Clio Award.
In 1989 John Ratzenberger founded Eco-Pack Industries, a company dedicated to creating alternative packaging. Its bio-degradable, non-toxic recycled paper product, Quadrapak, became an international success with such clients as Hallmark, Elizabeth Arden and Nordstrom, replacing styrofoam peanuts and plastic bubble wrap.
In other humanitarian areas, John serves as chairman of www.ChildrenWithDiabetes.com. the world’s largest Internet venture connecting diabetes information and research, and as National Walk Chairman for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation he has helped raise over $100 million (among other charity fundraisers, John was the first and only person to row a boat for more than 16 hours and 45 miles around Vashon Island near Washington State, raising funds and awareness for the Special Olympics). The proud parent of two children, John has promoted literacy through Cities in Schools, is founder of the Harbor School in Washington, sits on the board of Pepperdine University and, in 1996, was recognized as “Father of the Year” by the Father’s Day Council of America. Among his numerous other awards, John Ratzenberger returned to his alma mater in 2002 to be honored with a doctorate of Humane Letters, and is a two-time Emmy ® nominee for his outstanding supporting actor work on “Cheers.”
MICHAEL KEATON (Chick Hicks) gives a winning performance as the ruthless competitor determined to collect the trophy and all the sponsorship prizes that go with it.
Keaton gained national attention in the hit comedy “Night Shift,” followed by starring roles in such films as “Mr. Mom,” “Johnny Dangerously” and “Dream Team.”
In 1998, he earned the Best Actor award from the National Society of Film Critics for “Clean and Sober” and Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice.” Keaton re-teamed with Burton to play the title role in the blockbusters “Batman” and “Batman Returns.”
Keaton also starred as Robert Weiner in HBO’s critically-acclaimed “Live from Baghdad.” He received a Golden Globe ® nomination for his role in the film, which was based on a true story of the CNN crew who reported from Baghdad during the first Gulf war. He also starred as the President of the United States in “First Daughter” for Twentieth Century Fox Studios.
Keaton’s recent feature credits include Michael Hoffman’s sports comedy “Game 6,” the Universal thriller “White Noise,” and the Disney comedy “Herbie: Fully Loaded.” He will next appear in “The Last Time.”
RICHARD PETTY (The King) is the most decorated driver in the history of NASCAR racing, winning a record 200 career victories and seven NASCAR Nextel Cup championships in his illustrious career. One would think that after 1,184 races spanning three decades that “The King” would bow out and retire quietly. Petty, however, has other things on his mind. Today he is as busy as ever, mainly overseeing the operation of the famed #43 car that he made famous.
In 1996, Petty proved that he could be a champion both as a driver and car owner when he won his first race as an owner in the Dura Lube 500 with driver Bobby Hamilton at the Phoenix International Raceway. Petty won again in 1997 with Hamilton, and in 1999 with driver John Andretti.
Today Petty still looks over the operation of the #43 Dodge with Bobby Labonte now in charge of “The King’s” car. The 2006 season will mark Labonte’s first season behind the wheel with General Mills, teaming up with Petty to sponsor the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge.
Racing is about winning, and “The King” has proven he knows how to do just that, but it is giving back to the community and his fans that makes Petty “The King” of auto racing. Wearing his signature cowboy hat and sunglasses one can always see Petty signing an autograph or giving a helping hand. In fact Petty was instrumental in the development of the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a camp for chronically ill children, after donating acres of his land that the camp sits on today. There is no other person in NASCAR’s history to have made more of an impact on the sport, on and off the track, than Richard Petty. He has been elected to the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, International Motorsports Hall of Fame, North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame, and also the North Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. He also serves as Chairman of the North Carolina Motorsports Association. In addition, he is the proud recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, which he received in 1992.
A person who has seen the sport grow from the beaches of Daytona to the high-banked superspeedways of Talladega, Petty is no stranger to tough challenges. With the growing strength of Petty Enterprises, under the watchful eye of Petty, it won’t be long before “The King” will once again be standing alongside the #43 Dodge in victory lane.