Pixar Resurrects Les Halles

The people at Pixar really surprised me this week.

The movie “Cars 2” includes lots of breathtaking architecture, including both reconstitutions and fanciful inventions. Of course, for the scenes in Paris, I was watching with rapt attention. What was my surprise when the protagonists suddenly drove into the Les Halles market building designed by Victor Baltard – which was torn down more than 30 years ago.

I could only guess that the Pixar team hadn’t found anything in the real Paris that quite provided the backdrop they wanted for the chase. And it’s true that in the cavernous spaces of the Baltard market pavilions, the scene looked spectacular. I was particularly happy that the reconstruction of Les Halles included the special structure for the interior street. It was a very nice piece of architectural history combined with some fine 3D animation skills.

It took me a little bit of research, but I found out that my guess was pretty much correct. Harley Jessup, Production Manager for Cars 2, gives the background:

The “Cars 2” team explored the car showrooms on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and visited the Grand Palais Museum and the Louvre. They attended the Bastille Opera and the Musée d’Orsay and wanted to incorporate Les Halles into the film. Sadly the old food market was removed in the ’70s, but it was lovingly resurrected for “Cars 2,” and transformed into a marketplace of spare auto parts. “It ended up being this really evocative space,” says Harley Jessup, the Production Designer, “a vast, cast-iron structure, big enough for the cars to chase through, and there’s this whole gypsy marketplace happening inside that is texturally really remarkable.”

What I didn’t realize was the link with Ratatouille. Here’s Jessup again:

“It was really fun for me to get to work in Paris again,” continues Jessup. “We studied it so much for ‘Ratatouille,’ so it was a treat to be back there. Paris is really beautiful.”

So, thanks to the people at Pixar, a wonderful building whose loss many regret lives again!

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