March 27, 2006 Looks kinda cute for a Porsche doesn’t it. The characters of hotshot rookie racecar Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), Sally Carrera, a snazzy 2002 Porsche 911 (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) and Mater, a rusty but trusty tow truck (voiced by Larry The Cable Guy) from Disney•Pixar’s upcoming release, “CARS” exist not only on the movie screen, but in sheetmetal as well. Our old mate West Coast movie car creator (“if it doesn’t work it’s just not finished yet”) Eddie Paul, with help from Porsche and Pixar Animation Studios’ artists and technicians, created life-sized versions of three of the film’s lead characters. Sally Carrera, a converted Porsche 911, was the first of the film’s stars to roll off the production line. Paul, who was introduced to Porsche by entertainer Jay Leno, has been building cars for Hollywood for more than three decades.
In the foreword to Paul’s upcoming book, Studio Services president Howard D Buck tells the story of the introduction. Studio Services represents Porsche for product placement in the motion picture and television industries. “In 2002, we were approached by Pixar about obtaining the rights to use a 911 Porsche sports car in an animated feature they were developing. “
“From that initial request, some great friendships and a wonderful working relationship was cultivated between the three companies, and led to Porsche’s desire to be involved not only in the film but also in the promotion and marketing of CARS as well.
“Early in the planning stages, we decided that we couldn’t accomplish much in the way of promotions without an actual car to use at the various marketing events. The quandary lay in finding someone who could build an exact full-scale duplicate of our character, “Sally Carrera”, and her costars, “Lightning McQueen” and “Mater”. We contemplated starting with a regular production 911 Porsche sports car, and having the prop guys develop the mouth and eyes. But who could do the extensive modifications needed to meet the exacting demands of the Pixar animators and model builders, while still maintaining the drivability of the vehicle? For that matter, who could cut our 911 in half without butchering the body, frame and vehicle controls? We thought through all of the car companies we had worked with here in Hollywood over 30 years of serving the industry and literally came up blank.
“That led me to the ultimate car guy of all car guys, Jay Leno. I approached him in his garage one evening with pictures of the two cars we wanted to build. Without hesitation, he said, “You need to talk to Eddie Paul.” When I asked Jay who Eddie Paul was, he informed me that Eddie was the only person who could possible build these vehicles. Next thing I knew, Jay handed me his cordless phone with Eddie on the line. We faxed over the pictures and without hesitation (I liked that), Eddie said, “No problem, we can build the cars for you.” He quoted a ballpark price that was close to our budget and the next day I was touring his facilities in El Segundo California.
“On the way to his shop I thought “Sure, Eddie has built custom cars and bikes along with a plethora of other devices.” But could he possibly take a 3D computer animated creation, utilizing computer generated digital dimensions of the characters, and duplicate it as a fully functioning automobile? Could this actually be accomplished? The daunting project required extensively modifying a Porsche 911 Coupe, as well as building bodies from plastic for the other two characters, all while using built-from-scratch frames and drive trains.… Impossible!!!
“The even bigger question racing through my mind was what a Hollywood film industry car maker was doing in El Segundo anyway!
“It didn’t take more than ten minutes of listening to Eddie detail and display some of his past accomplishments before I knew that this was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the right guy for the project.
“Next came the difficult part – convincing Pixar that it could be done and that Eddie Paul was the man to do it! After a few conference calls, Pixar sent their representative, Jay Ward, down to see the facilities and to meet Eddie. On the ride back to the airport, Jay whole-heartedly agreed that if anyone could do this job correctly, it was Eddie.
“With Jay’s urging, the animators and the model builders of the film characters decided to meet with Eddie. A more exacting or demanding group of people did not exist because Pixar embraces the same philosophy when it comes to their film characters as Porsche does with their cars – never accept less than perfection. We all knew that Eddie could build the cars but could he possibly convince this group of that fact?
“Like the rest of us, after a few minutes with Eddie and a quick tour of his shop, they too were confident of Eddie’s skills and abilities to perfectly recreate their characters as full-scale operational motor vehicles.
