Mud, Sparks and Smoke: How the ‘Cars 3’ Effects Team Tackled The Dirty Problem of Mud (Podcast Episode #55)

Listen to our Cars 3 interview (as part of the Pixar Post Animation Podcast) with Bobby Podesta, Jon Reisch, and Michael Fong as they made digital mud
Cars 3 Podcast

Get ready as we dive into the mud and chat about the Cars 3 Production Pipeline from the perspective of Bobby Podesta (Supervising Animator), Jon Reisch (Effects Supervisor), and Michael Fong (Supervising Technical Director).

In this combined post and podcast episode (#055 – episode player embedded at the bottom of the post) we continue our Cars 3 interview series. We explore the Pixar pipeline and the challenges the effects team faced while digitally crafting mud as well as some great production tips about embracing last-minute story changes (even if that means scrapping some completed work).

Cars 3 Behind the Scenes
Michael Fong, Andrea Warren, and Brian Fee at a production meeting

Bobby Podesta kicked off our 40-minute production session (which centered around the crazy-8 sequence in the film) and shared some of the team’s demolition derby research trip photos. Of course, all Pixar projects start with some form of research, and this one seemed particularly fun — crushed cars, mud, and roaring engines.

Speaking of mud, Jon Reisch gave us a peek into the 6-month development of mud in the film — is it a liquid, is it a solid? This was the challenge he and the effects team had to tackle to make the soon-to-be infamous derby scene ring true. The effects team is responsible for natural phenomena in the film (e.g., water, smoke, fire, dust) and has to provide a believable interaction with the environment which grounds the characters in the world — a world we (as viewers) can relate to.

Cars 3 Progression

So, how did Director, Brian Fee describe how to make mud? Fee joked with Reisch to make the mud look like “chunky oatmeal that’s in soup.” Well, between a multitude of comparisons to cake frosting and liquid chocolate, the team’s efforts finally paid off, and the mud (which is integral to the scene) really looks fantastic.

Cars 3 John Reisch
Jon Reisch image © Pixar

Wrapping up the main session (before our 1-on-1 interview with the trio) was Michael Fong. By now you may know the Pixar adage, “Story is King,” but Michael and the team’s way of supporting this are wonderful to see in practice. He noted that although late story changes may alter or delete some of their current work, they embrace the change and realize that everything at Pixar is in service of the story — to enhance the characters and improve the film. This level of professionalism and practicality really stood out, and we really appreciate even deeper the passion that the teams put into their films.

Podcast plug. If we can be so bold as to recommend listening to the entire session, I would also stick around for the 1-on-1 interview with the gang as well — you can really get geeky as we expand on how the team simulated the air around the cars (a Pixar-first) to enhance the look and realism of the shots. Additionally, it was great to hear some insights from Podesta about the scenes he animated with Chick Hicks in the new film — giving us lots to explore in the background of the film.

Listen to the episode using the embedded player below or subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the podcast by leaving a comment on Apple Podcasts, writing a comment below, or sending us an email — we’d love to hear from you.

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