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Immersed in Movies: Rob Gibbs Talks ‘Radiator Springs 500 1/2’

Immersed in Movies: Rob Gibbs Talks 'Radiator Springs 500 1/2'

Pixar has certainly gotten a lot of mileage with Cars, and this week launches a new “Tales From Radiator Springs” series of shorts premiering on the Disney Movies Anywhere app. The first short, Radiator Springs 500 1/2, introduces a new off-road racing challenging that Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) can’t resist entering to redeem the honor of the town and its founder, Stanley. Director Rob Gibbs (“Mater’s Tall Tales”) discusses some of the new animated twists and turns.

What’s new about Radiator Springs?

It was an opportunity to focus on Lightning McQueen and the town of Radiator Springs a little bit. We started looking at races around the world and really like the Baja 1000 race in Mexico and thought Radiator Springs could have a race there so the challenge was to create a reason for why they would do it there. And so we treated it like a Western where these off-road vehicles come in a challenge the fastest car in the west to a race, and, of course, Lightning McQueen can’t resist.And the other fun thing we had with it was the juxtaposition of Mater’s crew that takes the fun, leisurely route vs. the rugged off-road route that the other racers take.

What are some of the other new twists?

We started playing with the idea of cars taking the wrong turn. And Mater decided to take on the role of tour guide and so we looked to the Disneyland Jungle Cruise ride. And if you’ve taken that ride, it’s usually a guy with a lot of puns. We actually met with one of the guys that writes those and came up with a bunch of little things. It was a fun wrinkle for us to come up with what’s funny and what’s pun-y.

And, of course, John Lasseter was a jungle cruise tour guide in his youth.

Yeah, he’s the one who actually suggested that we go that route. And of course a lot of them got lost along the way as we took the best ones.

What’s distinctive about the animation done by the Vancouver studio, which recently shut down?

Well, the town is basically the same except for the outskirts which we haven’t really played with before. Playing with the Western motif, we try and do shots similar to what you’d see in a Western movie. And then the animation translates into that also. Plus these off road vehicles have crazy suspension, there’s a lot of room to play with their movement and going off road and then all the effects with the dust and dirt. And then putting the cars in position where they fly over the camera. One of the fun things is when they go into the car cemetery at night and playing with that horror film motif with lighting.

The Vancouver studio really got a chance to shine during their brief tenure.

They did a couple of Toy Story shorts also but the world of Cars is about keeping them real to their material, which John Lasseter has always stressed. They are metal, they can’t bend around, so one of the biggest challenges they had was to lear how to animate these cars so you could still move them around but keep them rigid.

Interesting rules with cars.

Yeah, sometimes we totally bend the rules and break them and other times we really pull back so we get away with what we can until it looks weird. And it’s hard because cars have wheels and not hands, so whenever you need them to gesture, you can bend a wheel out, but if it looks too human, it becomes a little less Cars.

And what was fun for you?

It was fun playing with the off road terrain, and putting our characters through a lot of pain. Let’s hurt them as bad as we can and make the other characters on the leisurely drive having so much fun. We have the Tail Light Caverns and John Lasseter said, “How about if the other guys go through Tail Pipe Caverns”? So let’s make that painful. And it came full circle with the off road racers having no respect for the town or for Stanley, giving them all the respect. That was our goal.

When’s the next “Tales From Radiator Springs”?

I don’t think they’ve announced when that is yet so we’re keeping that a secret.

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