CARS ON THE ROAD Interview With The Show's Directors And Franchise Producer Marc Sondheimer (Exclusive)

Cars on the Road directors Steve Purcell, Brian Fee, and Bobby Podesta are joined by franchise producer Marc Sondheimer for this conversation about the unique stories they tell in the Disney+ series...

Interviews Opinion

In celebration of Disney+ Day, Disney and Pixar's original series Cars on the Road will debut exclusively on the streaming service tomorrow, September 8.

The series follows Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) as they head east from Radiator Springs on a cross-country road trip to meet up with Mater's sister. The series delivers lots of fun adventures for the beloved duo, putting them in unexpected surroundings and paying homage to quite a few classic movies along the way. 

We recently spoke to the show's directors Steve Purcell, Brian Fee, and Bobby Podesta, along with Cars franchise Marc Sondheimer, about their work on the spinoff. 

During our conversation, they talk about taking inspiration from movies like Mad Max and The Shining and introducing the Monster Truck Ivy. We also ask about possible future cameos from real-life F1 drivers (c'mon, it's about time Lightning McQueen meets "Super Max"), and what it was like to work with Owen and Larry again.

You can check out the full interview with the Cars on the Road creative team below:

This series allows you guys to tell some really unique stories inspired by movies like Mad Max and The Shining - how much fun was it, creatively, getting to take this franchise down some new routes?

Purcell: Oh, it was a bore! No, no, it was wonderful. It was great fun and one of the most fun things I’ve ever worked on. Getting to collaborate with these guys and our entire crew…they’re all excited to give us everything we wanted with what we were trying to achieve in the show. That was very gratifying. 

Sondheimer: It wasn’t just us that had a blast. It was also really gratifying to watch some of the crew members that particularly resonated with the motel episodes or the song and dance. They wanted to be part of that and bring their own creativity to each moment and each frame. 

Ivy is a great new addition to the franchise, but what was it about that loveable monster truck that you all felt made her a worthy addition to the Cars world? 

Fee: I’ll start with that. You know, I think one of the most appealing things with Ivy from a storytelling standpoint is how she’s misunderstood. Even the audience misunderstands who she is. I personally loved the idea that the monster in the woods is just a person. I love that twist and I love what Quinta Brunson brought to it. She just has this very, very relaxed but really funny entry into the character. It’s never huge or over the top. It’s just got this wonderful little line that she brings in that made the character feel real. That’s part of the joy I get out of it by seeing where that character can go and how she can keep surprising the audience. 

Bobby, you also get to explore a really fun sibling rivalry in the series, so was that something you were drawing on your own experiences from? 

Podesta: I thought it was great. I have seven younger brothers and sisters that are all duct-taped together in various ways as is any modern family, but one thing that I experienced - and I think a lot of our audience will have experienced - is that when you’re a grown adult who goes back home, sometimes, for better or worse, you revert back to your teenage years in how you interact, see each other, and what you do. I think, for me, the thing that’s always exciting about storytelling in the Cars world is how to take some aspect of a relationship or something that’s deeply human and tell that through the characters. To take that relationship and tell that through Mater and his sister was a wonderful opportunity.

Lightning and Mater make for a great duo here, but when it came to choosing who should go on this road trip, Marc, was it always those two characters for you?

Sondheimer: [Laughs] Well, you know, the core of this franchise is Mater and Lightning McQueen, so it was a natural fit. I can also kick that over to Steve who was our writer. 

Purcell: There were different ideas we tried that we were thinking about for a series, but this one just landed. Maybe part of it was we were all out of the office, working at home, and yearning to get out on the road, but as far as pairing up the characters, it’s true that McQueen and Mater are the heart of the franchise. They really haven’t spent a lot of continuous time together, so it was fun to let them be locked together for all nine episodes to see how their personalities play out in all these different locations and all the stresses we put on them. It was a lot of fun!

I’m a big F1 fan and I know you guys have had drivers like Hamilton, Schumacher, and Vettel do some voiceover work on the franchise before, but are there any other drivers from there or anywhere else in the racing world you’d love to create a character for?

Podesta: I mean, I think the chance to bring in characters from the real world is always something we try to keep in mind. It’s a lot of fun and we’ve got a history of it. Our hope is that we get to keep expanding on this Cars world and franchise, there will be more opportunities like that. So, hopefully, you’ll be satisfied somewhere down the road. 

Sondheimer: [Laughs] We like to work with truth in materials and character, so if we can bring truth in characters and real people, there’s a lot of win there. 

Steve, Brian, and Bobby, what’s it like having Owen and Larry in the recording booth and how much fun are those days when you’re in the recording booth with them?

Fee: Well, we laugh a lot [Laughs] especially with a comedic actor like Larry. The whole thing is just a hoot from start to finish. We come in there with a certain desire where we’ve written the thing and make various cuts, and we want to walk out with something we know is going to work but still want to leave a lot of room for the actor to play and improvise. We do that with everybody and it’s always fun to see where that goes. We’ll go back and rewrite little bits and say, ‘We’ve got to put in that funny little thing and find a way for it to be in there!’

Purcell: And Larry, we put him through the wringer sometimes. We have him do things that are more emotional or dip into different parts of his personality. He’s a real actor and he gets there and gives us a lot to work with. With Owen, it’s really fun because he’s a writer and he’s scrutinising the material as he works with it. He might have a different thought or question about how you approached it. On the other hand, if he gives you a compliment, it means so much because of his experience and him being a writer. 

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