Detroit auto show opens with preview of “Cars 3”

Disney's John Lasseter opened by explaining how the inspiration for the first "Cars" movie started with the 2001 Detroit auto show

The 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit opened Sunday with a cartoon, not a car.

DETROIT, Mich. (WYTV) – The 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit opened Sunday with a cartoon, not a car.

The first official news conference of the show was by Disney Pixar, previewing its upcoming “Cars 3” movie.

Disney Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter opened the news conference by explaining how the inspiration for the first “Cars” movie started with the 2001 Detroit auto show.

In the late 1990s, Lasseter was taking a break after directing Pixar’s successful “Toy Story 2”, and embarked on a cross country car trip with his family. On the journey he had a revelation — that life’s reward comes not from getting to where you are going, but in the journey itself.

He wanted to tell that story through the eyes of Lightning McQueen — a race car whose only goal in life was to get to the end of the race as quickly as possible.

“Cars” tells the story of how McQueen learned about enjoying the journey through his detour to the backwater town of Radiator Springs.

Once he decided to do “Cars”, Lasseter began researching car culture — starting with a journey to the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Hence, when “Cars 3” was planned, it was decided to take a preview of the movie back to Detroit to open the 2017 show.

“Cars 3” continues with McQueen as the main character, and adding two new characters.

In this movie, McQueen is the seasoned veteran who has to deal with how a new generation of race car is challenging him for leadership on the racetrack.

Jackson Storm is the new race car who challenges McQueen; Storm is sleeker and faster than McQueen. To stay competitive, McQueen enlists the aid of trainer car Cruz Ramirez, also a new character.

When the movie opens this summer, fans will see an updated look for McQueen as well as a whole new generation of race cars like Storm. Lasseter and his colleagues at Pixar were serious about their research into the character of Storm who represents a future vision of a NASCAR racer.

“We keep the car guy and car gal in mind” at all times when doing this movie, Lasseter said.

They consulted NASCAR veteran Ray Evernham for input and advice; Evernham, a former NASCAR championship-winning crew chief, and team owner, told the creative team they were already on the right track in envisioning how a NASCAR racer might look 20 years into the future.

Lasseter also consulted former Ford design chief J Mays for his ideas on car design. Mays was instrumental for his design suggestions on Jackson Storm.

During the news conference, the Pixar team showed clips previewing the movie and how the new car-characters of Jackson Storm and Cruz Ramirez will look. And for the finale, a fully motorized life-size Lightning McQueen rolled onto the stage.

You can see “Cars 3” in the theater in June.