One of the highlights of “CARS 2“ is that it takes place in exciting foreign countries. To make them as real as possible, several members of the “CARS 2“ production team went on a whirlwind tour to Europe in May 2009, visiting as many cities as possible, including a two-day visit to London. While there, they concentrated on putting together a color palette for each country, says Harley Jessup, the Production Designer, “We’re actually using the gray skies and stonework of London as a counterpoint to the brilliant colors of the cars and the red double-decker buses and phone booths. There are a lot of red and blue accents in London.”
The London visits included stops at Scotland Yard, the House of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and London Eye, but Jay Shuster, character art director, wanted to go beyond the typical touristy areas and spent quite a bit of his time on street corners. “There was a point at which I was standing on a curbside in London during the morning commute, recording every car that I saw, including trucks and buses — just trying to get the flavor of that environment.”
Shuster’s time on the street gave the team the opportunity to fill the locations with the “native species” as he calls them, of cars, buses, trains, ect., for that country. That lends an air of reality to the location. The artists also had fun car-ifying some of the monumental features in each of the cities the film explores. Says Jessup, “We used car models and motifs from the late 1800s and early 1900s and used their features and details to decorate the oldest monuments and icons in each city.”
As an example, in the London of “CARS 2” the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral has been changed to replicated a car’s differential gear casing. And Big Ben — aptly called Big Bentley has be scaled up about 250% so that it can play a pivotal role in the film. It also sports Bentley grilles and hood ornaments.
According to Lewis, there was another London locale that was on the must-have list. “We knew we were going to feature Buckingham Palace,” says the co-director. “We always thought, that would be a beautiful place to stage a straightaway in the race, and if you could have the race finish near the entrance to Buckingham Palace, it couldn’t get any more majestic than that.” And he was right; it truly is. The scenes with the Queen are so cute and a favorite scene of mine is just seconds long but so fun. It’s a shot of the Beefeater guards at the palace and Mater becomes tourist and tries to get them to break out of their roles.
So how’d the animators do in recreating England? It’s BRILLIANT! The queen is fabulous – so much character out of an animated car. The local is simply stunning and so much fun to explore while the racing is going on. The location is like another character in the movie. So much to see and so much added to the production.
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