Published On: Thu, May 19th, 2011

Jay Ward interview: The ‘Cars’ Franchise Guardian, ‘working on ‘Monsters Inc’

Jay Ward interview by Mike Gencarelli

Jay Ward has been with the company Pixar since 1998, when he started in as an art department production assistant on “Monsters, Inc”.  After that project, Jay worked on “Cars” and since then has become the go to guy for the world of “Cars”.  With the upcoming release of “Cars 2″, Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Jay about his role in Pixar as the “Cars” Franchise Guardian and got to chat about working on the film.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your role of “Cars” Franchise Guardian and how you got the job?
Jay Ward: I started at Pixar back in 1998 on “Monsters, Inc”. By 2001, I moved onto the film “Cars”. John (Lasseter) realized pretty quick I was a real car guy, actually into cars. I sort of became an unofficial consultant for him on the film for car related stuff. When “Cars” was over, the world of “Cars” kind of kept growing and growing and I went on to work on the film “Ratatouille”. John ended up telling me after that he wanted me back on the “Cars” world, since he said I was his eyes and ears on all “Cars” related things like video games, theme parks, publishing and consumer products. I became his full time “Cars” guy, so I wrote my own job description and that is how the “Cars” Franchise Guardian came to be.

MG: What is your involvement for “Cars” Masters Weekend in Walt Disney World?
JW: I am going to be speaking this weekend for the Pixar 25th anniversary. We are talking about “Cars 2″ and about some of the vehicles we used for the movie. I am also doing a panel with Jonas Rivera, who I worked with on the first cars and Michael Giacchino, who did the score for “Cars 2″.

MG: Since you are a car expert, do you even consider this work or it is all play?
JW: It is work because you have to be so careful with all the details and getting all those things right on the vehicles. I thoroughly love my job but there is responsibly to it as well. John will come to me sometimes and say that he doesn’t have time to work on something and give it to me. Sometimes I have to write a bio or back story for some of the characters and you have to put a lot of thought and work into it. It is work but it is great work and I really love it.

MG: Did you enjoy playing many different roles on the production of “Cars”? Which did you enjoy the most?
JW: Absolutely. On the first film I was the character team manager, so I actually managed the process of them building the first characters for “Cars”. It was really fun and excited. On top of that, I was also the cars consultant and I also got to go background voices.

MG: Tell us about your role in “Cars 2″?
JW: In this film, I got to do a lot of research. I got to go on research trips to races and also anything automotive or automotive related I worked on. I had to help out finding the real cars for them to photograph and do reference on as well. On top of all that, I also do a car show at Pixar. We have an employee car show called “The Motorama” which I run and have run for the last 11 years. It has been really fun for me.

MG: How do you compare working on “Cars 2″ from its predecessor?
JW: It is funny because when we worked on the first “Cars”, it was a long time, like five years. At that time, we had to go to these manufacturers and explain to them we are doing this movie and we want to use their cars. They were very skeptical at first. They had no idea what we were doing or what this was. It was a different thing. Now with “Cars 2″, people know the world of “Cars” and love it.  It is funny I remember going to manufacturers like Chrysler, Ford and GM and they weren’t sure at first about it. Now this time around, they are like “Hey we love it! What can we do to a part of it?” It is funny how things change.

MG: What is the most difficult task working on the “Cars” franchise”?
JW: The hardest part is protecting what it is. Everyone has these great ideas and they want to do all these things but sometimes they are not real to the world of “cars”. It is a good idea but the question is, “Is something that Mater or McQueen will do?” We have to be careful about something like that. They are cars but they are characters too. You can’t do something that that character will not do. Sometime we have to say no, if it is not something the characters would do.

MG: Since you start worked as art department production assistant on “Monsters, Inc.”, any plans to work in that department again?
JW: Yes I do. I really love working in the art department and working with artists. I do hope I get to do it again. I feel like that is almost like my home department. Like I said Jonas Rivera, who I worked with on “Monsters, Inc.”, he started out in art and was my manager on that project. The art department will always be my home.


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