Cars Toons co-director, Rob Gibbs, spoke exclusively to Upcoming Pixar about his experiences on the series.
If you’re a fan of the shorts, you’re probably really excited for this Friday’s premiere of Monster Truck Mater. But before you catch the latest installment in the series, check out the inspiration behind the project, in-jokes to look out for and even some upcoming scenarios that Mater will end up in.
Upcoming Pixar: How did Cars Toons come about; what inspired the shorts?
Rob Gibbs: They started out as a series of short ideas, to "keep the characters alive", that would air on TV to fill the gap between Cars and Cars 2. They were to run about 30 seconds each. But the more interesting ideas were the ones that involved bigger stories and more characters.
John Lasseter felt that there was no reason to do these shorts unless they expanded the World of Cars and explored new characters and new environments. One of our animators, Bobby Podesta, had the idea of Mater telling Tall Tales about his supposed past. Thus the beginning of Cars Toons.
UP: Which of the ‘Tall Tales’ was your favorite to work on; why?
RG: I have many favorites for different reasons. [Unidentified Flying Mater] is a short in which Mater meets his alien counter part, a buck toothed UFO, and it’s a story of friendship. I found the idea very charming. It wasn’t until a couple of our story folks had the idea of doing a reverse alien abduction and then it became a story of Mater rescuing his new best friend, and it all unfolded. The score, done by Mark Mothersbaugh, is really sweet.
In contrast, Monster Truck Mater is an adrenaline rush backed by rock music. It was fun to explore different types of Monster Trucks that Mater would "wrestle" and find different ways for him to defeat them. Another short that will air later this year, Heavy Metal Mater, is awesome.
— ‘Monster Truck Mater’ plays later this month. —
UP: What can we expect from the latest installment?
RG: Mater starts out as an amateur wrestler on Tuesday night and fights his way up, becoming The World Champion. Each of his matches escalate to the biggest opponent he’s ever had to face with plenty of gags in between.
UP: Are there any in-jokes that we should be looking out for?
RG: In Monster Truck Mater, there aren’t a lot of "in" jokes, but many of the graphics are very clever. All the "ice cream" graphics on the side of the Ice Screamer are really fun. The name of the hospital that Dr. Feel Bad goes flying into is St. Vintage (as in vintage car). It’s the same hospital room that we saw in Rescue Squad Mater. There are fan belts hanging on the wall with the BnL logo [from WALL•E] on them. The biggest "in jokes" were how closely we tried to emulate the enthusiasm of the world of Monster Trucks and Pro Wrestling.
UP: What were the highlights of this production?
RG: We did our research. We went to a Monster Truck Rally and a night of Pro Wrestling. It was amazing to see how enthusiastic the fans are at both events.
The artists and technical directors got up close to the monster trucks and studied the whole under structure and the wear on the tires. They were very detail oriented. Working with our [production designer], Tony Christov, and watching the designs of the characters unfold was really fun. Every Friday night I would watch a little wrestling on TV, not really a highlight, but very informative.
The highlight of all the productions has been to watch the stories unfold in editorial (Torbin Bullock, editor) and seeing the art go from drawings to 3D models (supervised by David Munier) and then into final lighting (lead by Erik Smitt) I’m blown away at how beautiful they all turned out. Being able to work next to John Lasseter on all the shorts was a huge highlight.
UP: Can you share some of the upcoming scenarios that Mater (and Lightning) will wind up in?
RG: Mater will rise to the top of the Rock and Roll scene, become the first Tow Truck on the moon and solve a crime as a Private Eye in an homage to film noir.
UP: Are you like any of the characters in Cars?
RG: Well, when it comes to naivety, I suppose I relate to Mater. He’s not stupid, just a little naive. As far as the Toons go, I can relate to Lightning McQueen. He often becomes an unwilling participant in a crazy scenario.
UP: Is there a connection between the shorts and the upcoming sequel?
RG: When it comes to putting our characters in new environments and situations, the Cars Toons have helped pave the way. There is no direct connection between the two. However, Mater may tell a story or two. The idea for Cars 2 was always to introduce a new idea and new characters but I think exploring what Mater is capable of has had some influence on the sequel.
UP: In one sentence, why should audiences get revved up for Cars 2?
RG: It’s action packed and we get to see our characters outside of Radiator Springs.
UP: What would Mater say if he came across Upcoming Pixar?
RG: Dad Gum!
Thanks goes out to Rob Gibbs for such a thorough and informative interview. Monster Truck Mater airs July 30th, 2010 at 9:30 PM E/P on Disney Channel.