Cars is Released

The Disney·Pixar movie Cars drove audiences into theaters on this day in 2006, and after the success of their previous films, the folks at Pixar were revving up to bring new technology to their latest flick. Pixar has never been content to rest on its laurels—each film has challenged them in new ways, whether it was the blades of grass and crowd scenes in a bug’s life, the caricatured-but-realistic humans in Toy Story 2, the hairy characters and simulated clothing of Monsters, Inc. or the vibrant underwater world of Finding Nemo—and Cars posed some of their greatest challenges yet. Perhaps the biggest was creating the metallic and painted surfaces of the car characters, and the reflections that those surfaces generate. An algorithmic rendering technique known as “ray tracing” was used for the first time at Pixar to give filmmakers the look and effect that they wanted. Because of ray tracing and all the reflections, the average time to render a single frame of film on Cars was 17 hours. Some frames took as much as a week. All the hard work paid off, however, and Cars raced to No. 1 at the box office.