“The first picture Eddie sent me was of our beautiful 911 Porsche Coupe cut in half literally down the middle! It was at that time that I turned to prayer. That was the only car we had for this project. How was Eddie going to cut seven and one half inches out of the center of the car, and still ensure that it was a fully functioning vehicle?
“Eddie did what many (including myself) thought was impossible. He built exact full-scale duplicates of “Sally Carrera”, “Lightning McQueen” and ”Mater”, the stars of the Disney/Pixar film CARS, which will be seen in special promotional events throughout the release period of the film and DVD. And he built them to the exacting requirements of Pixar, not only satisfying them with the finished product, but also satisfying the people of Porsche, who are every bit as tough.
“The cars will eventually be retired to the lobby of the Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville California, and will remain there as a testament to Eddie Paul’s ability to build the impossible.”
Porsche delivered the 1999 Porsche 911 to Paul’s EP Industries facility in El Segundo, Calif. “The car was in perfect condition,” Paul said. “It had only 20,000 miles on it and not a scratch or a dent.”
That was before he and his crew went to work. “We cut the car in half,” he said of splitting the car across the crown of its roof just behind the front seats. “We zigzagged down to the floor, taking the path of least destruction.”
To maintain the proportions of the virtual Sally Carrera created by Pixar Animation Studios, Paul and his crew had to shorten the 911’s wheelbase by seven inches, raise its roof by 3 inches and give it a more upright windshield, and a windshield with eyes at that.
While many animated cars have their eyes in their headlamps, Pixar Animation Studios’ John Lasseter, director of the upcoming “CARS,” along with his team of Pixar artists, decided that to turn cars into movie actors with expressive faces, they needed to have their eyes in the windshield, with mouths in their bumpers.
Because virtual Sally Carrera is a 2002 model Porsche, Paul and his crew updated sheetmetal Sally with new front fenders, bumpers, headlights, tail lights and other 2002 model year parts. Keeping the car’s proportions meant keeping the door intact, but moving the rear jam back 3 inches. The rocker panels were extended an inch closer to the ground and all windows were custom made from Plexiglas. Eyelids were built into the windshield and Paul fabricated curved eyeballs and a system that uses magnets so the eyeballs turn. Side windows were covered with what Paul describes as the first application of “candy apple black” tinting. The windshield also is wrapped with a one-way, see-thru plastic like that used in wrapping buses in advertising. Sally’s front bumper includes a mouth with teeth.
As a child, Eddie Paul laid the groundwork for his future career by cutting up bicycles. He built his own “chopper” motorcycle when he was 16, became interested in hang-gliding, and survived a 360-foot fall from a glider. That led him into doing stunts for Hollywood productions and to putting his fabricating skills to use for the movie and television industries.
He built the hot rod that John Travolta drove in “Grease,” a movie for which he built nearly 50 cars. He also built the vehicles for “The Fast and the Furious” and many other movies and television shows. Perhaps his most famous work was creating a mechanical Great White Shark so Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, could swim with real sharks in their natural environment.
“As unusual as that project may have been, I never thought I’d get to cut a Porsche in half,” said Paul. “It seemed like there were a thousand wires, lines, hoses, linkages and cables we had to cut through. But when we put it back together everything worked! And with seven inches out of the wheelbase,” he added, “sheetmetal Sally turns on a dime and will park anywhere.”
Paul is also in the process of building full-scale and running versions of Lightning McQueen and Mater. About Disney•Pixar’s “CARS”
“CARS” tells the story of Lightning McQueen, a hotshot rookie racecar driven to succeed, who discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. On route across the country to the big Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros, McQueen gets to know the town’s offbeat characters who help him realize that there are more important things than trophies, fame and sponsorship. The all-star vocal cast includes free-wheeling performances by Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Larry the Cable Guy, and Bonnie Hunt, along with Cheech Marin, George Carlin, racing legend Richard Petty, Michael Keaton, Tony Shalhoub and John Ratzenberger. Fueled with plenty of humor, action, heartfelt drama, and amazing new technical feats, CARS races into theaters on June 9th.