Disney Pixar Pinoy animator says new characters, fresh twists fuel ‘Cars 3’

July 26, 2017 - 7:08 PM
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Nelson 'Rey' Bohol and Lightning McQueen in 'Cars 3.'

For the last 17 years, Filipino animator Nelson “Rey” Bohol has been living his dream at Disney Pixar, a company he considers a playground.

Known for adding a Pinoy touch to many of the animated projects he is involved in, Bohol’s work includes the aquarium in “Finding Nemo” with bahay kubo and Mayon Volcano-inspired accessories. He also created the Palawan-like feel of Nomanisanisland, the tropical hideout of the villainous Syndrome in “The Incredibles.”

Officially a set designer artist for Disney Pixar, a job which he said is “not much different from that of an art director of live action films,” Bohol has also been involved in the studio’s popular “Cars” film franchise since the first film was released in 2006.

Bohol, who hails from Samar, is particularly instrumental in the design of Radiator Springs, the fictional town based on historic Route 66 places in Kansas and Arizona.

For the franchise’s latest installment, “Cars 3,” Bohol said the key to keeping the series fresh lies in the creation of new adventures for the film’s hero, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), now a legendary, seven-time Piston Cup racing legend.

A new rival named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) takes down Lightning McQueen in one race, forcing him to recover at Radiator Springs. There he encounters Sterling (Nathan Fillon), the owner of the Rust-eze Racing Center who assigns him a Hispanic trainer named Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) and a mechanic simply known as Smokey, who also worked with Lightning’s late mentor, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) in the past.

More than the new storyline and addition of new characters, Bohol said that what made his “Cars 3” experience more different than the previous two films is the level of collaboration he enjoyed with the film’s modelers.

“The process was much faster this time in the sense that the modelers were already building even while I’m still designing it, which was not the case in the first two ‘Cars’ films. This system allowed us to detect and address challenges that have arisen. At the same time, it also saved us time and provided opportunities to share and implement ideas,” he pointed out.

What Bohol was not able to do this time was add his own Pinoy touches.

“There was no opportunity for it. I would have incorporated something if it contributes to the story. But I still have plans to use it in the future.”

Asked what it’s like to work in a company like Disney Pixar, Bohol said in a 2009 interview with this writer that “the environment there is like a playground.”

“I’ve never been with a company where I’m so excited to go to work every single day including and especially Mondays. I come in early and stay late. I just want to stay there all the time,” he said at the time.

Fast forward to 2017 and Bohol said that except for the fact that the company has more employees now, the culture of fun and creativity has remained the same.

“It’s definitely still a fun place to work. I can’t really think of a better place to spend most of my career with. Disney Pixar is the best. I would live here if I could,” he quipped.

“Cars 3” opens in Philippine cinemas this Wednesday, July 26.