You’ll recall that I got to visit the Petersen Automotive Museum last month. While I was taking in the musuem experience, I got to meet with Jay Ward who is the Creative Director for the Cars franchise. His full-time job is to oversee the franchise in regards to theme parks (he worked on Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land for 5 years), video games, publishing, consumer products & yep, you guessed it, the Cars Mechanical Institute at The Petersen.
During an informational panel at the museum’s media event last month, Jay discussed how it was about 2 -1/2 years ago that the folks at The Petersen approached him regarding a Pixar exhibit. Jay thought it would be a great idea for kids to learn what is underneath Lightning McQueen & see how he works. As he described the experience to the crowd, I couldn’t help but think that it was only fitting that an automotive museum should have a Cars related experience! In my opinion, if you think about how a traditional car museum visit usually works, the parent (usually dad) goes off & the kids trails behind looking at old cars. It’s not so here at the Cars Mechanical Institute!
With the CARSPad, Mater will guide you around the museum. Luigi teaches you about suspension, another character shows you how fuel works & someone else teaches you about design. It’s a very hands-on experience. Fun fact: The voices on the CARSPad are the real voices of those Cars characters. It took more time & money, but Pixar wanted to do it right.
In this immersive exhibit, kids will get a better understanding of how a car works & they will be excited to build their own car. For adults, you can learn how gas & carburetors work at various stations.
Following the panel, I had the opportunity to have a sit-down conversation with Jay. While the interview was quick, I certainly learned a lot!
Real Mom of SFV: Did The Petersen give you & Pixar free rein on this experience or did they give you notes?
Jay: The Petersen came up with the concept & then we at Pixar gave them creative direction. The experience had to meet certain initiatives. The Cars characters need to teach people what they already know. For instance Luigi teaches you about how tires work since he is a Tire Salesman. Then Mater takes you around the museum since he is a friendly character that welcomes you into town.
Real Mom of SFV: So would you describe the Cars Mechanical Institute exhibit as multi-generational?
Jay: Yes, there are two levels of engagement. You can do a “seek and find” game that is very simple, where you just find an object in the museum & Mater says “good job, you found it!” Then there is the “build a car” feature on the CARSpad. It’s like asking what is the target age for a Pixar movie…well there is none really, it’s for everyone – it’s a great film that works for adults & kids! So that is what the team is striving for in this experience at The Petersen. Also the great thing about the CARSpad is that because it is software, we can just keep making it better & update the game and/or experience. The game will evolve in years to come.
Real Mom of SFV: What is the takeaway that you want people to leave The Petersen Museum with the CARSpad experience?
Jay: If there is one more child that walks away learning about how the car works, that would be cool & a success. The kids know who Lightning McQueen is & about Mater, but they don’t understand how it works. It also gives parents/adults the chance to learn too! This is a chance where the kids will say “I want to go, let me see the Cars characters!”
One last tidbit from Jay…he also confirmed that there is a Cars movie slated for 2017. Now whether the plot revolves around the Petersen Automotive Museum that is yet to be determined, lol! 😉
Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I attended a media event which helped facilitate this review. All images are my own unless otherwise noted. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.