Recently I had the opportunity to draw a Pixar CARS character for the Pixar Times blog. The assignment was to create a CARS character that didn’t already exist. I thought about an ideal character, one that I would love to see animated, so I decided to design a character based off the famous car from Ghostbusters.
These are just a sample of some of the reference photos I used
The Ecto 1 is a modified version of a 1959 Cadillac Miller Meteor. There still seems to be some confusion as to whether or not the car was used as an ambulance or a hearse. The answer is both, however in the Ghostbusters movie, it was originally used as an ambulance before Ray’s modifications.
During my research, I was surprised at some of the details about the Ecto 1 I uncovered. For example, the gadgets on the roof are very inconsistent. Looking at stills from the movies and publicity photos from Columbia Pictures and Sony, the elements on the roof change. The car is also deceptively long. The car is typically shown from either a front or a 3/4 view, so it’s difficult to see in most shots how long the car is.
Before I began my character studies, I actually did a few drawings of the car itself, just to get an idea of what it looks like and to help me make some what of a “drawing roadmap” in my mind. While it helps to study lots of visual reference, I typically don’t start to really understand how something is built until I draw it.
Drawing an item, instead of just taking a picture, helps me remember the shape of things and what feels right
Once I had a pretty good idea of what went where, I began doing character studies. I did a lot of character studies. I mean, like a lot.
After I had (finally) landed on a pose that I felt worked, I needed to make a cleaner drawing. Now, the pose I was looking for had to capture the essence of being a “Ghostbuster”.
This is a cleaned-up version of the drawing that I’ll use to create the vector drawing from
In the movie CARS, it’s not just putting eyeballs and mouths on cars, it’s making the car FEEL human. Giving the car character. I felt like in order for my drawing to be successful, not only did the Ecto 1 have to feel alive, but it also had to be doing Ghostbuster-related things. So, I had the idea of the back wheel stepping on a trap, catching a ghost .
This is the final vector outline, prior to color
I did a cleaner, much larger version of some of my concept sketches, scanned it in, and began creating a vector outline in Illustrator. Once the outline was completed, I did the final color and lighting effects in Photoshop.
The final illustration was completed in Photoshop.
The final character design was based off of many Ecto 1s, but ultimately, I think I received the most inspiration from one of my favorite toys as a kid. I got it for having a good report card in the 3rd grade. Thanks mom.
Who ya gonna call?