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Under The Hood of the CARS Comics: Getting to Radiator Springs

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With the Disney publicity machine gearing up for the release of CARS 3 in June I’ve seen a renewed interest in the CARS comics that I was lucky enough to write back in 2009/2010 following on from the original CARS movie. So I thought it might be fun to post a few short articles reliving my time hanging out with the denizens of Radiator Springs  and sharing a few of the behind the scenes insights, and some of the references, homages etc. that we sneaked into the scripts.

Getting to Radiator Springs.

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I’m often asked how I landed the gig to write the CARS comics, and my answer is that I simply begged to do it. It was at ComicCon 2008 in San Diego that comics publisher BOOM Studios announced that they would be producing a line of comics based on the Disney*Pixar movies. The announcement also included the news that the editor of the new line would be one Paul Morrissey, who had joined BOOM from manga publisher Tokyopop. It so happened that Paul had been my editor at Tokyopop on the GOD SHOP project.

As a total gear-head CARS was my favorite Disney*Pixar movie, I also think it is a straight forward fun movie with a great message even if you aren’t that interested in cars. So at San Diego I tracked down Paul and basically begged saying something along the lines of, “I don’t care what anyone else is pitching for, I want to write the CARS comic.” It turned out that most people had asked about writing The Incredibles, or Toy Story*, so the list I was competing with was shorter.

As we walked and talked I pitched Paul a story I had in mind that he seemed to like, so he asked me to come back the next day with four story ideas. I was back at the BOOM booth at 8:00am the next morning with five, the last one being a throw away idea of doing a ‘prequel’ to the movie that told Lightning McQueen’s back story that I knew that Disney would never let me do. I mean if anyone was going to do an ‘origin’ story for one of their lead characters it would be Disney. Right?

Paul reviewed the ideas and took them to Disney, who also approved them. The last day of the convention I got the news from Paul that I was to be the writer on the new CARS comic book series, oh and Disney wanted to kick things off with the origin story.

It was time to start writing – Ka-Chow!

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* I also  also asked to pitch for Toy Story and developed a four issue story arc that was approved and even announced and promoted, but that never saw the light of day – but that’s a whole other story for another blog entry.

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Character Sketches #1 – The Boy Who Watched

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When I was sorting out various boxes from our recent move I came across a collection of my old notebooks, and of course I had to take a look through them. The first few I pulled out dated back to my early writing days and contained several ‘character sketches.’ These weren’t sketches as in drawings, but rather short written observational pieces.

One of the earliest pieces of advice I’d been given about writing was to carry a notebook and at least once a day sit down somewhere; a park, mall, train station, coffee shop, or similar and just watch people. Then pick out a person and use them as a visual prompt for creating a quick 200 word piece. How would you describe them? Why were they there? What bought them to this point? Did they suggest or spark ideas for alternate stories?

While I’ve stayed in the habit of carrying a note book (although I wasn’t using it as much as I should) over the intervening years I’d stopped doing those short sketches.  Until now. I’ve committed to myself that for 2017 I’m going to get back into the habit of ‘sketching’ and will post the results on this blog.

So to start the process here’s a little something I wrote over lunch today:

The Boy Who Watched.

At first glance he appeared to be about fifteen years of age, or maybe even a few years younger. It was a misconception that he used to his advantage, for who would take such a young boy seriously? He kept to the edges of the room; watching everything, but noticed by none.

Standing about five feet tall, he had a rounded, almost cherubic, face and smooth features that had yet to display any signs of stubble or beard. The eyes were bright and shone with the promise of youth, yet the lids were heavy and he wore an aura that suggested a lifetime of experience well beyond his apparent years.

He wore a simple combination of a black buttoned down shirt and clean boot cut jeans without any adornment. On his feet he wore simple black sneakers that allowed him to circumnavigate the room without sound.

There were several others in that crowded room dressed in a similar manner. Men and women mostly in their early to mid-twenties. The careful observer could discern that these patrons would occasionally glance in the direction of the boy, who with an almost imperceptible nod or shake of the head would approve or reject some proposed action.

The quiet boy by the wall didn’t just watch the room, he controlled it – and everyone in it.