Canadian animator John Hoffman is racing with the big boys in Hollywood as his first Pixar film, Cars 3, hits theaters this Friday. John worked as the story artist in this third installment of the Oscar-nominated animated franchise Cars.
We chatted with the animator about his role and the work that went into making the film.
What does your job as the story artist entail?
Most of the time we work off script pages from the screenwriter, which are then developed by the head of story, the writer and director. Story artist does the first visual path of the film. Getting it up on reels and sort of seeing how these moments play — what’s working or not working. We do that eight or nine times and screen it and see how it goes. We get a bunch of notes and tear the whole thing apart and then we’ll rebuild it and then screen it and get notes and then rebuild it.
This being the third installment of Cars, was it was easier this time around?
You would hope that it would be easier, but it’s never easy.
What was the biggest challenge for you?
I think that when you’re on a third film in a universe, we strive to tell these big stories with huge character arcs and life-changing moments and it’s really hard to find what this big change is that the character can go through. What can we have them deal with this time that’s entertaining and emotional.
What kind of research did you or the team do for this film?
We did quite a bit of research. There’s a race track up in Sonoma and we saw a Nascar race there. We got to go there and see all the different stages of prepping for it and we were right by the pit so we got to see the change of tires, refueling the cars etc. We had some experts come in and talk to us. Jeff Gordon came in and talked to the team and Ray Evernham, who was Jeff Gordon’s crew chief, also talked to us.
What’s your favorite scene in the film?
I like the end because audiences seem to be reacting very positively to it. Also, the Crazy 8 demolition scenes.
What advice would you give people studying animation?
I think the business of getting into the business requires a lot of grit. It’s a lot of hard work and unwillingness to give up. That would be my advice. If there’s something you want to do, just keep working super hard at it and you will make it happen.
That’s good advice. Thanks for chatting with us!