The last time I spent a day with Nissan, it was to check out a series of Now, the company's going from a galaxy far, far away to wrinkles in the fabric of spacetime with its collaboration celebrating Disney's "A Wrinkle in Time."
The "Last Jedi" cars were a variety of models from Nissan's fleet, each representing a character, vehicle or concept from the movie. For "Wrinkle," the company decided to use three identical 2018 Nissan Leaf EVs and create designs : Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). Each celestial being has her own distinct style, which meant each Leaf had to reflect the personality and costuming of its respective inspiration.
Mrs. Who is all about bursts of color and wild textures, so her Leaf homage ended up with a custom wrap using high-resolution images of her clothing and accessories. Mrs. Which wears a more commanding costume with metallic grays and metal hooping, so Nissan tapped Vehicle Effects in Burbank, California, (the same company it worked with to make the Star Wars cars) to fabricate an homage that wraps around her Leaf. Lastly, Mrs. Whatsit has a shock of red hair and wears a structured white dress with ripples all over, so the third Leaf reflects that with a white, rippled wrap and blue accents. Lastly, all three cars featured supercool capacitive touchscreen LED windows that not only reacted individually if you interacted with them, but radiated to the other two cars' windows, too.
If custom wraps on the cars sound a little bit pedestrian, you're not wrong. The cars from "The Last Jedi" had 3D-printed and metal fabricated pieces that transformed parts of the vehicles beyond what I'd imagined, so our preview of the "Wrinkle" custom cars earlier the day of the premiere didn't exactly knock my socks off. I found out there were a few reasons for the simplicity: First, this round of modifications had to be entirely reversible. No permanent installs or body kit pieces were part of the design process. Second, the builds had to be completed (start to finish) in just two weeks -- a breakneck pace for something this complex and high-profile. And last, but not least, the centerpieces for these cars were less the wraps, and more the high-tech interactive windows designed by the team at Symmetry Labs.
Symmetry conjured up the windows after imagining a visual experience that would mimic the time-bending effect in the movie. They used LED for the windows, and then added a layer of capacitive film to make the screens interactive. When you place your hand on one window, a ripple starts to spread on the others, spanning across all three cars. Symmetry gave us a look at the software running the screens, and it's impressive how they've modeled the windows and can monitor/manipulate them in real time with a single laptop. As for the hardware setup, I couldn't even begin to list all the parts that made this tech possible. When you see it, and then consider they put this all together inside of two weeks… well, that's nothing to sneeze at. We posted a video about theseover on CNET, so make sure to check that out, too!
Much like the Mrs. characters in the movie, the cars were deceptively simple at first glance, but revealed some wonders under the surface once you took a closer look. You won't be able to buy these show cars, but they might pop up in a few select cities around the US as part of promotions for the movie.
"A Wrinkle in Time" hits theaters March 9, 2018.