Aggie Vizzers ‘car-ify’ the globe in ‘Cars 2’ with upscaled scenes


A talented team of Texas A&M former students helped take “Cars 2” all the way from Radiator Springs to Japan, Italy, France and England for a visual adventure that Lightning McQueen and Mater will never forget. The highly anticipated sequel produced by Pixar and distributed by Walt Disney Studios will have audiences revving their engines for the explosive scale of the story and visuals. Faster cars, bigger sets, and an international espionage have been combined with masterful artwork to make “Cars 2” a summer must see.

Joining the cast and crew who add life and sparkle to Lighting McQueen and rust and character to Tow Mater, are 29 Aggie Vizzers, graduates of the Texas A&M Department of Visualization. These modern renaissance men and women learned their craft of combining computer science know how with artistic talent to create the world of “Cars 2.”

Vizzers who worked on “Cars 2” (in alphabetical order) include:

  • Eric Andraos - sets materials lead
  • David Batte - technical artist (motion graphic effects)
  • Gary Bruins - effects supervisor
  • Don Bui - shot lighting artist
  • Charu Clark - shot lighting artist
  • Sarah Fowler deLuna - character shading & paint artist
  • John Halstead - sets supervisor
  • Seth Freeman - character modeling & articulation artist; global technology engineer
  • Donald Fong - matte paint technical
  • Robert Graf - rendering & optimization artist
  • Chris Horne - lightspeed technical director
  • Jonathan Kiker - shot lighting artist
  • Mitch Kopelman - master lighting artists
  • Robert Moyer - character supervisor
  • Nicholas Naugle - shot lighting artist
  • P. Antonio Piedra - sets dressing artist
  • Jonathan Penney - rendering (stereoscopic 3-D)
  • Eric Peden - render pipeline group
  • Angelique Reisch - lead lighting artist
  • Jon Reisch - development & effects artist
  • Kim Ross - shot lighting artist
  • Christina Garcia Weiland - sets dressing artist
  • Vandana Reddy Sahrawat - shot lighting artist
  • Apurva Shah - supervising technical director
  • Sajan Skaria - character supervisor
  • Kevin Singleton - character modeling & articulation artist
  • Stephanie Strickland - rendering & optimization artist
  • Jesse Weglein - marketing
  • Clayborn Welch - marketing

These artists, as part of the greater Pixar team, worked to “car-ify” some of the world’s most famous landmarks in London, Paris and Tokyo. Apurva Shah, supervising technical director for “Cars 2” said, “In terms of scope, ‘Cars 2’ is the most complicated film that Pixar has ever made.”

Many of the Aggies who worked on the film were involved in lighting.

“Our approach to lighting is constantly evolving and changing,” said Sharon Calahan, director of photography. “We used more mast light setups, more lights and more reflective surfaces than had ever been done.”

The lighting of the scenes is perhaps the most crucial element next to set design that gives the right feeling to the new places the cars experience. Filmed in both 2- and 3-D, director John Lasseter said “When you see ‘Cars 2’ in 3-D, there is so much thought put into the elements: things are very reflective to make it very glitzy and glamour and sexy and cool. But it’s also thought out, because the lighting adds a tremendous amount of depth in 3-D. Wet streets, shiny cars, shiny buildings. It’s like, wow!”

Aggie Vizzers who worked on this and other Pixar films have taken their talent and abilities to an unprecedented level of attention to detail in “Cars 2.”

The Department of Visualization, or “Viz Lab” at Texas A&M University, based in the College of Architecture, draws on the ever developing technologies to produce modern visual arts and entertainment. Vizzers go on to work at Pixar to produce such unforgettable films as “Cars 2,” and they also go on to be the leading creative talent at Blue Sky, Industrial Light & Magic, LucasFilm Animation, Reel FX Creative Studios, Walt Disney Animation, Rhythm & Hues, and Sony Pictures Imageworks. They've also played integral roles in the creation of this summer’s highly-anticipated blockbusters including “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” and the recent “X-men: First Class,” “Super 8,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

Check out the "Cars 2" trailer at and you’ll be revving to go. The future of CGI animation can also be seen in samples of the work currently being produced at Texas A&M on the Viz Lab website, its Vimeo webpage, at iTunes U, and on its Facebook page.

posted June 22, 2011