Cars 3 Drew Inspiration From NASCAR Star Jeff Gordon

We interview Cars 3 director Brian Fee and screenwriter Mike Rich about the story's real life parallels and the Pixar Easter eggs they included.

Brian Fee is a known American storyboard artist, animator, and - now - a director for Pixar. HIs directorial debut was made with Disney/Pixar’s Cars 3 this year.  Screenwriter Mike Rich joined up with Brian Fee to work on the film. Given his expertise in working on sports-related films, the pairing was a match made in heaven. Cars 3 was released on Digital HD on October 24, 2017, and will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray on November 7, 2017.

Screen Rant got a chance to talk to director Brian Fee and screenwriter Mike Rich on press day, where we discussed what specific story inspired Cars 3, what Easter Eggs we can find on the Blu-Ray, and what their favorite additions are on the Cars 3 Blu-ray.

Guys, I love Cars 3. It’s an amazing film. It’s back to the basics and that’s what I love about this universe. Was there a specific story or a driver that was inspired by this passing of the torch story?

Brian Fee: We talked a lot with Jeff Gordon. We spent a lot of time talking about Jeff and his career and, right at the time, he had retired when we first started talking to him. But he was feeling those kids nipping at his heels so, when we pitched the movie, the first thing he said was, “Wow. It sounds like you’re telling my story.”

It’s a biopic. [laughs]

Mike Rich: He even said that he worried that he would never be as good at something as he was as a racer.


Mike Rich: That was sort of a parallel of Lightning and his own fears.

Brian Fee: Yeah. He was terrified. At the time, he was terrified of retirement and the reality of you can’t escape it.

Wow. That’s crazy. It’s such a parallel story. I would never have had any idea about that. One thing that I noticed about this film was the pit crew stuff and how much of that technology was implemented in Nascar. How did you translate that into this film because Lightning and Jackson has this whole training facility?

Brian Fee: Well, we did our research. We took our tours and we got to see them build their cars. We got to see the fact that these teams are building their own cars. Actually, they are even building their own air wrenches and they are using the latest technology and it does come down to fractions of a second and what can they do to bring an advantage to their car while staying within the rules. It is a high tech game. You’re right. It doesn’t look like it, but it is a high tech game. So we wanted to explore that side with Jackson and his generation. This isn’t the sport that it was. This isn’t your father’s version of the sport of what’s coming and you can see that with Nascar now. You can see that looking around you here. You have the old cars from the ‘50s and ‘60s and the jump into the ‘70s, the ‘80s, and the ‘90s and then where it’s going to the future. The generations were very inspirational to us.

Mike Rich: We went to Hendrick’s Motorsports and spent the day there and, like Brian said, they make their own wrenches there. They have a gym so that the people who do the pit crew actually works out so that they are strong enough to be hauling those tires out in 60 seconds.

One thing with the HD and Blu-ray release is that you can take this home, pause, and find every Pixar Easter egg. Can you let me know about some of the Easter eggs that are in the film already so I can know which scenes to look for?

Brian Fee: I think my favorite Easter egg is Cinderella’s chariot. There’s a moment when Lightning is talking to his new boss Mr. Sterling in Sterling’s office. Sterling has a bunch of shelves behind him in his office and he has his doodads and his trophies and things, but Cinderella’s chariot is back there, which is just fun to me because it’s technically a car. It’s just from a different movie.

Mike Rich: My favorite is the little rainbow sticker lightning bolt on the back of Fritter.

I have that pin. I got that at Pixar.

Mike Rich: Yeah. It’s around the back of her bus as she goes through the sign.

Brian Fee: There are two Coco references.

Really? Already? Look at that.

Brian Fee: There are things still that we know you won’t be able to see, but it’s still in the shot.

Mike Rich: There’s a Coco guitar between the cotter pin and the back of the cotter pin.

Now I have to pause each freeze frame. Scene by scene. What is your favorite feature on this Blu-ray because now it’s almost like you could watch a whole other thing?

Brian Fee: There’s some wonderful features on the Blu-ray. I think my favorite part is a piece called ‘Legends’ because it dives into the actual, real pioneers that inspired our characters. Louise Smith, one of the first female racers of Nascar, and Wendall Scott, the first African-American racer in the sport, these folks did not have anyone else to look up to. They were the underdogs.

Mike Rich: Inventing the sport as it went along.

Brian Fee: They were doing it anyways even though nothing was easy for them. So to be able to go a little deeper. We hinted at their characters in the film but, in order to have a feature like this, you had to go a little deeper and just let people who don’t know their story learn a little bit about them.

Mike Rich: What Wendall Scott went through as the only African-American racer in the ‘60s is enough to give people a story.

MORE: Cars 3 Almost Had A Different Ending

Cars 3 is available on Blu-ray November 7, 2017.

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