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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 humanlike 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 lov

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