It was one of those phone calls you always love to receive as an author. Pixar Studios was on the line, and they wanted to take a meeting with me.

“Sure,” I said. “Love to.”

            The meeting occurred ten days later at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, a small city across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco and about forty-five minutes by car from my home. The studios are behind a gated entrance. I parked and walked into a lovely amphitheater and open space where Pixar employees take lunch and hold company events and meetings. In a courtyard was the famous lamp, which is the company symbol and always makes an appearance in the credits at the start of every Pixar movie.

            The main building on the site has an airy, spacious lobby that was said to be designed by Steve Jobs, the brilliant, sadly deceased cofounder of Apple and the creative genius behind this animation studio (now owned by Disney) that has made such gems as Toy Story, The Incredibles, Up!, Ratatouille, and Finding Dory.

Naturally, there were a number of hipster-ish techie types in casual garb roaming the lobby. I personally liked hanging with two very pleasant Italian fellows, Luigi and Guido.

            After a short wait I was taken to an office in another building where, seated around a conference table, were several members of Pixar’s creative team working on a top-secret project. Since my book, Wheels of Change, a history of the automobile, had just come out, it wasn’t hard to figure out why I was there and what project they were working on. They said they loved my book and were interested in some historical background and advice.

While we were talking Rob Gibbs, a gifted cartoonist and then the director of the movie, drew two illustrations for me. One was of Mater, the other of Lightning McQueen. He signed them as gifts for my two young sons. We have since framed them and both have places of honor in our house.

I have a confidentiality agreement with Pixar and am not at liberty to disclose what we discussed or how I advised them. But, as part of their research, I later led the director, writers, producer, and other members of the creative team on a tour of car sites and other places in the Central Valley and Southern California. We spent three days roaming the state on Pixar’s tab. It was a total blast.

Cars 3 opened in the summer of 2017 and its worldwide box office total has surpassed $383 million.