Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) take Pixars' latest animated short-form series, Cars on the Road (currently streaming on Disney+). The stops include homages to Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion dinosaurs, the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, and old sci-fi films.
Purcell told IndieWire that we wanted to take them on a road trip [to the wedding of Maters' sister] and make each stop its own mini-adventure. That gave us an abundance of opportunities to create all these different, interesting spots, each with its own distinct sensibility and style of music.
Producer Marc Sondheimer noted that despite its short-form nature, the series still contains 65 minutes of programming. It's all tied together in episodic form. "We had a different form factor to tell these stories in a different realm of creative development," said the publication.
Purcell (who directing with Pixar veterans Brian Fee and Bobby Podesta) based his many pit stops on his childhood roadside Americana experiences. Some became natural, he said. A haunted hotel with urban legends and ghosts, or movies I had seen. It was the joy of taking know-it-all Lightning to the hospital and humbling him.
McQueen and Mater explore a dinosaur national monument in Utah. Turns out that McQueens is a Dino nerd. That gave Pixar the chance to experiment with a fantasy sequence in which the two friends play a T-Rex car that moves in the same way as Harryhausen in the old movies. So I told the animators that his little wheels would be moving in a cycle, and his tail would be swinging around.
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The animator who was able to use his expertise in the stop-motion technique on Celebrity Death Match was able to draw on his experience with the technique. "There is no motion blur on Lightning and Mater until they are picked up by the dinosaur," said he.
In another episode, the couple spend the night in a haunted hotel, a mash-up of The Overlook and Disneylands Haunted Mansion: An elevator gushes antifreeze instead of blood, and creepy twins linger in the hallway. Lightning struggles in the hallway and that became a joke when one of our animators pointed out that the hallways were too narrow for him to turn around, according to Purcell.
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Fee was invited to direct a film in which McQueen is recognized by a film crew and hired to portray a tiny monster from Planet B. However, the superstar racer is a terrible actor, and Mater takes his place and slides right into the role. I think the fun was watching McQueen be bad at something and Mater succeed without even trying.
Maters' thunder is stolen by a new sidekick they meet along the way, Ivy the massive truck (Quinta Brunson). We wanted the sensation of walking into the middle of a shoot and the excitement of something being suddenly swapped out.