Disney-Pixar and Academy Award(R)-winning director John Lasseter have become virtual car engineers of sorts and have taken Porsche's flagship model, the Porsche 911, and created a sporty leading lady called "Sally Carrera," who is one of the stars of the fast-paced animated adventure CARS that premieres in theaters nationwide June 9, 2006.
Even though Sally Carrera isn't a real car, she is the result of several years of research and engineering by Pixar, a process that rivals that of Porsche's famous automotive development.
CARS tells the story of a hotshot rookie racecar driven to succeed who 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, where the town's offbeat characters help him realize that there are more important things than trophies, fame and sponsorship.
"Sally is the one modern car in the town of Radiator Springs," says John Lasseter, the director of CARS and chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. "She's a Porsche 911 and she's beautiful, beautiful." Adds Lasseter, "It's interesting that people mostly think of a Porsche as powerful and a guy's car, but the lines on a Porsche are so beautiful that it fits perfectly for the character of Sally."
While the virtual Porsche is the only contemporary car appearing in a leading role, Sally Carrera's selection was not a case of corporate product placement. The model's unique attributes of being high-performance, yet stylish and sophisticated, led the film's creators to cast Sally as a Porsche.
"When we found the Porsche, it fit perfectly," said Bob Pauley, one of two production designers for the movie. "Director John Lasseter liked the idea of pairing the leading man, `Lightning McQueen,' with a performance car that was tough and strong, yet also sweet, attractive and had a 'nice silhouette.'"
"We're excited John Lasseter chose to cast a Porsche in this wonderful Disney-Pixar adventure," said Peter Schwarzenbauer, president and chief executive officer of Porsche Cars North America. "Having one of our most beloved vehicles featured in CARS gives us a unique opportunity to reach today's customers and tomorrow's aspiring owners in a new and compelling way."
Ever since Pixar requested that the film's leading lady be a Porsche 911, Porsche Cars North America (PCNA) has been working with the film-makers to support the creative process to help bring the character to life, as well as other promotional activities to help raise awareness of the unique universal appeal of the film.
Bringing "Sally" to Life
While an actual Porsche 911 has 320 horsepower, and can go from 0-60 in less than five seconds, the development of the virtual "Sally" and the movie took more than five years, and paralleled many of the same stages used in the creation of an automobile.
Beginning in 2002, Porsche Cars North America provided a 911 to the Pixar Animation Studios during the course of production so that animators, designers, sculptors and story-tellers could see, hear and feel a real Carrera first-hand, and then take that reality and translate it into the animated character of Sally Carrera, voiced by actress Bonnie Hunt.
Similar to the creation of a new vehicle, after initial sketches were done, Pixar created prototypes of their visions with clay models. With a real life-size Porsche 911 at Pixar, artists closely studied the vehicle's design, movement, and dimensions. Lasseter's mandate was that the CARS cast of characters must appear as real as possible, and he insisted on what he called "truth in materials," which meant that the animation could not stretch or squash the cars in a way that would be inconsistent with their solid metal frames.
Just as Porsche engineers complete miles and miles of testing on tracks and on public roads around the world to make sure Porsche vehicles behave in predictable, safe and yet entertaining ways, Pixar animators performed extensive virtual "road testing" to get their car characters to behave in mechanically-believable yet entertainingly-personable ways.
For example, one of the aspects of the car that was studied by the studio's artists was precisely how much of the suspension is revealed as the car's front wheels turn.
On the Road
In addition to supporting the creative process, Porsche also provided an actual 911 that was custom-made into a life-size version of Sally Carrera, which is now touring with her co-stars, Lightning McQueen, Mater and Mack, across the country with stops in over 40 cities, and highlighted by an appearance at the film's world premiere in Charlotte, NC at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Porsche also partnered with Disney-Pixar to help tell the story of CARS to different audiences and media outlets by co-hosting a "virtual car launch" press event at Pixar's studios in Northern California - complete with a screening and a special behind-the-scenes look into the making of the film - attended by members of the leading automotive industry media. This program has helped generate coverage in automotive publications like Road and Track, which do not normally cover a film release, in-turn promoting the film to car enthusiasts everywhere.
Porsche is also hosting a special screening of the film for its employees and families so they can experience the film together, and will be introducing programs for its dealerships across the country, as well as implementing a number of other marketing and public relations programs. Additionally, Porsche plans to develop programs surrounding the DVD release of CARS later this year.
In addition, earlier this year Porsche co-sponsored Pixar: 20 Years of Animation at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to pay homage to the institution that reinvented the art of animation.
About Porsche Cars North America, Inc.
Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (PCNA), based in Atlanta, GA, and its subsidiary, Porsche Cars Canada, Ltd., are the exclusive importers of Porsche sports cars and Cayenne(R) sport utility vehicles for the United States and Canada. A wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, PCNA employs approximately 300 people who provide Porsche vehicles, parts, service, marketing and training for its 213 U.S. and Canadian dealers. They, in turn, provide Porsche owners with best-in-class service.
About Disney-Pixar's CARS
CARS tells the story of Lightning McQueen, a hotshot rookie racecar driven to succeed, who 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. On 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 who help him realize that there are more important things than trophies, fame and sponsorship. The all-star vocal cast includes free-wheeling performances by Paul Newman, Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable Guy, along with Tony Shalhoub, Michael Keaton, George Carlin, Katherine Helmond, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger, Paul Dooley, Michael Wallis, Darrell Waltrip, racing legend Richard Petty, Jenifer Lewis and Jeremy Piven. Fueled with plenty of humor, action, heartfelt drama, and amazing new technical feats, CARS races into theaters on June 9th.