It wasn’t the checkered flag that got all
the attention Friday night but the red carpet as Hollywood
met NASCAR at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the world premiere
of the new Disney/Pixar film, Cars.
More than 30,000 fans braved the wind and rain
as the speedway was turned into one of the largest outdoor
theaters for the world premiere.
Four giant custom movie screens, each measuring
115 feet wide and 50 feet tall, were used to screen the movie,
turning the entire Diamond Tower in Turn 2 into one of the
largest outdoor theaters ever. Each screen had three DLP Cinema
2K digital projectors dedicated to it. A state-of-the-art sound
system was also created and installed for the event.
The film stars Owen Wilson as the voice of
Lightning McQueen, a rookie stock car who becomes sidetracked en
route to the Piston Cup Championship in California, winding up
in the sleepy town of Radiator Springs.
Along the way, McQueen gets to know several of
the town’s characters, who help McQueen discover that life is
about the journey, not the finish line.
Photos by Rhonda Hogue and Pete McCole
Wilson was among those on hand for the premiere,
along with co-stars Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable
Guy, who stars as Mater, an old 1955 tow truck.
“John Lasseter told me ‘this is your character,
make it your own’ so I was able to stray from it if I wanted to,
change lines around, pretty much make it my own,” said Larry the
Cable Guy. “He told me to make it me, and I made it me.”
NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Darrell
Waltrip also had roles in the film, as well as former Formula 1
Champions Mario Andretti and Michael Schumacher and seven-time
NASCAR champion Richard Petty.
“The studio was amazing,” said Earnhardt, Jr.,
who plays a car named Junior, based on his no. 8 Budweiser
Chevrolet. “Actually working and doing the part was a lot of
fun. Even though it’s a small part, they really took it seriously
and they wanted me to do a good job. I wish I’d had a lot more
to do and it would have been fun if I had a bigger part.”
Lowe’s Motor Speedway President and General
Manager H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler also has a “drive-on” role in the
film as Tex, a 1975 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.
“I have loved automobiles and the world of
racing for a long time and Cars is a very personal story to me,”
said Wheeler. “This premiere event is the perfect way to debut
our film to racing and movie enthusiasts.”
The locations and characters were inspired by
the legendary Route 66 – a 2,347-mile highway that runs from
Chicago, Ill. to Santa Monica, Calif.
Cars director John Lasseter recruited historian Michael Wallis,
author of "Route 66: The Mother Road”, to guide the production
team on several road trips along Route 66.
“John Lasseter sought me out five years ago and said ‘I really
have a project that you will want to work with us on’”, said
Wallis. “So we talked about it and I immediately told John and
the team that they have to understand the road. I took them out on
the road and gave even more to them – I gave them all of my
road, so they understood all the nuances and that’s why it’s
reflected so well in the film.
“I knew I wanted to make a movie about cars. I love racing. I
love this whole world,” Lasseter said this week. "And I was
really inspired by what happened on Route 66 ... the story of
these old towns that were bypassed and their lifeblood was taken
from them by the modern interstate.”
The creators also visited several racetracks, including Lowe’s
Motor Speedway last October, to get the feel of a real NASCAR
“Every film they do, they try to outdo themselves,” said John
Ratzenberger, who has provided voice work for all five of
Pixar’s feature films and stars as Mack the Truck in the film.
“They’re smart enough to know who their audience is. They
actually go out and do the research. They actually drove down
Route 66, they met people, and a lot of the characters in the
movie are based on people they met on their journey, so they
really understand their audience.”
Disney is hoping for blockbuster success with the movie, the
first produced by Pixar since Disney's $7.4 billion purchase of
the company in January. The film opens nationally on June 9.
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