In honor of the latest Pixar movie’s release, here’s a look at the story behind “Toyota Story”, which started out as a single image for the MAD website during the Toyota “unexplained acceleration” lawsuit and investigation, and ended up being used as part of a parody in MAD #504 back in 2010.
The initial job was described to me as a fake poster for a “Toy Story” spin-off film, done in a typical Pixar look, with the gag being the toys behind the wheel of a runaway Toyota and several of them being run over and squashed. Naturally the effectiveness of the parody would rely on the artwork looking as genuinely Pixar-like as possible, so I know I had a lot of tight painting ahead of me.
Here is my initial sketch:
Based on the copy saying “…From the Makers of Cars” I went with an anthropomorphic car like from that film, which I thought made sense as it was out of control with a seeming “mind of it’s own” like the actual Toyota’s seem to become when they accelerate for no apparent reason. Since MAD was not specific about the type of Toyota I did some research on my end and found the accident that led to all this fervor happened with a Lexus, but as this was “Toyota Story” it didn’t make sense to draw anything but an actual Toyota vehicle. More research told me that lots of Toyotas as well as Lexus models were also being recalled, so I went with a Corolla thinking it was probably the most recognizable model. I really wanted to show Woody flying out of his seat… but there are no convertible Corollas (at least none being recalled), so I drew the roof flying off as if from the crazy speed. The rest was just chaotic violence and impending violence to poor Bo Peep. Off this went to MAD.
I got quite a bit of feedback and a fair amount of changes on the initial sketch. First, the idea of a living car like “Cars” was not what they had in mind… they wanted the car to be just a car. Beyond that, the consensus was that the focus was being taken away from the car itself and the Toy Story characters were too prominent and the scene too visually busy. Bo Peep, for example, needed to be less front and intrusive. The others also needed to be down sized and downplayed to make the car be the center of attention. Also they didn’t like the idea of the roof flying off the car… I’d need to make it a convertible if I wanted Woody flying off the seat like that. There were a few other minor comments as well. This necessitated another sketch:
I switched to a Camry convertible, which I researched to find was one of the models being recalled, and did a more straightforward drawing of it. I scaled back on the Toy characters and enlarged the car a bit. Color would do the rest of that work for me. This sketch quickly was approved and I moved on to the final art.
Trying to make the characters look like the CGI Pixar characters was going to be a real challenge. I have no idea how they do all that texturing and rendering, so I was going to have to fake it. I used some simple PhotoShop texture filters like “sandstone” and “canvas” to create some textures. Others I just had to paint up the best I could.
Here’s some closeups of a few areas:
The car was especially time consuming. I could have doubled the time I spent on it and still been short of a really realistic effect, but time was short and what I had done was working well enough. When it comes to digital painting, I usually have to cut myself off at some point, because you can always keep zooming in until you are painting the grains of sand on the beach…
Shortly after doing that the MAD guys came to me with a script by Desmond Devlin for a three page parody using this as a splash, but with some revisions. They wanted me to beat up the car more and go back to an anthropomorphic version… but not quite as cartoon-ish as the “Cars” characters.
And we added two pages of story:
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