THE CARS 3 INTERVIEW
with Jay Ward and Ray Everham – a couple of the gear heads behind the movie

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(© 2017 Disney's Pixar)



By John Grafman

Senior Editor John Grafman wears another hat as the founder and executive director of the Automotive Design Organization, also known as AutoDesignO. Wearing the latter hat, John scored an interview with two of the people responsible for bringing Cars 3 to the silver screen: Jay Ward, Creative Director for the Cars franchise, and Ray Everham, one of the consultants on Cars 3.

So I am here with Ray Evernham, a consultant on the Cars 3 movie.

Jay Ward: And I’m Jay Ward, Creative Director for the Cars franchise.

Okay, I was hoping you guys could maybe tell me a little bit more about what excites you in automotive design.

Ray Evernham: Oh wow, that is probably one of the better questions that we’ve been asked. I know it doesn’t pertain exactly to the movie, but with me I love the personal expression when people design, they don’t have to really design around the necessity. I love art-deco cars, I love to see a person’s, whether it’s personality or artistic eye in the role of a fender or the way a wheel well is cut, or a vent, or a side cove, anything like that. So with me, the use of shape of car whether it’s smooth or lines or cut, or the combination of things. I love that personalized artistic shape of a vehicle made out of metal, or fiberglass … Or carbon-fiber.

Jay Ward: I guess, you know, great car design is funny, it’s one of those things where it’s almost like a bullseye. Let’s just take a ’32 Ford, kind of the iconic car, right? And if I walk up to it it’s like; “all right a ’32 Ford, is it a Coupe or a Roadster?” Moves in a little bit. “Oh it is, cool. All right, is it flathead car? Oh cool.” Moves in a little bit more and you look inside. “It’s still got three-speed, and a quick change!” Most cars that I see, I like them and then they’ll usually get about 85 percent of the way there and then there’s one or two things that will throw it off. But when you see a car that carries the right thing, the theme, the idea, the flavor that they’re going for all the way through, that’s the best thing in the world.

[If] you’re Orange County based, you go to the Grand National Roadster Show, there are a number of great cars there. But you go on that main show floor and you see somebody that did a car right and they chose an era, and the chose a theme and by golly they stuck with it all the way and carried it out on the car right down to the correct tires or whatever. You do it with race cars too, you build it the way Mario Andretti raced it and you would not dream of putting some funky, modern shock absorbers with piggy-back reservoirs on it because that doesn’t belong on that car. And I love it when a car is built from scratch, and Chip Foose who has worked with us on the Cars movie, he does an amazing job of carrying a theme through all the way that echoes in the interior, and it echoes in the body lines. And when it is done right, it is awesome, and it is rare that guys get it totally right.

Well clearly you have passion for hot-rods and, certainly, your background is in racing. How do you feel about some of the more modern cars that have come out, some of the modern sports cars? Do you feel like they capture some of that same passion or are they kind of going off in a different direction?

Ray Evernham: I feel that if you asked me that question five or six years ago, maybe ten years ago, I would have said maybe they had lost some of that. But when you look at the new C7 Corvette, and now the NSX, and some of the BMW designed stuff that has come out, it’s incredible again. All those things that we talked about, that combination of shapes and stance, and almost old versus new. I just really think that the designers are capturing that again. You look at what Cadillac has done with the CTSD, and to me they have captured that again but it’s only been recently, the last three, four, five years have really gotten hot in design again.

(© 2017 Disney's Pixar)

Jay Ward: Yeah it’s funny, and then there are some designs like the Porsche 911 for a modern sports car. I have an old 911, it’s not that old but it’s old. But they managed to carry that design language through for all these years, 50 years of making a car and gently evolving it where it still has that footprint of the original car with the rear engine and the greenhouse shape, and that car works, it just still works. You’re right, some manufacturers have lost their way and got back. I think there were some of the years the Corvette were not that pretty. Some of the stuff Ferrari was making for while was not very pretty, and you have to figure out what your language is. The new Alfa Romeo Giulia, I think that is a pretty car, that’s a pretty good looking car.

Mentioning both the Corvette and the Porsche, we see those influences in the new Cars 3 movie. What other cars were you guys capturing that also fit in the category of excitement?

Jay Ward: Well it depends on the character we are designing. So if you are designing a character like Jackson Storm, you went to the talk on that today, Jay Shuster, the character designer, he’s looking at a bunch of different things, a bunch of different influences. Part is from the racing world, part is totally from his mind, part of it is stuff we might get from Ray, of arrow that they’re doing on cars and saying; “what would arrow be like five or ten years form now?”

(© 2017 Disney's Pixar)

The influence has come from a bunch of different places. If we are doing a real car, like for instance the ’55 Chrysler 300. We are going to study the heck out of that car. I remember the Henry Ford Museum has a great, one of the early [keyafer 00:05:38] cars and we just went crazy photographing and studying. That’s a little easier. When you are making something from scratch you are pulling your influences from all over the place.

Cars has been a billion dollar franchise already. Can you see this moving away…I mean still being something automotive? Another franchise separate from Cars, because clearly there is an audience for this type of stuff, but Cars has its own direction, maybe something entirely different but automotive related?

Jay Ward: No I haven’t. I guess because there’s still so many stories that we want to tell in this world, and we do love this world so much that I think we always just go deeper in this world that we’ve opened up instead of trying to divide somebody’s interest. I think because people now have an emotional attachment to this film and these characters, they kind of want to know other chapters in these characters’ lives or meet other characters that meet the characters they love. I kind of see it as a tree that keeps growing branches, as opposed to planting the same kind of tree a block away.

And you were talking about the evolution of the Porsche. We’ve seen an evolution in design, what do you foresee coming up in the next few years that might get integrated into other Pixar projects?

Jay Ward: That’s a really good question again. It’s funny because car design is taking some interesting turns, I am interested to see where it goes. The shapes are starting to get so smooth now because they’re trying to get the maximum fuel mileage out of them, and some of them are successful, some of them are not very memorable, that go away pretty quickly and you could put any badge on that car and really don’t care what it is. That doesn’t necessarily excite me, and I don’t know how much that will influence the Cars films. What I think we do well is we have a nice blend of old cars, new cars and in-house design cars, cars that we design from scratch.

(© 2017 Disney's Pixar)

To me the most exciting thing is in-house designed cars, because that means we can make whatever me want. If you think about Cars coming out in 2006, McQueen doesn’t look like anything that was brand new in 2006. He’s cool, and he’s a race car and he’s trick looking, but he doesn’t look like a 2006 NASCAR. We would have made him much more smoother like the twisted sister kind of car, instead we just said “No”, let’s just make him who we want him to be and I’m glad we did that. He is timeless that way.

So years ago would you ever have thought somebody would have asked you to be a consultant on an animated movie about cars?

Ray Evernham: No. This has been the time of my life, honestly. And obviously my career is into retirement, but this is something I will look back at as one of the jewels of my career for my children’s sake.

Senior Editor John Grafman spent the past couple of dozen or so years working on models for numerous automotive design studios on the west coast. You’ve seen his work on the exterior and interiors of some of your favorite concept and production cars. You’ve seen his imprint throughout LA Car. More recently, he founded the AutoDesignO, the automotive design organization—and is responsible for its annual design panels held in conjunction with the Motor Press Guild.

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To read the full interview with Jay Ward and Ray Everham, go to the AutoDesignO site.

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