EMERYVILLE, Calif. — Someone at Pixar — actually, chief Pixar-teer John Lasseter — had the bright idea to do a computer-animated film set entirely in a world of cars. Cars
is the first animated role for Paul Newman,
a longtime racing enthusiast.
With humans out of the way, the vehicles could skip the middleman and simply steer themselves.
One guy who's been around the track a few times was so impressed with the premise of Cars
, which pulls into theaters June 9, that he agreed to do his first-ever cartoon voice. Maybe it's because the taciturn 1951 Hudson Hornet he plays, Doc Hudson, has a distinctive pair of baby blues and the film title Hud
as part of his name.
"Those cars have personality," says racing enthusiast Paul Newman, speaking on the phone about his role as Doc. "It's like having your favorite car and your favorite driver all in one bundle."
The unstoppable 81-year-old speed demon, who provided filmmakers with an ongoing reality check on racing facts, has yet to put the brakes on his life in the fast lane.
Picking the right voices for each vehicle wasn't too difficult. Who else but Owen Wilson could play cocky, self-absorbed yet appealing NASCAR rookie Lightning McQueen, who takes an unexpected turn en route to a championship race and ends up in the tiny Southwest town of Radiator Springs, off the famed Route 66.
Not that they look alike. "Instead of Owen Wilson's nose, you are getting the way he acts," says production designer Bob Pauley. "That is even deeper."
And the in-jokes -VW Beetles as flying insects, Mack trucks that wear trucker caps — practically wrote themselves.
But before the artists on Pixar's seventh outing could start their digital engines, they had to decide on a few physical details. Unlike the fish in Finding Nemo
and the creatures in Monsters, Inc.
, cars are not soft and squishy.