With a gross awareness of over $ 460 million worldwide, the 2006 animated film Cars by Pixar was 2006's highest animated grossing film in the US, losing only to Ice age: The Meltdown on the global scale. This revenue does not include income from the Disney cars toys industry.
Starting from the early stages of production the team in Pixar Studios started their research at the race tracks in Infineon Raceway (Sonoma county), riding in race cars driven by expert drivers to feel how the cars move and react to speed and forces in the physics of the real world. They would also study traffic on the morning commute and went on a field trip along route 66 watching the small towns that were effected from the new highways and intersections that were built. The photos from this trips helped the modelers and environment designers build their scenes and unravel the story.
Animators studied the movements of athletes to see how they twist, turn and move and even took acting classes to get into the cars' shoes (or tires). Developers sketched multiple cars designs (from different time periods) following John Lesser's guidelines which did a research of his own visiting the design studios of 3 major auto makers to see how the cars are designed. John wanted, for example, to have the cars eyes at the windshields instead of the headlights which made them look snake-like .An additional request was to use the tires as hands except vehicles with hooks that use them for pulling and towing. It is a continuing challenge to make cars human like without losing their authenticity.
When the design phase was done, 3d models were sculptured in clay and when approved they would be scanned to 3d software. The same models were used later as reference for Disney cars toys.
The next phase before animating any sequence would be to make the car look realistic by applying textures, shadows, reflections and lighting.
Once the movie was released additional products were released such as Disney cars toys, dvds books, accessories and more that made cars one of the best selling animation feature even today, 3 years after release.
Currently (dated Aug 2009) pixar studios, which is located in Emeryville, California have earned twenty two academy awards, three Grammys and four golden globes for their achievements in the animated industry.