Laughing Place: You used a lot of racing legends in this film. Can you talk about the role that you feel that they brought to the movie?
Brian Fee: Yes, it all starts with what the story means and with what we were inspired by when we were doing our early research trips, and kind of diving into the world. We were completely amazed with how stock car racing got started, and the characters that existed back then when it was getting started. And then we kind of dug deep on that. We started hearing stories about Wendell Scott, the first African-American, and one of the very few African-American racers, and then when you really think about when he was racing in the 60s, it was a very dangerous time for somebody like him, and a very heated social environment.
We’d hear the story about how he would win a race and they would not even throw the checkered flag, or if they did throw the checkered flag, he’d go to get his prize money and they would say, “There is no prize money.” It was just hard on him, he just loved racing and he never had the resources anybody else did, he never had the money, he never had the sponsors, and he just did it anyway, did it because he loved it. And he thought he belonged there, even though the world around him was not acting like he belonged there.
And Louise Smith, one of the first female racers, she was just tenacious, she just never stopped, and her own actual story of how she got to her first race is very similar to what we wrote into the movie. And these characters, the real-life people inspired us and it fits thematically, to the story we’re trying to tell, because by the time the McQueen meets up with them, McQueen is in a place where he’s an underdog. And he’s an underdog like they were underdogs, and at the same time we have Cruz Ramirez, who never chased her dream because she never saw anybody that looked like her, so she felt out of place, and she never chased her dream, whereas these two would have been just like her, but they did give in to that, and they did chase their dream.
So, we thought this was feeling like the right thing to do for the story.
LP: Cars 3 forged its own path. Did it take you a while to figure out how to take the world of Cars and bring it into a new direction?
BF: You know, that was never really a concern, I think. Just the fact, like I was just technically a different person than John, so, if John directed the first two, you know, like, my sensibility isn’t what interests me, even when it overlaps and John agrees, and John loves the story we’re telling with this film. He probably would have done things a little differently, if he was directing, so I think, just different fingerprints on it are gonna somehow push it into a slightly different direction whether it’s intentional or not.
What I was trying to do is keep it as close as possible to the world of Cars 1, so, not necessarily fantasy world, but the more realistic kind of serious tone of Cars 1, and what we love about these characters, I was trying to make sure I didn’t go so far as to separate it too much.
It was important to us, and all of us including John, that if we’re gonna have a third movie you need a story that creates a big enough scenario for McQueen that is worth having a third movie for. He’s at a point of his career where things have changed, that’s what’s interesting.
LP: On a lighter note, when we went to the screening, us Disney fan sites usually kind of group together in the theater, and then the more traditional media would kind of sit next to us. As we were watching the movie, when Mater starts doing the Humphrey Hop, we all did an audible gasp. And at the end, someone from the Philadelphia Inquirer said, “What caused your little gaggle to take a breath?” It’s the most shocking moment in cinema this year, probably since Han Solo died. So, can you talk about that? Where did that come from?
BF: Well, the scene came first, just the idea that we wanted McQueen to have taken that as lowest point, and had held, basically, a call home, because he needs a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket. He needs to kind of forget about how horrible these days have been, and he just wants a little comfort, he just wants to forget, for just a moment. It’s like calling home when you’re a kid in college, and everything is just going wrong or something.
And the Humphrey Hop is a childhood favorite of mine, I still hum that song, I hum that song at a fairly regular basis, so we re-wrote the lyrics, but really kept that jingle and let people kind of recognize it.
Cars 3 is now available on digital and will be release on Blu-Ray, November 7.